Forte Sao Francisco
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THE CHURCH AT THE FORT
The interior of this 15th century church is beautifully preserved. This is the convent church built to replace the tiny chapel in the Forte de Sao Francisco in Chaves, Portugal. In 1658, the convent was turned into a fort to protect the town from enemies.It was declared a National monument in 1938. It is now a luxury 4 star hotel. We have stayed at the Forte and enjoyed the accommodations and the huge pool that looks out over the hillsides of Chaves. The restaurants are very good and serve regional food, wines, and deserts. The town of Chaves dates back to Roman times. There are several great attractions there. (The desk at the hotel will provide you with a good map and information). One of the architectural marvels is the Trajan Bridge named after the Roman emperor. The Forte de Sao Francisco is located in the center of Chaves. It is 285 miles north of Lisbon. Bus trips are available. There is also the choice of train service. We drove to Chaves and enjoyed the scenery. The trip took us about 5 hours from Fatima.
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A Beautiful Hotel Filled with History
The Hotel Forte de Sao Francisco stands on a hill that in the 15th century was occupied by a little church. By 1635, it became a Franciscan monastery. When wars broke out with neighbors across Portugal's borders in 1658, the king ordered a forte with protective wall and moat built on that hill. So the monks and the soldiers lived together up on the hill in the fort. By the early 20th century, the fort was not needed and eventually fell to ruins. In 1938, Portugal declared it a National Monument. In 198,it was decided that the fort should be renovated. After 10 years, the work was completed and in 1997, the Forte de Sao Francisco was opened as a 4-star luxury hotel. The old fort has been well renovated and preserved. Portugal should be proud of this successful project. As I wandered around the hotel and its grounds, I felt the history of the fort. The moat is no more but the drawbridge is intact. The cobblestone courtyard enhances the historic feel. The granite and whitewashed exterior and interior is as it was many years ago. The size of the granite blocks, the narrow hallways, the chapel and church all draw your mind to the history of the fort in the past. I imagined the cavalrymen on their horses, the soldiers on foot all dressed in uniforms of 100 years ago while monks in long robes tilled the plots of vegetables at the fort in total silence. The restaurant offers great views and the swimming pool is so peaceful. The scenes of the countryside are stunning.
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