Juromenha, Alandroal, Portugal
Hegira 3rd century–627 / AD 9th century–1230
Emirate – Almohad period
Juromenha, protected to the north by the Ribeira de Mures and to the east by the River Guadiana, is built in a fertile region, rich in ore and at a location where it is possible to cross the Guadiana. The region has been occupied constantly since prehistoric times and this was not interrupted during the Arabisation and Islamisation process. From this period it still retains the castle, partially built over with military constructions fortified with bastions.
There are references to Juromenha in Arabic written sources from at least the second half of AH 3rd century / AD 9th century, when this site is mentioned in relation to the revolts of Muwalladun (native families that had become Muslim) begun in Mérida by 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Marwan al-Jilliqi, a revolt which must have spread throughout the Guadiana basin. With the founding of Badajoz and the gradual abandonment of Mérida, Juromenha seems to have taken on greater strategic importance. Geographer Ibn Hawqal mentions the site in one of his Itineraries in the AH 4th / AD 10th century.
Several phases of construction can be detected on the perimeter of the Islamic fortification. One of the towers, facing more or less north, built of masonry, and with three stones dating from the Visigoth period on the main façade, seems to have corresponded to an early defensive system. This tower is surrounded by sections of wall built of military-type tabiyya (dry-mud walls, very rich in lime). This wall is built against a series of towers close to one another and spaced regularly apart, with straight entrances, similar to the architecture of fortifications from the Caliphate period (AH 4th / AD 10th century). In other areas of the wall, the spacing between the towers is less regular. The coffering of the tabiyya is similar to that of other fortifications of al-Andalus region, and ashlar stone from the Roman period has been reused in the corners.
From of all this, it can be assumed that the previous Roman fortification – on the right bank of the Guadiana and from where it was possible to see the town of Badajoz, which they had founded – must have been adapted to serve the interests of independence of the dynasty of the Jilliqi. Little is known of its occupation in the AH 4th–5th / AD 10th–11th centuries, but it is possible to understand its importance as part of the defensive system surrounding Badajoz, in the context of the rivalry between the Aftasid and Abbadid kingdoms, or between Aftasid factions. Indeed, in AH 562 / AD 1167, taking advantage of the dissent that arose in the Gharb al-Andalus region with the collapse of the Almoravid dynasty, Geraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless) occupied Juromenha, from where he attacked Badajoz, as related by chronicler Ibn Sahib al-Sala. It went on to be taken by the Almohads in 565 / 1170 and its walls may have been partially destroyed, but the site did not lose its strategic importance. It is known that, having passed under the control of the Almohads, Juromenha became a ribat (fortified Muslim hermitage), and was taken over by one of the companions of Ibn Arabi who devoted himself there to the jihad, at the end of the AH 6th / AD 12th century or beginning of the AH 7th / AD 13th century.
Work was certainly carried out in the Almohad period, but it was reconquered by Dom Sancho II in AH 627 / AD 1230. The walled perimeter from the Islamic period was not much altered before the 17th century.
Today, Juromenha Castle is an abandoned fortress on the right bank of the Guadiana River, but the Islamic age is well established in the site’s memory. Juromenha was on the route taken by Ibn Hawqal and remains of the caliphal fortress can be seen in its walls. The end of the Muslim presence is recorded in the account of the conquest by Gerald the Fearless and the capture of the fortress by the Almohads in AH 565 / AD 1170. At this time, Juromenha was a ribat, with two companions of Ibn Arabi pledging themselves to jihad here in the late AH 6th–early 7th / AD 12th–early 13th centuries.
The site is referred to in the 3rd / 9th century by Ibn Hawqal. There are references to it from the 4th / 10th century and it was occupied in the 5th / 11th century, when Badajoz – a short distance away – was capital of a Taifa kingdom. The military campaigns of Geraldo Sem Pavor and its use as a ribat in the Almohad period demonstrate continuous occupation over time. Its walls show characteristics which indicate the existence of several phases up to the Almohad dominion.
Correia, F. B., “O Castelo de Juromenha: Influências Islâmicas e Cristãs”, Callipole, Vol. 2, Vila Viçosa, 1994, pp.27–42.
Correia, F. B., “Materiais de época Visigótica de Juromenha (Alentejo)”, in IV Reunió d'Arqueologia Cristiana Hispànica: Lisboa, 29 setembre – 2 octubre 1992, Barcelona, 1995, pp.493–8.
Correia, F. B. and Picard, C., “Intervenção Arqueológica no Castelo de Juromenha: Primeiros Resultados”, Arqueologia Medieval, Vol. I, Mértola, 1992, pp.71–89.
Lobo, F. S., “Alandroal, Terena e Juromenha (Três Sistemas Defensivos)”, in Castelos do Alandroal: VII Séculos, Alandroal, 1998, pp.23–65.
Rei, A., “Os Castelos Entre o Odialuiciuez e o Odiana (713–1298)”, in Castelos do Alandroal: VII Séculos, Alandroal, 1998, pp. 9–22.
Fernando Branco Correia "Juromenha Castle" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pt;Mon01;23;en
Prepared by: Fernando Branco CorreiaFernando Branco Correia
Fernando Branco Correia é arqueólogo e Assistente do Departamento de História da Universidade de Évora, onde lecciona as disciplinas de História e Cultura Islamo-Árabe, História de al-Andalus e Arqueologia Árabe-Islâmica, sendo ainda, nos últimos anos, responsável pelo Gabinete de Estudos Árabes (fundado por Adel Sidarus) da mesma universidade. É autor de trabalhos sobre Fortificações e História político-militar do al-Andalus, sobretudo da região entre os rios Tejo e Guadiana.
Translation by: Gilla Evans
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: PT CC