Forte de Santa Luzia

Forte de Graca
The little town of Elvas was originally a Roman settlement called Alpesa or Helvas that was conquered by the Moors in the 8th century, Reconquisted by Alfonso VIII of Castille (1155-1214) in 1166, recaptured by the Moors and then re-Reconquisted by the Portuguese in 1226. Elvas is on the main road between Madrid and Lisbon.

In 1560 the Spanish scooped up Portugal and the Spanish Habsburg monarchy ruled both countries until 1640, when the Acclimation War (1640-1688) began the process of reclaiming Portugal for the Portuguese. Elvas became the main border fortress of southern Portugal protecting against Spanish nastiness in the 1640's, when the town itself was fortified and two lovely star forts were built nearby; Forte de Santa Luzia to the south and Forte de Graca to the north.

The Marquis of Torres led a Spanish force to Elvas in November of 1644, with the hope of sweeping through the fortified town and bashing his way further into Portugal: The Spaniards briefly besieged Elvas, but suffered too many casualties and were forced to retreat back to Spain...only to try their luck again in 1710, with identical results.

The French under Marshal Jean-Androche Junot (1771-1813) took Elvas in 1808, but withdrew five months later. The Napoleanic Wars (1803-1815) brought a certain level of notoriety to Elvas, if only because of its close proximity (7km) to the Spanish town of Badajoz, the location of one of the most horrific battles in a particularly horrific era. In an effort to dislodge the French garrison in the fortified town of Badajoz in March and April of 1812, an allied Portuguese/British army besieged and finally attacked the town. The battle resulted in nearly 5,000 allied casualties, an undisclosed number of French casualties that surely was similar in number, and over 4,000 Spanish civilians who were killed in a 72-hour drunken rage by British troops after they made it into the city's walls.

The British Cemetery at Elvas holds only five graves, but has the only marked grave of the thousands of British soldiers who died in the battle of Badajoz. The cemetery also houses the only two marked graves of British casualties from the battle of Albuera, another pretty nasty battle that took place about 25km south of Elvas on May 16 1811.

Elvas today is all about tourism. It remains one of the best preserved and most fortified cities on the continent.

Do you have a correction, addition or complaint about
Please head to my Contact Page or Guestbook and let me know. My methods for gleaning information regarding these forts is pretty haphazard, so I truly appreciate any input I can get from people who actually know stuff!

Info Source 1 Info Source 2 Info Source 3 Info Source 4
Info Source 5 Info Source 6 Info Source 7 Info Source 8
Info Source 9 Info Source 10 Info Source 11 Info Source 12
Info Source 13

Thanks to Google Maps for the images!
©2010 starforts.com