Visiting Castro Marim
On the top of one hill stands a castle, on the other a star-shaped fort. Between the two sprawl the houses of Castro Marim, with their white walls edged with brightly-painted borders, their flat roofs and their ornate chimneys sculpted into lace-like patterns. All around, the dark brown of schist, set off by the cool blue of the river and, by the horizon of sea.
The building dates from the 18th and 19th centuries and was originally a hermitage. The church suffered considerable damage in a fire in 1960.
The church's most striking feature is its elegant bell-tower, surmounted by a false clerestory. The main and side chapels are worth a visit for the statues of the Arcanjo Sao Gabriel (archangel Gabriel) (15th century), which retains traces of polychrome decoration, Nossa Senhora da Encarnação e dos Mártires (Our Lady of the Incarnation and of the Martyrs) (16th century) and a finely proportioned Santa Luzia (St. Luzia) (18th century).
Modest from the outside, this church houses an altarpiece on the main altar with seven wooden panels dating from the 17th century and a collection of 18th century statues.
Chapel of Santo António
Occupying an airy spot high on a hill, this building contains a retable made up of seven panels depicting the miracles of the saint.
The fortified wall that surrounded the medieval town on top of the hill had its origins in the 13th and 14th centuries. At the time of the Wars of the Restoration (1640-1668) the castle was adapted in accordance with the latest techniques of warfare, including the introduction of artillery. The old castle stands in a wide open yard: square-shaped with circular towers at its corners and two gates, it is possibly Moorish in origin (10th to 13th centuries). The main gate bears an interesting design in relief, in the shape of a key, as well as marks typical of medieval stonemasons. The ramparts still enclose the former Misericórdia Church, which has a Renaissance doorway and, inside, two 17th century tombs and the ruins of buildings destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. These include the main church (14th century), which was dedicated to S. Tiago (St. James), and the Alcaides’ (Governors’) Palace. The castle affords an unrivalled view of the Guadiana river, the town and its saltpans, as well as the surrounding hills and, stretching away to the horizon, the sea.
Fort of São Sebastião
This defensive structure vas built in the lath century and was part of a set of ramparts that surrounded the town, some parts of which are still visible between the houses.
Linking the church, the castle and the fort, the streets of Castro Marim are lined with houses whose simplicity is typical of the architecture of the Algarve. White predominates, broken here and there by ochres and luminous blues. The parapets on the houses reflect a taste for geometrical patterns and floral motifs.
Salt and saltpans
Seen from a distance, the saltpans look like mirrors reflecting the sun and the piles of salt stand like white pyramids silhouetted against the blue of the sky. The edge of Castro Marim nearest to the Guadiana is covered with saltpans and their presence is centuries old. A visit to the saltpans provides an opportunity to see how, through evaporation, the crystals form in the water where the salt is increasingly concentrated.