The Fort of Our Lady of the Rosary, better known as Forte de São Francisco, is located in Chaves, in the parish of Santa Maria Maior, in Chaves County, District of Vila Real, in Portugal. Along with the Forte de São Neutel, this Fort, dominant on the hill of Pedisqueira, adjacent to the Tâmega River and the ancient Roman Bridge, intended to defend the city, on the Galician border, during the period of the Restoration War.
The fort dates back to a Franciscan convent, the Convent of Our Lady of the Rosary, built in the early sixteenth century, from which it was named. According to a deed signed with Friar Rodrigo de Morais in 1446, has been the architect Master Joanes de Cibrão who designed the dome of the convent.
The Fort of Our Lady of the Rosary
In the context of the independence Restoration War, recognizing the importance of the strategic position of the city, near the border, the modernization of their medieval defences became essential. To avoid the occupation of the surrounding hills by enemy artillery, these positions were garrisoned. On the Pedisqueira hill, where there was the old Franciscan convent, it was decided to surround it with bulwark walls, transforming it into a fort. The work developed under the orders of the Governor of Arms of the Province of Trás-os-Montes, D. Rodrigo de Castro, Count of Mesquitela between 1658 and 1662. The defence work of Chaves were complemented with the construction of new wall panels connecting the fort to the old medieval walls, reinforced or rebuilt at the time, engaging the neighbourhoods that had been expanding outside the medieval walls. The defence was extended to the ancient Roman Bridge over the Tâmega River, whose access on the opposite bank, was also fortified with the construction of the Madalena Ravelin. In the early nineteenth century, during the Peninsular War, Chaves and their defences were not able to protect. After several clashes with the Napoleonic troops under the command of General Soult, the Portuguese troops under the command of General Francisco Silveira, retreated to strategic points, leaving the city with a small garrison under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Pizarro. These forces, as well as the militiamen who faced the enemy, was imprisoned and then released. The Forte de São Francisco was used as headquarters of the French at the time, and, as such, the target of General Silveira counteroffensive, in March 1809. After six days of fierce fighting, the French garrison surrendered, and Chaves was released. Later, it was also the scene of struggles during the Liberal Wars and, later on, in 1910, at the Proclamation of the Portuguese Republic. Lost its defensive function, after nearly seventy years of harbouring the 10th Battalion of Hunters, the premises of the fort were abandoned and entering in process of ruin.
From the Twentieth century to the present day
This fort is classified as National Monument by the Decree published on March 22, 1938. The intervention of the government, through the General-Directorate for National Buildings and Monuments (DGEMN) was registered from 1957, when the conservation works were promoted. Various stages of consolidation, cleaning, clearance, and rebuilding took place in the following decades, until January 16, 1989, when the Forte de São Francisco was transferred, on a temporary basis, to the City Council of Chaves. In the second half of the 1970s, the facilities of the fort served as temporary accommodation for families returned from former Portuguese colonies in Africa. In 1994 the premises of the fort were reclassified as a hotel unit, project sponsored by the Society of Forte de S. Francisco Hotéis - Lda, designed by architect Pedro Jales. The Forte de São Francisco Hotel, inaugurated in May 1997, is since its opening, rated as a four star hotel.
The Fort presents a simple plan in the star shape, with four bastions at the vertices, in the Vauban system. The walls, with a thickness of one meter, range from four and twenty feet high and are covered with granite. The main car access is through a gate on the west side. There are secondary accesses on the South side, through a drawbridge over the moat, currently landed and the West side, all leading, through tunnels, to the Arms Plaza. Among the buildings inside the fort there is the old Chapel of San Francisco, which housed for three centuries, until 1942, the tomb of D. Afonso, first Duke of Bragança, restored and preserved. At the beginning of 2019 the Hotel underwent a vast set of remodelling and decoration works, aiming to bring a new life to this emblematic hotel, adding modernity and comfort without losing all the charm of its historical past.