An Exploration Of Olivenza: A Portuguese-Influenced Town

Connect with Olivenza’s history by visiting the town’s notable sites.

The history of Olivenza – a Portuguese-influenced town located in Spain – dates back to the 13th century, and coexists with several rulers, exchanges and treaties. As it is also the home of several monuments that were established since the town’s formation, one can visit Olivenza and connect with its history by exploring the significant sites within its borders.

One of those sites is the medieval wall. After Denis, who was King of Portugal in the late 13th to early 14th centuries, convinced Queen Regent María de Molina, who may have been preoccupied with wars in Castile and León, to surrender several towns along the Portugal-Spain border, which included Olivenza, Denis built the medieval wall with the help of the Order of Aviz in the beginning of the 14th century.

Approximately 10 feet wide and 39 feet high, the wall is one component of a complex that originally had 14 towers. Only two of them remain, with one of them being the Torre del Homenaje.

Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Olivenza
FACEBOOK Excmo. Ayuntamiento de Olivenza

This tower, which Alfonso IV, Denis’s son, had built in 1332, is approximately 121 feet high and was the highest fortress tower on the Portugal-Spain border. One may still see the 24 arrow slits that brighten the tower’s interior, along with the remains of the machicolation, that is, the floor opening between the supporting corbels of the structure through which stones or burning objects could be dropped on attackers.

Inside the Torre del Homenaje, one can see the upper room, which is constructed of a ribbed vault, along with the terrace, from which they can see Olivenza, the Portuguese and Spanish countryside and surrounding towns.

Over the next 500 years, several other monuments were created, including Ajuda Bridge and the Holy House of Mercy.


Work began on the approximately 1,250-foot-long Ajuda Bridge prior to 1509, according to Duarte de Armas, the squire of Manuel I of Portugal, and although it was damaged by the floods of Río Guadiana and 16th and 17th-century wars, the bridge was partially restored in 2003.

Ajuda Bridge is still impassable, as its central arches have not been restored, although one may admire it from either Portugal or Spain at various spots near Río Guadiana.

The fellowship of the Holy House of Mercy was formed in 1501, and by 1546, the house itself was created. When visiting the church, one may still pass through its medieval door, which was constructed in 1546, along with its nave covered in Baroque tiles by Manuel dos Santos.

napoleon bonaparte
A portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte. Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

Approximately 250 years after the church’s creation, Napoléon Bonaparte, who was an ally of Spain, ordered the invasion of Portugal. After a short campaign, the Treaty of Badajoz was signed. Under this treaty, the fortifications taken during the fight, with the exception of Olivenza, were given back to Portugal, and the Portugal-Spain border was set at Río Guadiana.

Although several conflicts have led to confusion surrounding the country of which Olivenza is a part, the town is still characterized by both Portuguese and Spanish elements, and serves as a meeting place for the two nations for certain affairs.

Ray Lewis

Content Editor Associate

Originally from New Jersey, Ray developed a passion for traveling through his adventures in Europe. He created unforgettable memories in Greece and Italy, but is looking to explore more countries in different parts of the world as well.

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