General Information
Castelo de Arnoia  
See Map
Virtual Tour
  • Name: Castle of Arnoia
  • Typology: Castle
  • Classification: National Monument by Decree 35 532, DG 55 of 15th March 1946
  • Municipality: Celorico de Basto
  • Visiting Hours: Always open. 
  • Entrance Fee: Free 
  • Support Services:

    Tourist Information Centre of the Route of the Romanesque
    By appointment: T +351 255 323 100;

  • Telephone : 255 810 706 / 918 116 488   
  • Fax: 255 810 709   
  • E-Mail:    
  • Web:  
  • Location:
    Lugar do Castelo, Arnoia, Celorico de Basto,Braga.
  • Geographic Coordinates: 41° 21' 48.73" N / 8° 3' 7.19" O 

Castle of Arnoia (Photo: © SIPA – IHRU)The oldest known documented reference regarding the Castle of Arnoia dates back to 1064, alluding to the Castellum Celorici et oppido ibi.

This Castle falls within the military architecture of the Romanesque period, featuring elements that contribute to its insertion into this style: the keep; the existence of a single door (the multiplication of openings made the Castle's defence more vulnerable), the underground cistern in the walled courtyard (with the aim of preserving rainwater in case of an eventual siege warfare) and, finally, the broad chemin de ronde, which defines a triangular plan.

Its construction should be understood in the light of the fortification construction movement which marked the European territory between the 10th-12th centuries with the intention of defending local populations from enemy onslaughts.

However, we cannot read the construction of this Castle in terms of territorial defence, but mainly as a landmark of a geographic area that was being reorganized: heading the Terra de Basto, a settlement named Vila de Basto was founded close to it.

However, its isolation and space limitations, which prevented the town's expansion, may be the cause of the county seat transfer to the parish of Britelo, in 1717, which later came to be known as Celorico de Basto.

The Castle's abandonment took place precisely from the year of county seat transfer onwards, when the elites left the small Vila de Basto and settled down in Britelo.

As synonyms of such abandonment, at the dawn of the 20th century, there were evident signs of deterioration in its interior roof voussoirs, in the damaged ashlar masonry showing multiple displacements or in its keep that had been reduced to its walls.

This situation remained until the 1930's, when the procedures to classify this monument began. This process was only completed in 1946 with its classification as a National Monument.

Legends and Curiosities

Mob justice in Vila de Basto
Two sisters, both bakers and very beautiful, lived in Vila de Basto. The youngest one was called Aldonça; she was about eighteen years old, single and betrothed to Sancho Meleiro, a good man and a grain merchant.

Since the marriage had been set up, it was necessary to pay the tribute which had replaced the right of landlords to “enjoy” the bride before her husband.

When Sancho and Aldonça travelled to the Castle in order to pay the tribute, the “mayor” was attracted by Aldonça's beauty and refused to receive that tribute, demanding to “enjoy” the bride. The latter, indignant, threw the tribute's value at his feet and likely said that she would only belong to her future husband.

Facing such an insult, Sancho Meleiro got involved in a fight with the mayor; the latter managed to dominate the groom with the help of other men who were in the Castle. Then, the mayor arrested Sancho and had his ears severed.

Seeing all this, Aldonça flees the Castle towards the village crying for help. Outraged, the people mutinied, the bells rang in alarm and mobs came from all corners of the Terra de Basto to invade the Castle.

The mayor, fearing the worst, decided to compensate Meleiro for the disfigurement he had caused him and granted him his freedom.

Despite losing this fight, the mayor did not give up on the harassment. His new target was Aldonça's older sister, called Guiomar, who was thirty years old and already a widow. He began bothering her with requests until, one morning, the mayor met her in the village and likely said that, at night, he would come for her at her house.

Facing such proposal, Guiomar told everything to Sancho Meleiro who seized his opportunity to seek revenge from the mayor and advised Guiomar to receive him at home, where she had her bread-baking ovens.

As agreed, the mayor visits Guiomar's house that night accompanied by a squire from the Castle. After knocking on the door, he went in, while the squire waited outside for his master.

When the mayor gets into the house he is attacked and killed by Guiomar's relatives. In order to leave no traces of the crime, they put him in the oven, reducing him to ashes.

The legend adds that the mayor's servant, thinking that his master had been long delayed, decided to knock on the door, to remind him of the need to return. As soon as he entered the door, the servant had the same fate as his master.

Meanwhile, the days went by and the mayor was nowhere to be found. There were armed men looking for him everywhere but it was all in vain: nobody knew where he was.

Faced with this disappearance, King D. Dinis decided to hand the Castle to the village residents in exchange for an annual rent.

The taking of the Castle of Arnoia
The legend of the taking of the Castle of Arnoia tells us that, for some time, the Moors ruled that area, forcing the Christians to carry stones to the Castle for days and nights on end.

Gradually, discontent and anger inspired them to fight against those who were forcing them to carry out such harsh task. However, these were few and poorly armed. Until one late afternoon, when, after joining all the cattle available nearby and placing clappers on the animals' necks, they made their way to the Castle with torches lit on the horns of goats and oxen.

All around, along the wall and from top of the tower, the Moors were only able to see the lights. These would multiply and, at the same time, they heard a thunderous noise. In the distance and under the dark blanket of the night, this group deceived the invaders, who thought it to be a large army. The option was to escape and postpone the confrontation. The legend also tells that many buried treasures were left behind.


10th century (2nd half) - Edification of the Castle of Arnoia, according to tradition;

1064 - First documented reference regarding the fortification;

1092 - A document mentions the properties of Celorico and Terra de Basto;

12th-13th centuries - Second occupation period of the Castle and edification of the Castle of Arnoia's Romanesque structure ;

1717 - The parish seat is transferred from Vila de Basto to the parish of Britelo;

1726 - The Terra de Basto was by then divided into two municipalities, Celorico and Cabeceiras de Basto. The Castle of Arnoia's keep still showed its crenellation crown;

1758 - The Castle of Arnoia was already presenting some traces of ruin;

1946 - It is classified as a National Monument by Decree no. 35,532 (Governmental Gazette no. 55, from March 15th);

1960-1963 - Period of restoration works in the Castle of Arnoia, under the responsibility of the DGEMN – Direção Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais [General Directorate for Buildings and National Monuments];

1985 - The Castle of Arnoia is attached to the IPPC – Instituto Português do Património Cultural [Portuguese Institute of the Cultural Patrimony];

1992 - The Castle of Arnoia's jurisdiction is transferred to the IPPAR - Instituto Português do Património Arquitetónico [Portuguese Institute of the Architectonic Patrimony];

2002 - Archaeological surveys were carried out inside the fortification;

2004 - Installation of the Interpretive Centre of the Castle of Arnoia;

2005 - The Castle of Arnoia is reallocated to the IGESPAR – [Portuguese Institute for Management of Architectural and Archaeological Heritage];

2010 - Integration of the Castle of Arnoia in the Route of the Romanesque;

2014 - Improvements to the surroundings of the Castle of Arnoia, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque;

2015 - Intervention for the conservation and protection of the inside and outside of the Castle, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque.


Featuring a triangular shield-shaped plan, the Castle of Arnoia is built on the top of a mountainous hill, with the aim of favouring the field of vision and taking advantage of the chances provided by the ground's steep morphology for defence purposes, according to a concept of passive defence, seeking to prevent the enemy from reaching the base of its walls.

Plan of the Castle of Arnoia (Photo: © SIPA – IHRU)

The presence of a keep and a turret are also statements of this Castle building method: the turret would allow practising flanked shooting - i.e., a shot that ran parallel to the wall line - which was critical to an effective defence of the wall base.

Therefore, Arnoia fits into the so called Romanesque castles in which defence was essentially based on the thickness and height of the walls, since their structure did not feature many solutions to provide resistance against an efficient attack in a siege situation.
Façades of the Castle of Arnoia (Photo: © SIPA – IHRU)

The access to its interior is made through a straight-arch door, made up by voussoirs and opened on the south wall, near the keep. Nowadays, this keep stands noble and crenellated, with a look resulting from the interventions carried out in the 20th century. Closed on itself, it is torn by narrow crevices, much in a way of embrasures. The entrance opens itself up to the north, in an elevated position, with its doorsill matching the height of the chemin de ronde.

We should also highlight the existence of a cistern in the walled courtyard, a fundamental element in siege warfare, since it was intended to preserve rainwater at an underground level.

It is worth mentioning that, in general, the keeps were accessed through a wooden mobile ladder which, in the event of imminent danger, could be removed from inside the building, isolating it. Its presence tells us that, more than having as a main function to defend the local population, this Castle was designed to accommodate a small garrison.


The archaeological works provided the information that the Castle of Arnoia had three occupation periods. The oldest one, in its walled enclosure, corresponds to a transition moment between the high and low Middle Ages, preceding the building of the keep.

The opening of survey areas in Castle's interior space allowed detecting structures which were not visible on the surface, especially wall foundations which document the wall's restructuring and interior space occupation stages, as well as its floors.

According to the data from the archaeological excavation carried out in 2002, the second occupation stage is likely referred to the 12th/13th centuries.

Finally, the third period is likely to have taken place during the Modern Era, although it was also during this period that its progressive abandonment occurred.

Reportedly, in the 16th century, there was a residential building and a workshop inside the walled space.

Restoration and Enhancement

Restoration and Enhancement of the Castle of Arnoia (Photo: © SIPA – IHRU)Despite the fact that the monument showed clear signs of fast degradation over the centuries, it only became possible to carry out conservation works in the 1960's with interventions in the keep and in the chemin de ronde: the keep was rebuilt at the upper floor level, including the crenellated crowning (which still partially survived); the vegetation growing inside the Castle was removed; the cistern was cleared and a wooden door was placed at its entrance.

In the 70s, the works went on at the keep consolidation level and in the care put into its surroundings with the construction of a pedestrian access, taking advantage of the access that had already been created by the people.

In the new millennium, archaeological surveys were conducted and works began in 2004 for the creation of an information post and cultural unit about local heritage, accommodated in the old primary school which, therefore, welcomed the Interpretive Centre of the Castle of Arnoia.

With its integration in the Route of the Romanesque, the Celorico de Basto Town Council developed, in 2010, the project for the Redevelopment of Castle of Arnoia's surrounding area: 1st stage, aiming at revitalize the property's surroundings, providing this historic space with a new dynamic.

In 2014 and 2015, were carried out the improvements to the surroundings of the Castle of Arnoia, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque, and the intervention for the conservation and protection of the inside and outside of the Castle.

  • No results were found.
Know More

[S.a.] - Câmara Municipal de Celorico de Basto – Arranjo da envolvente do Castelo de Arnoia:1.ª fase. Câmara Municipal de Celorico de Basto, 16 de julho de 2010.

[S.a.] - Arnóia. In CORREIA, António Mendes [et al.] - Grande enciclopédia portuguesa e brasileira. Lisboa/Rio de Janeiro: Editorial Enciclopédia, 1965. Vol. 5, p. 269-270.

ACADEMIA DAS CIÊNCIAS DE LISBOA - Portvgaliae monvmenta historica...: diplomata et chartae. Lisboa: Academia de Ciências de Lisboa, 1868. Vol. 1, fasc.3.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de - Castelos e cercas medievais: séculos X a XIII. In MOREIRA, Rafael - História das fortificações portuguesas no mundo. Lisboa: Publicações Alfa, 1987.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de - Castelos medievais do noroeste de Portugal. In ACUÑA CASTROVIEJO, Fernando - Finis Terrae: estudios en lembranza do Prof. Alberto Balil. Santiago de Compostela: Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, 1992.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de; LOPES, Carlos Alberto Almeida – Eja, Entre-os-Rios: a Civitas e a Igreja de S. Miguel. Portugália. Vol. 2/3 (1981-1982).

ANTT - Feitos da Coroa. Núcleo Antigo, n.º 247. IRHU/Arquivo ex-DGEMN - Processos vários. Nº IPA PT010305020003 [Em linha]. Disponível em WWW: <URL:>.

ARGOTE, Jerónimo Contador de - Memorias para a historia ecclesiastica do arcebispado de Braga... [S.l.]: na Officina de Joseph Antoni da Sylva], 1732.

BARROCA, Mário - A Ordem do Templo e a arquitectura militar portuguesa do século XII. Portugália. Vol. 17-18 (1996/1997).

BARROCA, Mário - Armamento medieval Português: notas sobre a evolução do equipamento militar das forças cristãs. In BARROCA, Mário Jorge; MONTEIRO, João Gouveia - Catálogo da exposição "Pera guerrejar": armamento medieval no espaço português. Palmela: Câmara Municipal, 2000. p. 37-110.

BARROCA, Mário - Arquitectura militar. In BARATA, Manuel Themudo; TEIXEIRA, Nuno Severiano - Nova história militar de Portugal. Lisboa: Círculo de Leitores, 2003.

BARROCA, Mário - Do castelo da reconquista ao castelo românico: séc. IX a XII. Portugália. Vol. 11-12 (1990/1991).

BARROCA, Mário - Epigrafia medieval portuguesa: 862-1422. Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2000.

BEÇA, Humberto - Os castelos de Entre-Douro e Minho: tese a apresentar ao Congresso Minhoto, em Braga. [S.l.]: Tipografia "Minerva", 1923.

BOTELHO, Maria Leonor; RESENDE, Nuno - Castelo de Arnoia: Celorico de Basto. In ROSAS, Lúcia, coord. cient. – Rota do Românico. Lousada: Centro de Estudos do Românico e do Território, 2014. Vol. 1, p. 147-172.

BOTELHO, Maria Leonor - As transformações sofridas pela Sé do Porto no século XX. Lisboa: Livros Horizonte, 2006. ISBN 972-24-1421-6.

CASAL PELAYO, Primo - A ermida do Monte Farinha. Lisboa: [edição de autor], 1988.

COUTINHO, C. da Cunha - O castelo da Terra de Basto mais velho que a nacionalidade. Trabalhos da Associação dos Arqueólogos Portugueses. Vol. 5 (1942). Separata.

CRAESBEECK, Francisco Xavier da Serra - Memórias ressuscitadas da província de Entre-Douro-e-Minho no ano de 1726. Ponte de Lima: Carvalhos de Basto, 1992.

FERNANDES, A. de Almeida - Dom Egas Moniz de Ribadouro: «o honrado e o bem-aventurado». Lisboa: Editorial Enciclopédia, 1946.

FREIRE, A. Braamcamp - Povoação de Entre Doiro e Minho no XVI. Archivo Historico Portuguez. Vol. 3, n.º 7/8 (1905) 241-273.

GAIO, Felgueiras Manuel José da Costa - Nobiliário de famílias de Portugal. [Braga]: Agostinho de Azevedo Meirelles/Domingos de Araújo Affonso, 1938-1941.

HERCULANO, Alexandre, dir. - Portvgaliae monvmenta historica...: scriptores. Lisboa: Tipografia Nacional, 1936.

LOPES, Eduardo Teixeira - O século XVIII nas freguesias do concelho de Celorico de Basto: memórias paroquiais. Celorico de Basto: [edição do autor], 2005.

NETO, Maria João Baptista - Memória, propaganda e poder: o restauro dos monumentos nacionais. Porto: Faculdade de Arquitetura da Universidade do Porto, 2001.

NORTH, C. T. - Guia dos castelos antigos de Portugal. Lisboa: Bertrand Editora, 2002.

RESENDE, Nuno - Fervor & devoção: património, culto e espiritualidade nas ermidas de Montemuro: séculos XVI a XVIII. Porto: Universidade do Porto, 2012.

RIBEIRO, João Alves - [Memória Paroquial de] Arnóia [Manuscrito]. 1758. Acessível em ANTT, Lisboa. PT/TT/MPRQ/4/90.

SILVA, Jorge Henriques Pais da; CALADO, Margarida - Dicionário de termos de arte e arquitectura. Lisboa: Editorial Presença, 2005. ISBN 972-23-3336-4.

VITORINO, Pedro - O castello de Celorico de Basto. O Arqueólogo Português. N.º 14 (1909).