HomeEuropeCentum Cellas – Best Preserved Roman Monuments in Portugal
Centum Cellas – Best Preserved Roman Monuments in Portugal
In Belmonte, Castelo Branco District, Portugal, Centum Cellas is a Roman villa rustica dating back to the 1st century AD. In Portuguese it is called Centocelas. It is also called Centum Cellae, Centum Celli, and Centturm Coeli.
In 1927, the Portuguese Government listed Centum Cellas as a National Monument. A great deal of mystery surrounds the function of the tower, which has spawned countless folk tales and theories throughout history. Tradition has it that it was a prison. Primitive functions of the building are thought to have included serving as a prætorium (a Roman military camp).
Archaeological prospection campaigns conducted during the 1960s and 1990s in the surrounding areas suggest that the tower was probably a villa, part of the urban complex. The excavations are still in progress. Among the most well-preserved Roman monuments in the country, the tower-like structure is one of the most impressive. Stepping inside the tower gives visitors a spooky feeling.
The building core was rectangular in plan (13.3m x 15.5m) and had two floors. It is likely that the second floor was added in the medieval period. Several entrances are available, each of a different size. The floors are separated by two friezes.
Originally, the tower was part of a complex of buildings measuring 12 meters high. Only the foundations of three extensions are visible on three sides. It was surrounded by rows of three chambers on each side. There was an open courtyard at the front with a pillared portico. As in Syria and North Africa, the building is constructed of blocks (granite), which is quite unusual for European construction.
Its position on a Roman road, one kilometer away from the confluence of the rivers Zêzere and Gaia, determined the position of its outer openings. In the first century AD, a wealthy Roman citizen called Lacio Ceclio ordered the construction of the Villa, an abundance of tin trader in the Iberian Peninsula during the Roman invasion.
Around the first century BC, Hispania was one of the richest Roman provinces in terms of mineral ore. Contains metal deposits such as gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. It had a lot of natural resources. Mining and processing were carried out on a large scale in the region by the Romans who realized this.
Iberia produced significant amounts of Roman metals after it was acquired during the Punic Wars. The tin industry was especially prosperous in Iberia, Persia, and Britannia since it was mined only there. The villa’s materials were used to build a chapel dedicated to St. Cornelius in the high Middle Ages, which would also disappear at the end of the 18th century.
Several archaeological sources indicate that it was partially destroyed in the 3rd century AD, and then rebuilt shortly after. As a tribute to Pope Cornelius, a chapel was built over the ruins the Middle Ages. It does not exist today, however. During this time, the tower may have served as a military outpost due to its proximity to the Kingdom of León. According to Portuguese historian Pinho Leal, the tower was renovated in the 13th or 14th centuries to be used as a watchtower.