Torre de Centum Cellas

Structure - Roman Period e Middle Ages (200)
This monument, also known as Torre de S. Cornélio, Centum Cellae or Centocelas is located in Belmonte e Colmeal da Torre, around 2km N/NE of Belmonte (Castelo Branco). Built atop an elevation, this tower is in a smooth slope in the left bank of Rio Zêzere. Many scholars ponder about the purpose of this emblematic building. The structure, with 11,34m in length and 8.52m wide, still preserves roughly 12m in height (which is probably its original height) and is arranged in two floors besides the ground floor. In order to be constructed, the bedrock was levelled and granite masonry, carefully prepared and of considerable dimensions, was used, displaying remarkable construction quality. The building would likely be covered by a pitched roof. In the middle floor, all the facades presented a large door, flanked by two windows. These large doors enabled access to a balcony that encircled the entire structure. The "Tower" would correspond to the tallest building of the whole complex, having a series of connected compartments and open spaces, with a symmetrical layout, that stem from the central axis. A big open area or courtyard grows perfectly aligned to this central axis, supported by the aforementioned structures, with an enveloping portico. Several compartments can be accessed from this portico area, with an emphasis on an apse room where it was recovered an ara stone with engraved texts, amongst other artefacts. The construction would have occurred during the 1st century AD, specifically during the reign of Claudius and Nero. Reconstruction may have occurred around the mid-3rd century/beginning of the 4th century, though the symmetry of the structures remained unaffected. A building facing West was raised using reused materials after the 5th century (probably during the 8th/9th century), which has its foundations placed on top of the large portico area, with anthropomorphic rock-cut graves being identified. This structure should match the S. Cornélio's chapel, which still existed during the 18th century. The "Tower" may have served as a watchtower during the Medieval ages, during the reign of D. Sancho I. The typology and purpose of the archaeological vestiges found in the Centum Cellas continue to raise questions, with some theories pointing towards the building being a mansio, a pars urbana of a large Roman villa belonging to the Caecilii family, or being part of the forum's temple of the city of Lancia Oppidana.

Overview

Visit conditions

Free entrance

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    How to get there? Best practices

    Best practices

    Good practices when visiting archaeological sites

    To visit an archaeological site is to connect with our origins, to understand our path and evolution as a species integrated in the environment, and to respect and safeguard our heritage so that future generations can also visit and enjoy it.

    Walking the paths and enjoying the structures and archaeological pieces that survived over time, fosters the understanding of what is different, but also of what is common among different populations: basically, what identifies us as Homo Sapiens.

    More than just vestiges and ruins of the past, archaeological sites showcase our capacity for creative thought, adaptation, interconnection, comprehension and resilience. Without these traits we would not have been successful as cultural beings participating in an ongoing evolutionary process. These sites also allow to consider choices made in the past thus contributing for decisions in the present to be made with greater awareness and knowledge.

    Archaeological sites are unique and irreplaceable. These sites are fragile resources vulnerable to changes driven by human development. The information they keep, if destroyed, can never be recovered again.

    As such, the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage (DGPC) invites all visitors to enjoy the beauty and authenticity of these sites, while helping to preserve them for future generations by adopting the following set of good practices:

    • Respect all signs; 
    • Do not try to access fenced areas; 
    • Do not climb, sit or walk on archaeological structures and remains; 
    • Respect areas where archaeological excavations are being carried out, not disturbing them; 
    • Do not collect materials or sediments;
    • Do not write or make graffiti on archaeological structures; 
    • Put the garbage in appropriate containers. If none exist, take the garbage with you until you find a suitable container; 
    • Leave the archaeological site as you found it; 
    • Do not drive bicycles or motor vehicles over archaeological sites; 
    • Respect and protect the plants and animals that live in the areas surrounding archaeological sites;
    • Report signs of vandalism or destruction to DGPC or Regional Directorates of Culture (DRC);
    • Share the visiting experience and the archaeological sites, as a way of raising awareness to their preservation and making them better known;
    • Do not buy archaeological materials and report to public security authorities, DGPC or DRC, if you suspect that archaeological materials may be for sale.

    Further information:

    AIA / ATTA (2013) – Guide to best practices for archaeological tourism. 

    Raposo, J. (2016) – Código de conduta para uma visita responsável a sítios arqueológicos. In Sítios arqueológicos portugueses revisitados: 500 arqueossítios ou conjuntos em condições de fruição pública responsável. Al-madan, 2ª série, p. 20 – 77. 

    DGPC contacts

    Phone: +351213614200 | Email: informacaoarqueologica@dgpc.pt

     


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