The construction

Throughout the centuries, Elvas became an ever watchful and cooperative sentinel of the Portuguese border, considered by every strategist and military as the “Key of the Kingdom”.

The construction of the Fort of Lippe (name that eventually changed to Fort of Graça) ended up being a fundamental addition to the 17th century fortification system of Elvas, regarding its full evolution and efficiency.

The gigantic work of fortification was planned and put into practice by the Count of Lippe. The construction began on July 1763 and continued until 1792.

The order to build the Fort of Graça was given by the Count of Lippe, in 1762, to the Lieutenant Coronel Engineer Pierre Robert de Bassenond. Later that year, a first blueprint was designed by Luís Gomes de Carvalho and the management of the works assigned to the Captain Engineer Étienne. Meanwhile, in 1764, Étienne departed for Germany to work on the conclusion of the Fort of Wilhelmstein. When leaving Portugal, that same year, Lippe advises the Marquis of Pombal to hire the Artillery Coronel Guillaume Louis Antoine de Valleré to proceed with the construction, which eventually occurred.

Valleré introduced some changes to the initial project and bestowed to the Fort a certain “degree of unsurpassed defensive sophistication”, according to the words of Domingos Bucho. During the development, Valleré not only runs out of the best features of the military architecture of the time, but he also introduces several improvements on many levels, creating repairs to specifics purposes, types of artillery, easy passage for soldiers, weaponry and much more. Throughout the construction, an Artillery Class was created in order to teach the troops about what was being improved. During the construction, 6000 men worked in the Fort and it costed 767.000$000 réis. The construction was gigantic, the Fort should be impenetrable because if it was invaded, it would easily bomb the city with efficiency. On the other hand, in order to be gigantic and impenetrable, it would have to have proper weaponry and garrison, which meant that many barracks were needed, as well as bunkers and ammunition depots. Bearing in mind that the top of the mountain restricts the available space for construction, this meant that the space had to be optimized to the maximum. The final result was the construction of a strong fort, with several floors and underground tunnels, and where the military architecture ran out of concepts, just like the Prince of Waldeck commented shortly after.

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