The Livro das Fortalezas (c.1509), a guidebook of cultural landscapes. Material analysis and study of spatial representation in the Luso-Spanish borderline


Duarte de Armas' drawings were the result of King Manuel I commissioning him to tour the borders of the kingdom of Portugal and illustrate the state of the fortresses that defended the boundaries with Castile. ‘The Livro das Fortalezas (c.1509), a guidebook of cultural landscapes’ is a multidisciplinary project that aims at analysing, enhancing and disseminating the pictorial activity of Duarte de Armas. The purpose is to develop a comprehensive study of manuscripts ANTT CF159 and BNE mss. 9241, as well as the 17th-century copy BNP IL192, by Brás Pereira. This study will focus on the analysis of the pictorial inputs used in their production and on researching the inherent politicization and appropriation of the landscape as evidence of successive contexts of self-representation of power.

The material study of the three aforementioned copies will be based on techniques of molecular and structural analysis of chemical compounds, and on the use of photography and microphotography using electromagnetic radiation. By means of a methodology never before used by the researchers who have studied the work of Duarte de Armas and scribe Brás Pereira, these techniques will provide precise details on the execution of the drawings included in these manuscripts. Furthermore, in addition to considering Duarte de Armas' manuscripts as instruments of power that channelled information and knowledge about the territory, the aim is to highlight the references made to the drawings, at the core of the political culture of early Modern Age. Research into political literature will demonstrate their use both in processes of political legitimation and in contexts of identity affirmation related to the geographical space.

In addition, the project, in its spatial dimension and for a better understanding of Duarte de Armas' work, aims at identifying, through field research, the exact places from which each of the views of the fortresses were drawn in the 16th century. This will enable recreating the author's journey and also laying the bases for a study of the evolution of the landscape from the time of the Livro das Fortalezas to the present day. By means of a photographic survey, it will also be possible to carry out a study of the essential perspective - sizes and distances - used by Duarte de Armas in his drawings. The results will reveal his technical knowledge and will support the identification, in the present-day landscape, of the elements represented by him in the Livro das Fortalezas. This type of procedure will be further enriched by a new recreation of the monuments depicted by Duarte de Armas, through contemporary artistic drawing. This resource, combined with oral history techniques in order to detect heritage processes, will serve as a basis for reflection on the differences between border lines within the Schengen area, as well as on the current situation of areas that were strategic in the past and now lack this feature, but which can gain new attractive features through heritage enhancement.



Material studies. The goals are 1) ascertaining whether the manuscripts kept at Torre do Tombo and the National Library of Madrid, probably made in 1509, correspond to the hand of a single author - Duarte de Armas - or whether, on the contrary, they show calligraphic differences, indicative of different intervenients; and 2) whether the manuscripts had later additions that might have altered the representations of the landscape depicted in them and that have reached our times. Regarding the third manuscript, Brás Pereira's 1642 copy, since it features drawings in colour and is therefore different from the previous ones, the aim of this study will be to find out which pigments or dyes were used, as well as their value and their significance for the work as a whole. The return to Duarte de Armas' drawings, more than a century after their execution and in the middle of the Portuguese War of Restoration, clearly highlights the symbolic value of the Livro das Fortalezas. This study aims at establishing this value by detecting any distinctive materials used in the execution of the drawings.

'Heritageisation' and the creation of a cultural itinerary. In Portugal, particularly since the 1960s, rural areas - within which most border territories are located - are undergoing a process of transformation involving demographic loss and declining farming. In a post-rural context, the national political entities, but also the populations and local entities, feel the need to assign new values to these spaces. On the one hand, it is necessary to guarantee the existence of symbols that can represent the identity of the social groups concerned; on the other hand, it is necessary to ensure strategies for sustaining the survival of the territories and promoting their socio-economic development. In response to the emergence of new ‘publics’ (tourists, returning emigrants, etc.) and changes in consumption patterns, the 'heritageisation' of rurality is spreading. Built heritage, amongst others, becomes an important asset in the implementation of these objectives. The creation of a cultural itinerary along the border, taking Duarte de Armas' experience as a reference, will be the project's major legacy from the dissemination point of view. To this end, momentum will be generated by creating an itinerant exhibition along all the fortifications listed in the Livro das Fortalezas, displaying both the 16th century drawings by Duarte de Armas and their contemporary recreations, produced in the course of the project. Hence, the choice will fall on a strategy aimed at enhancing the legacy of Duarte de Armas, closely linked to the territory and the present-day population.


Start: 2017

Duration: 12 months

Main Researcher: David Martín Marcos (CHAM)




- Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

Main Research Unit

- CHAM — Centro de Humanidades / Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa | Universidade dos Açores


- Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo / Direção-Geral do Livro, dos Arquivos e das Bibliotecas
- Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal
- Laboratório HERCULES / Universidade de Évora



David Martín Marcos

Ana Claro (CHAM)

António Candeias (UÉ)

Márcia Almada (UFMG)

Marta Silva (IHC / NOVA FCSH)