An old fort on the Atlantic Ocean
coast in the town of Peniche north of Lisbon
. During the Estado Novo dictatorship from 1933 to 1974 it was used for incarcerating political prisoners. The site is now being turned into the National Museum of Resistance and Freedom
Construction of the fort was begun in the 16th century, and the fortifications were improved over the centuries. It had at times already seen prisoners, but shortly after the installation of the “Estado Novo” (‘New State’) right-wing regime in Portugal in 1933, Peniche Fort became the principal place where opponents of the regime were imprisoned. Between 1953 and 1961 three new prison cell blocks three storeys high were constructed, modelled on US
high-security prisons like Alcatraz
In 1960 a group of political prisoners, including the leader of the Portuguese Communist Party, Álvaro Cunhal, managed to escape from the Fort, the largest such breakout in its history.
After the Carnation Revolution of 1974 and the restoration of democracy, the political prison was closed. From 1977 to 1982 it served as a refugee centre for returnees from the former colonies (cf. Cape Verde
and East Timor
The Peniche Municipal Museum was established in 1984 and it already had a section about the political prisoners, but in 2017 it was decided that the Fort should house the new “Museu Nacional Resistência e Liberdade” specifically about the years of repression and incarceration of political prisoners as well as about the resistance and the overcoming of the dictatorship.
At the time of writing (spring 2021) only temporary exhibitions are hosted at the Fort while a permanent museum is under development. This has the potential to become the principal site of commemoration of the dark decades of dictatorship and repression in Portugal
There are already a couple of memorial monuments, one consisting of a set of stylized birds on metal sticks that poke out several metres above a stylized metal cage, the other is a metal wall onto which names of political prisoners are engraved.
in the south of the town of Peniche on the Atlantic coast, ca. 50 miles (80 km) north of Portugal
’s capital Lisbon
Opening times: from 9 a.m. (only from 10 a.m. on weekends and public holidays) to 12:30 noon, and from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed Mondays.