ELVAS, an episcopal city and frontier fortress of Portugal, in the district of Portalegre and formerly included in the province of Alemtejo; 170 m. E. of Lisbon, and 10 m. W. of the Spanish fortress of Badajoz, by the Madrid-Badajoz-Lisbon railway. Pop. (1900) 13,981. Elvas is finely situated on a hill 5 m. N.W. of the river Guadiana. It is defended by seven bastions and the two forts of Santa Luzia and Nossa Senhora da Graça. Its late Gothic cathedral, which has also many traces of Moorish influence in its architecture, dates from the reign of Emmanuel I. (1495-1521). A fine aqueduct, 4 m. long, supplies the city with pure water; it was begun early in the 15th century and completed in 1622. For some distance it includes four tiers of superimposed arches, with a total height of 120 ft. The surrounding lowlands are very fertile, and Elvas is celebrated for its excellent olives and plums, the last-named being exported, either fresh or dried, in large quantities. Brandy is distilled and pottery manufactured in the city. The fortress of Campo Maior, 10 m. N.E., is famous for its siege by the French and relief by the British under Marshal Beresford in 1811 - an exploit commemorated in a ballad by Sir Walter Scott.
Elvas is the Roman Alpesa or Helvas, the Moorish Balesh, the Spanish Yelves. It was wrested from the Moors by Alphonso VIII. of Castile in 1166; but was temporarily recaptured before its final occupation by the Portuguese in 1226. In 1570 it became an episcopal see. From 1642 until modern times it was the chief frontier fortress S. of the Tagus; and it twice withstood sieges by the Spanish, in 1658 and 1711. The French under Marshal Junot took it in March 1808, but evacuated it in August, after the conclusion of the convention of Cintra (see Peninsular War).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)