DESTINATIONThrough well seasoned paths we discover pieces of history at every step
This month you'll discover…
Castles and Town Walls of the Mondego Network
Before Portugal existed, before even D. Afonso I, before the complete retaking of the territory, already the region of Coimbra, between the Douro and Mondego rivers, was a place of deep political, religious and geographic importance. This region divided the kingdoms of León and Castile from the Córdoba Emirate. It was, therefore, a border zone between the Christian and Muslim worlds, a launching ground for the retake of the territory and, for many years, it was a territory where European and Arab cultures blended. D. Sesnando, one of the key figures of the Portuguese history, was the zenith of this confluence of cultures. Mozarabic, probably born in Tentúgal, was raised in Córdoba and was part of the King of Seville's circle. He then returned to Christian lands where he served the King Fernando I of León and King Afonso VI. The defensive line of the Mondego grows and strengthens thanks to this man. His strategic vision has created the foundations of the monuments we will have the opportunity to visit. We and the Castles and Town Walls of the Mondego Network invite you to go on this trip through, Montemor-o-Velho, Figueira da Foz, Lousã, Miranda do Corvo, Penela, Rabaçal, Pombal, Soure, Ansião and Condeixa-a-Nova. There is no cause for alarm. You will be safe behind these walls.
Miranda do Corvo Castle
Monumental Complex of Santiago Guarga
Palace of Ega
Tower and Fort of Buarcos
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Coimbra was the focal point of the whole defensive system, the metropolis that needed to be defended because it was the border between the Christian Kingdom and the territory controlled by the Muslim Army
After the retake of Coimbra by King Fernando I, the region is given to D. Sesnando, important Mozarabic and royal advisor. It is believed that D. Sesnando immediately started building a castle for the population and border defence.
At first, the fortified wall would not have so many towers. D. Afonso Henriques reinforced the castle and endowed him with a keep when Coimbra became the capital. D. Sancho I lifted another one in 1198, called Torre Quinária, but also known as the Tower of Hercules, of pentagonal profile. D. Fernando of Portugal endowed it with more towers, a door, a pit and Barbican. In its glory days the wall had 5 doors, Almedina, Belcouce's, the Betrayal, the Sun and the New Door. And several towers, including, of course, Almedina, one of the most important.
Coimbra was the capital of Portugal until D. Alfonso III change it for Lisbon. But the city kept its strategic and territorial importance.
The castle itself survived until the 18th century when it was thought to built an astronomical observatory for the University of Coimbra. The castle was demolished and the works of the Observatory were not complete.
Nowadays the University remains one of the landmarks of the city, as well as Almedina Tower. Is a mandatory place of passage for those visiting the city, with thousands of tourists passing every year through its door. Inside the tower it's installed the Coimbra's City Wall Centre, an interpretive centre where you can better understand the medieval city, its history and the changes it has undergone over the centuries. Did you hear the bell? Go see why it rings.
Useful informationAddress: R. do Arco Almedina – Coimbra GPS: 40º 12′ 31.39” N | 8º 25′ 43.49”W Visits: From Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am - 1 pm / 14h00 – 18h00 Closed: Mondays and Sundays
More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
On the right bank of Saint John's Stream was erected a castle shrouded in legends. You need to go through a winding road surrounded by trees to reach this small military construction.
This castle, was built in shale masonry, It was known, until the 16th century, as Arouce Castle, because of the river that passes by. The keep is the most visible structure, but we also highlight, as well, the chamfered battlements and the two semi-circular turrets flanking the gate that leads to the courtyard.
After the retake of Coimbra, D. Sesnando was appointed as governor and defender of the territory. It is believed that, in Lousã, he found a previous stronghold that he then rebuild. The improvement of the Castle allowed, also, the settlement of this region. Later, it received Foral from D. Afonso Henriques, in 1151.
During the 20th century the castle of Lousã underwent restoration and conservation works so the castle that exists is slightly different from the one from the time of D. Sesnando, but it fits perfectly in the forest that surrounds it.
We went around the walls in silence. Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the interior due to the fall of part of the stairs that lead to the guard's route. It will welcome visitors again soon. For now we're happy just to admire this medieval beauty.
Useful information Address: Located 2 km from the town of Lousã, at a hill on the right bank of the river Arunce. GPS: 40º 06′ 3.62” N/8º 14′ 06.55”W Visits: The castle is temporarily closed More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
Ancient Miranda do Corvo Castle
Miranda do Corvo has a castle? It has, I mean, it had a small fortification which remained only the corner tower, later turned into a Bell Tower. The tower is next to the Church, a refurbished and rather pleasant place, with panoramic views over the village.
Miranda do Corvo was located along the major communication routes. It is thought that, before the construction of the Castle, it should already be a tower in the municipality, to control this route, and before should have existed defence and guard buildings.
The archaeological work at this site uncovered a set of 22 graves dug into the rock which reveals that this space was used as a burial ground for, at least, 900 years old.
In 1136, D. Afonso Henriques granted a letter of Foral to Miranda do Corvo and the village grew around the fortress, serving as a protective shield to the city of Coimbra.
Over the years the castle loses its importance and became a ruin, to the point when its stones were used for construction by the population, for construction of the Church or for the bridge of Corvo in the early 19th century.
Useful information Address: Located on a hill near the village's centre. GPS: 40º05´35.112″ N/08º20´5.722″” W. Visits: The Bell Tower is closed for repairs. More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
Chen would have to be protected by all sides to avoid the loss of that important square to the enemy. So, it was built a fortified wall on the road that connected the lower Mondego to Pombal and Santarém.
D. Sesnando created conditions for the new village to be inhabited and began the construction of military structure. There are still three graves and reminiscences of houses outside the fortified wall from the first settlers.
The Penela Castle, with a privileged view over Lousã and Sicó mountains, and the village itself received the letter of Foral from D. Afonso Henriques, in 1137. The prince. Pedro, Duke of Coimbra, changed the place and during the 20th century it received refurbishment works.
For those who visit this village for the first time, they are overwhelmed by the grandeur of the monument. Walk through its narrow streets, where you occasionally encounter the nice folks who inhabit it, and take your time to appreciate the beauty of this region.
Useful information Address: Rua do Castelo,n. 5 – Penela GPS: 40º01´52.572″ N/08º23´23.971″W. Visits: From the 8 until 9pm April to September | From the 8 until 7pm October to March More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
From the perspective of D. Afonso Henriques there was a gap in the defences of Coimbra. The distance between the castles of Penela and Soure and was too far and the enemy could exploit this gap. Therefore, around 1142, he decides to build the Germanelo Castle, strategically placed for the protection and control of one of the main accesses to Coimbra.
This structure is located at 367 meters, overlooking the Rabaçal valley. From here it's, even, possible to envision the line followed by the old Roman road.
Currently the castle is totally in ruins, only stands, one, part of a wall with battlements, which was a recent reconstruction on the initiative of Salvador Dias Arnaut. To get there you need to climb the hill on foot or by mountain bike. There is, by the way, a sign path that will guide you through the flora and fauna which you can enjoy while climbing.
Up there, a wooden walkway allows you to circulate at will. An informative panel placed above the valley offers a reading of the surrounding territory. The wind, which sometimes is felt in winter days makes us rise the collar of the jacket. We can put ourselves in the shoes of the soldiers who kept watch at this watchtower. It is, in fact, an incredible view...
Useful information Address: Located next to the village of Rabaçal. GPS: 40º01´34.699″ N/08º25´49.656 W. Visits: Building without restriction access. More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
Monumental Cluster of Santiago da Guarda
Near Pombal, namely in the municipality of Ansião, is located the Monumental Cluster of Santiago da Guarda. Santiago da Guarda is a village known for its 16th century market, event that draws in many visitors every year. But the origin of this place is much older than that. It traces, at least, to Roman times.
Enjoy the guided tours and travel back in time to the fall of the Roman Empire. At the entrance we can see the rich Roman tiles, unearthed in this last millennium. From bellow, It rose to the surface part of the floor of a living room. The extension of the housing complex, the level of detail in the decor and the quality of the leisure facilities might be proof that an important family would have lived here.
The Roman Villa faded through time and, in it's place, was built a military tower. What we see is a medieval tower, and later refurbished, when the Palace was also built. From the top of the tower one can see the mountains surrounding it, the green of the forest and the entire town that welcomed us with open arms.
The unique features of this monument don't stop at the Manueline architecture. There's also a simbol of a scalop, symbol of the pilgrims to Santiago of Compostela. The name of the monumental cluster is no accident. This building was located on one of the routes to Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage route.
At the end of the visit explore the flavours of the region at the store. We came here because of the Defensive line of the Mondego, but we ended up finding a much older history. We shall return. You are welcome to come back too.
Useful information Address: Rua Condes de Castelo Melhor, Santiago da Guarda – Ansião GPS: 39° 56'52.86″N | 8° 28'50.52″W Visits: Summer: Tuesday to Friday 9.30 am / 1 pm – 14pm / 6.30 pm | Saturday and Sunday 2 pm / 6.30 pm Winter: Tuesday to Friday 9 am / 12.30 am – 14pm / 5.30 pm |Saturday and Sunday 2 pm / 5.30 pm Closed on Mondays More Information: descubra-ansiao.com
At the highest point of the city of Pombal stands the castle with the same name. It was built by Gualdim Pais, master of the Templar's in Portugal, at the time of the king D. Afonso Henriques. It was Gualdim himself who gave the Foral to the town in 1174. Inside were built several buildings essential to the life of the Knights Templar.
Previously must have been an old Roman fortification, later occupied by Muslims. After the conquest of the region, Gualdim Pais built a large castle, with nine towers, that would be the advance guard of the city of Coimbra.
In 1317 the castle was offered to the Order of Christ, die to the extinction of the Templars decreed by Rome, but it continued to maintain its importance. Pombal was the place where the peace between the King D. Dinis and his son D. Afonso III was proclaimed and celebrated in the Church of St. Martin. In the 15th century the castle was donated to the family Vasconcelos e Sousa, future Counts of Castelo Melhor, by King D. João II, remaining in this family until 1834.
The castle is now open to the public, to be explored and discovered. You can also see a 3D film about the history of the Castle and the city of Pombal. At the end of the visit and to recover your breath sit on the terrace of the bar and enjoy the surrounding woods of the Castle and the magnificent view over the city. Take the opportunity to visit the historic part of the town, now recovered and with a varied offer of cultural spaces (Marquês de Pombal Museum, National Museum of Popular Portuguese Art).
Useful information Address: Rua da Encosta do Castelo – Pombal GPS: 39° 56'52.86″N | 8° 28'50.52″W Visits: Winter 10 am - 1 pm | 2 pm - 5 pm | Summer 10 am - 1 pm | 2 pm - 7 pm Closed on Monday and holidays 1 from January, 1 May and 25 of December. More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
Palace of Ega
At the top of the Hill in the village of Ega, in the municipality of Condeixa-a-Nova, stands the Palace of Ega. This space was built over the ruins of a castle built by the Templar order in the 12th or 13th century. It should already exist an old Moorish fortress there which was eventually conquered by D. Afonso Henriques and later donated by his mother to order.
In 1508, the representatives of the Order of Christ (created by D. Dinis from the remnants of the Knights Templar), found a building in an advanced state of degradation and ordered reconstruction works that have transformed the space. Nowadays there are still some typically Manueline details.
The Palace of Ega went through several hands, having been, even, the Commentator’s house. In the 20th century it was bought by professor falcão who installed two classrooms for the primary school in activity until 19 30.
Then it was forgotten until, recently, it suffered refurbishing and restoration works changing the space into a tourism guest house and returned it to its glory.
Useful information Address: Palace of Ega, Ega – Condeixa-a-Nova GPS: 40° 5'41.38″N | -8° 32'13.37″W Visits: if you book first +351 239 941 341 More Information: paco-da-ega.com
The Soure Castle is one of the few examples in Portugal of military structures built on flat terrain. It was built by D. Sesnando at the confluence of two rivers: Anços and Arunca. These formed a natural barrier against invaders, a sort of pit that helped to control that area. To protect the population and the road to Coimbra, was built this structure which today only remains some fortified walls.
Soure receives Foral from count D. Henrique and his wife, D. Teresa, in 1111. It was later donated to the Templar Order by D. Teresa and confirmed by her son, D. Afonso Henriques, future King of Portugal. D. Gualdim Pais, leader of the Knights Templar in Portugal, reshaped the structure and made Soure the first headquarters of the order.
Two towers remain, the courtyard protected by a metal gate and part of the walls. Nowadays the castle is between two recent constructions, remaining even the nearby archaeological site of the Church of Our Lady of Finisterra and a necropolis, which gave rise to the creation of the Interpretative Center of Fortified Walls of Soure where you will find an explanation about the true extent of the perimeter walls. Nearby was placed an interpretive centre which will host temporary exhibitions.
On the other side of the road begins a large leisure park. The river waters run fast as the inhabitants of Soure that use the pedestrian lane to practice sport. A playground and majestic trees complete the scenario.
Useful information Address: Rua Alexandre Herculano, Largo do Castelo, Largo do Adro – Soure GPS: 40° 03'25.748″N | 8° 37'34.207″W Visits: The 9 am - 12.30 am | 2 pm - 5.30 pm | Saturday 9 am - 3 pm
Closed: Saturday night before Easter, Christmas and New Year's Day More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
The city of Coimbra would be under threat, not only from the advances by land but also from attacks from the coast.
The strategic position of Montemor-o-Velho was well perceived by both the Christian forces as by Muslim. The fortress has, by the way, Muslim origin, it was once called Montmayur, a powerful square which was taken by the forces of king D. Fernando I at the retake of Coimbra.
D. Sesnando changed it, then, the fortress to better protect the capital of the territory entrusted to him. Nevertheless the village continued to be fairly contested by the two forces.
Montemor-o-Velho, receives a Foral from D. Raimundo in 1095 and afterwards, in 1212, it received Foral from D. Teresa, daughter of D. Sancho I and keeper of the village.
At the end of the 12th century, beginning of the 13th century, the keep is built. Much of the village was within the walls allowing a better protection of the citizens.
The importance of Montemor was always evident throughout the centuries. It was the scene of the conflict between D. Sancho II and D. Afonso III, the conflict between D. Afonso IV and his father D. Dinis and it was here that Inês de Castro was condemned by D. Afonso IV, as described in the Box Pedro & Inês.
From the walls one can observe the cultivated fields and the storks flying in the sky. Nearby lies the village of Tentúgal, the place where, most likely, saw the birth of one of the most important figures in the history of Portugal, D. Sesnando. Now, what calls people are Tentúgal's pastries, appreciated by all who visit.
Useful informationAddress: Rua de Coimbra – Montemor-o-Velho GPS: 40° 10'30.037″N | 8° 41'1.771″W Visits: Winter time (16 of September 14 of June): 10am to 6 pm | Summer time (15 of June to 15 of September): 10am to 8 pm More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt
Tower and Fortress of Buarcos
The sea breeze surrounds us, the smell of salt, sand, the sound of the waves breaking at the shore and the sun above our heads complete the scenario that is the coastline of Figueira da Foz. The danger to us is virtually nil, however, at the time of D. Sesnando, the attacks on its territory could come, by land, and by sea.
It was easy to land in the cove of Buarcos therefore there was always a need to build defensive structures. There must have been defensive towers since the time of D. Sesnando. One of those towers would certainly be the one called Tower or Castle of Redondos, today reduced to a corner at the top of Buarcos.
The Buarcos Fortress was designed and built much more recently, between the 16th and 17th centuries. It was part of the Cove's defensive system alongside the Fortress of Palheiros and the Fortress of Santa Catarina.
This fort consists of a section of wall with three bastions: Bastion of Nazaré, Bastion of Rosário and the Bastion of São Pedro.
The sea, previously a source of danger as pirates, corsairs and invasions of enemy troops, is today a unique tourist pole. The beach stretches for miles, and with the proper temperature, it's impossible to resist its calling.
Useful informationAddress: Rua 5 , 2015, Buarcos – Figueira da Foz GPS: 40° 09'51.093″N | 8° 52'45.871″W Visits: Building without restriction access. More Information: www.castelosemuralhasdomondego.pt