A Sunday in late October, and Portugal’s military was occupying Guimarães. The power and might of the country was on full display, with its uniformed officers and camouflaged soldiers, its tanks and full regalia. The military flexed its muscles, upheld its patriotism. We parked in a neighborhood far from the center because of the occupation, yielding to an urge to see the town without staying overnight. Guimarães was our stopover town on our way to somewhere else. That somewhere else was Porto.
In Guimarães, we climbed uphill to the crenulated towers and cylindrical brick chimneys of 15th-century Paço dos Duques de Bragança, looming over the medieval town. We wandered freely through the cavernous rooms, with gargantuan banquet tables and imposing chandeliers, 17th-century period furniture, 15th- and 16th-century weapons, a chapel with stained glass windows, and rich Flemish tapestries. The tapestries, reproductions of the originals, whispered of the Portuguese attempts to conquer North Africa, including the capture of Tangiers.
Walking uphill to the Castelo, we passed soldiers demonstrating tanks and weaponry to families and small children, who climbed gleefully atop the killing machines. We dropped into the tiny Romanesque Church of St. Michael of the Castle, where the first independent King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques (born ~1106-1111 and died 1185), was probably baptized.
We wandered around the 11th-century seven-towered Castelo, thought to be Afonso Henriques’ birthplace. Apparently the king’s birth date and birthplace are strongly disputed. Sadly the ramparts were closed to the public, so we missed what might have been amazing views.
Later in his life, Afonso used Guimarães as the launching point for the main thrust of the Reconquista against the Moors, resulting in the Portuguese kingdom.
At Largo da Oliveira, we found a cozy restaurant, where we lingered over lunch. After, feeling sated, we admired the Gothic canopy of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira and then dipped inside. We continued walking through labyrinthine lanes and picturesque plazas to a fountain and a long rectangular garden, at the end of which stood the slender 18th-century Igreja de São Gaulter, with its 19th-century spires.
Quite by accident, we found ourselves walking into the Igreja de São Francisco, in which a Sunday service was underway. The church was packed with parishioners. We were bowled over by the beautiful azulejo tiles on the wall, but photography was forbidden during the service. As we lingered outdoors, dusting off our disappointment, the congregation poured out of the church and we were in luck! The service was over. We ducked in for a few photos, not wavering in our determination to capture the interior of this gorgeous church.
Finally, we walked nearly a mile to our distant parked car and drove up the winding road to Penha, where we dipped into the Santuario da Penha and marveled over the sweeping views of Guimarães from on high. We were on our way to Porto.
*Steps: 18,292 (7.75 miles)*
*Sunday, October 28, 2018*
See below for photos and historical facts and figures, if you’re interested. 🙂
Paço dos Duques de Bragança (Palace of the Dukes of Braganza) was built in 1401 by Afonso de Barcelos, the first duke of Bragança and the illegitimate son of the future king D. João I. When the residence of the Dukes of Bragança was later moved to the Alentejo, the building fell into disrepair and was transformed into a military barracks in 1807. The palace was restored from 1937-1959, and brought back to its Norman-inspired Gothic glory.
Interior of Paço dos Duques de Bragança
On the ground floor is a small museum of contemporary art, which houses pieces given to the city of his birth by the painter José de Guimarães (the artist who created Portugal’s tourism symbol).
Tucked between the palace and castle is the little Romanesque Church of St. Michael of the Castle (Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo).
The seven-towered Castelo was built in the 11th century and is in fine shape.
The town square Largo da Oliveira is a beautiful square with many restaurants and outdoor cafe, although it was too cold to sit outdoors.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira (Our Lady of the Olive Tree) was founded by Countess Mumadona in the 12th century and rebuilt four centuries later. Outside the church is a Gothic canopy and cross, supposedly marking the spot where Wamba the Visigoth (672–680) drove his spear into the ground beside an olive tree, refusing to reign unless a tree sprouted from the handle. Of course, as is “true” in such legends, the tree sprouted (Lonely Planet Portugal).
Interior of Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira
Streets of Guimarães
The 18th-century Igreja de São Gaulter, with its 19th-century twin spires, sits fetchingly at the far end of a beautifully manicured rectangular garden.
The 13th century Igreja de São Francisco (Church of St. Francis of Assisi) has a stunning interior of 18th century azulejos depicting the life of the saint.
Penha is a wooded summit reached by driving 7km up a twisting, cobbled road. It offers sweeping views over Guimarães. It also boasts the modern Santuario da Penha.
Interior of Santuario da Penha
Views of Guimarães from Penha
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. In this case, one of my intentions for my trip to Portugal was to pick five random verbs each day and use them in my travel essay:
uphold, waver, dust, realize, yield √
It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation. You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, April 22 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, April 23, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!