A HIGH-FLYING SANCTUARY
There is no better way to get to know a city than to visit it from above.
So, to do so in Guimaraes, we must climb the Montana da Penha, formerly called "Montanha de Santa Catarina", which was later called Penha mountain because it resembles a large rock.
This mountain is situated about 600 metres above sea level and right there, at the top, is also the Santuario da Penha, an essential Portuguese pilgrimage centre.
This pilgrimage began in the early ´80s of the 19th century. Workers of the leather and customs companies started to go on pilgrimage there, becoming a custom and finally a pilgrimage from 1893.
The sanctuary itself is modern from the 20th century. It was destroyed in a terrible fire in 1939 in the same place where the old monastery dating from the 17th century was located.
The locals also know the sanctuary as the Guimaraes lighthouse, as it acts as a guiding light at the top of the mountain.
From here, you can see incredible panoramic views of the whole city and the surrounding region, as it is the highest point for miles around. So there is no doubt that its views will take your breath away.
It is a wooded peak, full of woods with paths for strolling, picnic areas, playgrounds...
To get there, we must take a cable car, which is also the oldest in Portugal, inaugurated in 1995.
The whole route is at the height of 4 metres, and the journey is almost 2 km, so not only will we enjoy the views, but we will also enjoy the whole trip, which lasts approximately 10 minutes.
Rua Aristides Sousa Mendes Street, 37.
In the birthplace of Portugal, there is much to feel, smell, see, hear, touch and taste.
The art of good cooking and good food is associated with this region through regional dishes, traditional recipes and typical Vimaranse pastries to make you enjoy every bite.
For those with a sweet tooth, we propose a typical dessert from Guimaraes, which seems to come straight down from heaven, and although it is not from above, its origin is very close to heaven, as it has its roots in the convents of the 15th century.
It is the famous "tocinillo de cielo" or "toucinho do ceu" (little piece of haeven) as the Portuguese say.
It is a very traditional dessert that has been modernised over time, and today it is also the basis of the famous neo-cuisine.
This dessert is made with eggs, sugar and almonds, a sweet sweetness that is not cloying and has an incredibly creamy and smooth texture.
Its intense yellow colour is due to the eggs from free-range hens and possibly accompanied by some homemade jam—Convent made by the nuns with great affection.
At that time, the most affordable raw materials of the moment were used for desserts. And, of course, our cloistered nuns used these ingredients to give life to this little piece of heaven.
The name refers to the fact that the recipe used lard at first, but this has now been replaced by butter so that it is not so strong on the palate.
To accompany this delicacy, we will drink a green wine from one of the secular, modern or family-run Quintas (wine cellars), but always with tradition and culture in the famous Portuguese green wine production.
Thus, we will feel the flavour of Guimaraes and, above all, the history through our palate.
A HEART FULL OF TRADITION
Guimarães is the natural capital of the Portuguese leather and textile industry, the place par excellence where you can find the best leather goods, jewellery, ...
Among the typical handicrafts of the North of Portugal, the Corazón de Viana, a jewel made of lattice, is a goldsmith technique used in handmade jewellery. It consists of fill-ing hollow forms or figures previously elaborated by the artisan with great metal threads, generally gold or silver, to form complex pieces of jewellery, forming a pattern similar to lace.
In Portugal, the Heart of Viana has a marked religious origin. In classical antiquity, the heart represented the centre of life, solidarity, fraternity, and love. These were the most outstanding characteristics in the lives of the saints, which is why they were represented with their hearts outside their chests.
These hearts accentuated the warmth of love with the flames that sprang from the upper part, the upper part being a stylisation of these same flames, which is why they were called flaming or double hearts.
In Portugal, they appeared in the 18th century, with the cult of the Sacred Heart of Je-sus.
Nowadays, in addition to its religious connotation, it symbolises life, love, brotherhood, friendship, in short, universal love.
In the form of pendants or earrings, these filigree Viana Hearts are worn with great pride by the women of the Minho region, affectionately known as Minhotas.
Viana´s hearts are traditional Portuguese jewellery and a lucky charm for brides passed down from mother to daughter that never goes out of fashion despite being more than three centuries old.
Many jewellery designers use this heart as inspiration and modernise it, making it a jewel full of history, beauty and modernity.
Surrounded by centenary trees, we will admire the imposing Ducal Palace of the Braga-nça, which curiously has a fortified appearance. Built by French architects, it is reminis-cent of the architectural style of the châteaux of the Loire Valley.
It is made up of four square towers that leave open a Gothic cloister in the centre. Bat-tlements and machicolations top its high stone walls.
The 39 cylindrical and spiky brick chimneys stand out on the roofs with their large slopes, symbolising the influence of the stately architecture of Southern Europe, a unique model in the Iberian Peninsula.
King Alfonso the I commissioned work on the Palace, and the Count of Barcelos and first Duke of Bragança, Dom Alfonso, who was the bastard son of King João I, lived in this majestic mansion of vast dimensions, together with his second wife, Lady Constança de Noronha.
This palatial fortress served as a residence for the Dukes of Bragança until the 16th cen-tury, when they moved to the Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa, near the Spanish border.
The 16th century marked the beginning of its progressive abandonment and consequent ruin, which would worsen until the 20th century.
The reconstruction of the Palace began in 1937 and lasted until 1959 when it was opened to the public as a museum.
If you wish, you can visit it by paying an entrance fee of around 5 euros. In it, you can enjoy seeing expensive furniture of superior beauty and numerous objects such as Per-sian carpets, Chinese porcelain, paintings, tapestries, weapons, armour, sculptures and clocks.
It should be remembered that in 1933 it was the official residence of the President of the Portuguese Republic.
Once you have finished your visit, we recommend you take a photo next to the famous statue of the first king of Portugal, Alfonso Henriques. The figure stands on a sturdy granite pedestal, cast in bronze by Soares dos Reis in 1874, and is located in front of the main door of the Palace.
Come and discover the past of what was the last Portuguese royal dynasty: the House of Bragança.
A LABORIOUS WORK
Have you never seen leather factory tanks? Well, here you will have the opportunity to see one from the 19th century.
At first glance, they will probably look like big tanneries, but they are the tanks used in a factory in the 19th century, but they were also used for private use.
At the end of the famous Rua de Couros (leather street, hence the name), you can see the complex of old tanneries that ceased to operate last century.
This factory was, in fact, the union of small leatherworkers who worked independently, what today we could call a cooperative.
We can see the labyrinth of channels through which the water passed where the skins were submerged, as water played a fundamental role in the leather process, as it was used in different phases of the process.
The process was very laborious, starting with submerging the skins in the kingdom to free them of hair and fat, then they were immersed in water with lime for several days to finish removing every one of the hair and fat particles still stuck to it. After drying for several days, the skins were again dipped in boiling water.
The tanning process begins after the cleaning process, applying vegetable substances such as oak bark to prevent the leather from rotting. These Banos could last up to 3 months.
This process ends when barefoot men step on the skins inside the tanks.
Afterwards, the leather is dried by beating it with boards, thus removing all the humidity, and it dries for about a month.
The skins are oiled, stretched and dried to be classified according to their quality and sold to make different articles.
So we recommend you visit this old leather factory and imagine all the laborious process of the leather in situ.
Largo da Cidade 3-4
FROM SIN TO HEAVEN
And if I propose a challenge that is a bit more risqué? Yes, yes, you read that right!
Its protagonist is the church of Our Lady of Oliveira, originally founded as a monastery and one of the main historical-religious buildings of Guimaraes today.
Legend has it that in this place, the Visigoth king Wamba threw his spear to the ground in anger, stating that he would never rule unless another spear was born from that spear stuck in the mud.
According to the legend, an olive tree grew instantly from that spear, which meant that the Visigoths would finally rule.
The church was rebuilt in the 15th century and became the most important Gothic building in the country´s north.
A century later, in 1513, they built the bell tower, commissioned by the prior D. Diogo Pinheiro 1513, where the funeral chapel of his ancestors is located.
Well, it is to this tower that you will go and look for its gargoyles and take a good look at them.
It is not known why, but there you will find a famous erotic gargoyle among the rest of the zoomorphic gargoyles that adorn the tower. The primary debate surrounding the figures is their ultimate meaning, as no one knows the constitution. And even less to know who sculpted it, in any case there it is, and that is the challenge, to look for it!
Maybe the architect wanted to express something through this gargoyle, or it simply has some relation with San Gonzalo and the neighbouring city of Amarante, where the cakes of San Gonzalo have precisely a phallic shape.
But why is the meaning of the most natural representation of the human being and its everyday use today considered a sin but filtered under a morality repressed by the inquisition that will begin a few years later?
If St. Gonzalo would raise his head!
Largo da Oliveira, 9
In the church of St. Francis, we find an altar where the relics of the Franciscan Saint Gualter were found hidden inside a 19th-century image.
Yes, yes, it all sounds very filmy, but that´s how it was.
The wooden figure from the same period, hidden for many centuries the bones believed to be those of the Franciscan saint, founder of the Convent and course patron saint of the city of Guimaraes.
The statue symbolises the saint himself and is made of cedarwood, in a state of perfect preservation but considered poor and austere.
It was believed that this sculpture was a hollow image, but in reality, it had some trap doors that hid the skull and some fabrics carefully wrapped in beautiful fabrics of natural thread such as linen.
Remains of silk hits were also found, which were supposed to have been used in shrines of the saint.
Traditionally it was rumoured locally, and not formally, that the remains of the Franciscan were hidden inside the church, but no one knew their actual location.
Monks thought he was buried in one of the parts of the Convent, or he might even be buried in a mass grave.
Also found during these restoration works was the 17th century Jesse tree, which represents the noble ancestry of the mother of Christ, as the tree of Joseph during the Middle Ages was the first genealogical tree used to describe a genealogy.
This tree is gold plated but painted black to prevent looting and theft.
So, even if you can´t admire either of these two discoveries, it is always good to visit the church and imagine that maybe, in one of the corners of the church... there is another hidden treasure.
Church of the Convent of San Francisco.
R. Gaspar Roriz 124
REMEMBERING THE COUNTESS MUMADONA DIAS
We will begin by remembering this peculiar historical character:
Mumadona Dias was a countess of Portugal in the 10th century during the first Por-tucalense county. Considered in her time the most powerful, rich and famous woman in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula, she was recognised in several Portuguese cities due to her courage and dedication to the Christian community.
In 926, Mumadona, after the death of her husband, began to rule the county, at which time she inherited numerous territories.
These domains were divided among her six sons, leaving Gonçalo I Mendes with the county of Portucalense.
By divine inspiration, Countess Mumadona founded a monastery on her estate in Vimaranes, where she was later professed. To protect this monastery from the incursions of the Normans, she decided to build a castle, in the shadow of which the town of Guimarães developed, becoming the seat of the court of the Counts of Portucale.
The Castle of Guimaraes will be the start of our walk, located at the highest point of the city.
Its primitive keep, which was the centre of the Castle erected by Countess Mumadona, became the keeper of the fortress remodelled by Henry of Burgundy. Its walls, which King Dinis extended, were 2,000 metres long and covered the entire cusp of Mount Latio.
From here, you will have a magnificent panoramic view of the city and head south. You will be able to see the Penha mountain, on the top of which sits the Pousada Santa Marinha, one of the most luxurious in the country.
Next to the Castle, you can admire the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, with its for-tress-like appearance and characteristic architecture inspired by the castles of the Loire Valley. Its 39 cylindrical brick chimneys give a residential feel to this fortress-like Pal-ace.
We will continue down towards the city centre, take the street below and go down Lar-go Martins Sarmiento until we reach Serpa Pinto Street, where we will turn left. You will arrive at the Plaza del Tribunal, where homage is paid to Countess Mumadona, with an imposing bronze statue erected in 1960. The Countess of Leon appears on a large pedestal, holding in one hand the cross and in the other the image of the Castle of Guimarães.
We walk down the Avenida Alberto Sampaio until we reach the museum of the same name, where there used to be the conventual quarters, now used by the museum.
Going up the street, we reach the Largo de Oliveira, where you can visit the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira. The origin of this church was the monastery built in the 10th century at the express wish of Countess Mumadona, which has completely disappeared. The Convent was, together with the Castle, the base of urban settlements in this place.
And here, in this lively Oliveira square, our walk dedicated to the incredible Countess Mumadona will end.
A BREAK WITH A LOT OF HISTORY
Descending Santa Maria street, lined with ancestral mansions from the 14th and 15th centuries, characteristic of the north of the country, which are simple, three-storey con-structions and where the wooden balconies illustrate the great mastery of the old carpen-ters.
We will arrive at a Gothic arcade that will lead us to Largo de São Tiago, one of the most characteristic public spaces of the city, where you can also taste the delicious and varied Portuguese gastronomy in one of its lively terraces.
We must remember that Santa Maria Street was one of the first streets opened in Guimarães, as it was intended to serve as a connection between the Convent founded by Mumadona, surrounded by the lower Castle located in the upper part of the city.
Along its route, we find several architectural testimonies of its past: the Convent of San-ta Clara. The Casa do Arco, the Casa dos Peixoto´s and the Casa Gótica dos Valadares, and so many others that give it its own identity and characteristics in the city of Guimarães.
This picturesque square of São Tiago evokes the medieval past of the city.
At sunset, it will be the ideal place to have an aperitif or some of the delights of Portu-guese pastries.
Legend has it that an image of the Virgin Mary was brought to the city by the Apostle Saint Tiago and placed inside an ancient pagan temple, but later Christianised and re-named the Plaza de Santiago.
Here we can also admire some interesting monuments: on the eastern side sits a curious Gothic sanctuary, built in the reign of D. Alfonso IV to commemorate the Battle of Sa-lado. The Portuguese and Castilian forces jointly defeated the Moorish army of Granada in 1340.
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