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Wonders in Portugal

 
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Tower of Belém

 The Tower of  Belém stands on the former beach at Restelo, point of departure for naus and caravels on voyages to discover the Oceans (16th Century).
On the banks of the River Tagus, the Tower of Belém stands as a symbol of the Portuguese Discoveries and the foundation of the Modern Age. For this reason, UNESCO has added it to the list of World Heritage sites.
Lisbon was once the capital of an immense maritime empire, symbolized by this monument. To our eyes, it’s an historic building of carved stone, but to its contemporaries it was an awesome stronghold at the entrance to the Tagus, creating crossfire with a fortress on the opposite bank.
Although commissioned by King Manuel I in the 16th Century, the square tower is reminiscent of old medieval castles.At the time, the fortress was the most modern of designs; with open cannon emplacements at sea level ready for firing at the enemy.
In the 19th Century, symbols of Manueline art were added to the tower, such as shields with the Cross of the Order of Christ, twisted ropes in stone and armillary spheres.
Facing the river at the top of the fortress, you feel like you’re in the bows of a ship, with magnificent views over the Tagus.


Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is a magnificent monument marking the high point of Portuguese art in the century of the Discoveries (16th Century).
UNESCO has classified the monastery, which faces the River Tagus, as a World Heritage site. In the main doorway, you’ll see Our Lady of Belém (Bethlehem), patron saint of seafarers, a beautiful example of 16th Century Portuguese sculpture. In the centre of the monastery is the symbolic figure of Prince Henry the Navigator, grasping a sword.
While the work of sculptor Nicolau de Chanterenne stands in the west doorway, a statue of King Manuel I.
Pay a visit to the monastic church, one of the most beautiful in Portugal and Europe. The slender pillars are decorated with delicate arabesques and seem to suspend the immense vaulted ceiling.Five hundred years ago, the monastery was the site of a modest chapel where departing and arriving seafarers came to pray. King Manuel transformed it into this remarkable monument, a prayer to the Virgin of Belém for the success of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India.
The site is a monument to the great men who spearheaded the Portuguese Discoveries, glorified by Luís de Camões in his epic poem “Os Lusíadas”. The tombs of King Manuel and his descendents are all found here, as well as a symbolic monument to Fernando Pessoa in the royal cloisters, the famous Portuguese poet of the 20th century.

 


Convent of Christ

UNESCO has classified this unique monument as a World Heritage site. It is a symbol of both Western history and the history of Portugal.
Walking through the ancient streets of Tomar or the leafy park by the river, the Templars’ Castle always remains in sight.
Gualdim Pais, Master of the Order of the Temple in Portugal, chose the hill on which to build the fortress in 1160. It was around this time that work began on the Charola or Rotunda (octagonal church,) modelled on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The convent buildings grew up around it when the Order of the Temple was transferred to the Order of the Knights of Christ, which took over all its property. At the same point in history, Prince Henry the Navigator was to lead the Portuguese nation to the maritime Discoveries, taking the Templar Cross to the seven corners of the world.
In the reign of King Manuel I, a new series of art inspired by the sea was created at the monument. The Templars’ Church is decorated with paintings and sculptures of exceptional quality. The west façade of the chapter house contains an amazing window, depicting waves, ropes, fantastic animals, angels, kings, armillary spheres and the Cross of the Order of Christ, all carved in stone. Take your time to look around this grand convent and discover its fascinating history.


 

Medieval town of Óbidos

The magnificent medieval walled town of Óbidos is known as the ‘Town of Queens’ because of a tradition in which kings used to offer the place to their wives.
The town boasts some lovely churches. In days gone by these were built when queens gave birth to a child.
The graceful castle is now a Pousada and perhaps the most romantic of all of the Pousadas de Portugal.
The town is stunning, full of well-preserved white houses with Manueline porticos and flower-laden window boxes; sinuous streets with romantic recesses; arcades and small squares. Look out for some amazing buildings too. Architectural jewels include the Misericórdia Church (15th c.), the São Pedro Church (18th c.) and the São Martinho Chapel (14th c.), the Paço Real (Royal Palace) and the perimeter of the castle walls, from which you can see the aqueduct.
Finally, don’t miss the chance to savour the local cuisine, with dishes like caldeirada, made with fish from Óbidos lagoon, accompanied by special regional wines. Within the walls, numerous bars offer you a taste of ginjinha, a traditional liqueur.
So close to Lisbon, this is one of the most picturesque and most visited sites in the country, hosting countless cultural and tourist-oriented events.


Alcobaça Monastery

Visit the monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça, an architectural masterpiece.
The monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As soon as you enter the church’s immense nave - the largest built in Portugal in the Middle Ages - you feel a sense of spirituality that’s typically evoked by early Gothic architecture.
In the transept are the most beautiful medieval tombs in Portugal. On the right you’ll find the resting place of Inês de Castro and on the left, that of King Pedro I. The King himself ordered them to be placed opposite one another, so when the day of resurrection arrived he would be facing the woman he loved, who was brutally murdered. Pedro’s tomb is decorated with delicate sculptures, retelling the story of this tragic love affair.The layout of the monastery follows that of the Cistercian Order founded in France. Walk through the austere chambers where monks lived for almost 800 years: the refectory, the dormitory, the chapter house, the cloisters, and the monumental kitchen where fish were cooked fresh from the river. On tiles lining the walls of the Kings’ Room, read the story of the founding of the monastery in 1153. You’ll learn that Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, promised to give St. Bernard the lands of Alcobaça if he captured Santarém from the Moors. Consequently, monks settled here, establishing an agricultural college on the fertile land that is still productive today.


Queluz Palace

Visit Queluz Palace. Originally a summer retreat, it later became the residence of the Portuguese royal family.
Queluz Palace, with its gardens, statues and fountains, is reminiscent of Versailles. It is home to a valuable collection of decorative art, including Portuguese furniture, Arraiolos carpets, royal portraits, Chinese and European porcelain and jewellery.
The rooms have an intimate feel, and are decorated with gilded woodcarvings and paintings, finely illustrating the evolution in taste from the second half of the 18th century to the first quarter of the 19th century, passing from the rococo to the neoclassical style.
The Palace is part of a much larger estate that includes French-style geometric gardens, annexes to the old kitchen that have been converted into the renowned Cozinha Velha restaurant, and the Royal Guard’s barracks, which have been converted into the Pousada de Queluz.These days, the palace is host to frequent concerts and regularly welcomes heads of state, government officials and diplomats.
And at the open-air riding school, between April and October, visitors can see a performance by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art.

 

 

 


 

 

Monastery of Batalha or Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória

Discover one of the most fascinating Gothic monuments in Europe.
UNESCO has included the historic monastery of Batalha on the list of World Heritage sites.
King João I ordered the monastery to be built in gratitude to the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. The monastery illustrates the history of Portugal and its rich artistic heritage.
On a visit to the monastery, you’ll start at the Founder’s Chapel where King João is buried with his wife, Queen Philippa of Lancaster. Their son Prince Henry the Navigator is also buried here in the family tomb. In the Royal Cloisters, you’ll see arches carved with leaves, flowers, fruit and many symbols used by King Manuel I, including the cross of Christ and the armillary spheres in the typical Manueline style.The Chapter House is famous for its amazing vaulted ceiling. Without any central support, it’s one of the most daring examples in European Gothic architecture. According to legend its architect, Afonso Domingues, slept under it for three days to prove that it would not fall down.
Behind the church, you’ll see the unusual ‘Incomplete Chapels’ extending high above you. Here, there is another example of the Manueline style; a doorway built in a succession of arches and slender columns that are meticulously decorated.

 


 

Visit MARVÃO ...

Visit the town of Marvão and see one of the tallest castles in Portugal.
Climbing up through the trees in the São Mamede mountains, the huge walls of Marvão Castle come into view.
Before reaching the castle you’ll see the small Gothic convent of Nossa Senhora da Estrela and a marble pillory. Continuing to climb, more of this historic town can be seen: its small, winding streets, houses with Gothic style windows and elegant wrought iron verandas. You’ll see Renaissance doorways, such as those on the Church of the Holy Spirit, and Gothic style doorways built in granite, such as those of the Church of Santiago. The Town Hall is decorated with the shields and armillary spheres of King Manuel I.
In town, the Church of Santa Maria has been converted into a museum.Here you’ll see a variety of archaeological finds, all of which help us understand the history of the region, its natural wealth and people.
Finally, when reaching the castle, you’re rewarded with a spectacular view.
This splendid location has another significance in the history of Portugal. The almost inaccessible rocks made this fortress “the most invincible in the entire Kingdom.” Since the time of its conquest in 1116 (12th C) by King Afonso II up to the Wars of Independence between Spain and Portugal in the 17th Century, this castle was continually adapted to new techniques of war. Today it is a place of peace and beauty.

 


MONSARAZ, outdoor Museum...

The town of Monsaraz seems to be suspended like a walled eagle's nest on the hill of the same name, protected by the fourteenth-century castle.
For someone coming through the town gates for the first time, the feeling can only be one of awe. Get ready to enter a living museum.
The small size of this national monument of schist and lime reveals such architectural and cultural coherence that it transports us back to the Middle Ages, with the advantage that we can rely on modern amenities, such as the restaurants that serve real pearls of Alentejo gastronomy.
The journey in time continues outside the walls, where there are remains from all historical periods, including megalithic monuments. In the surrounding area there is a pre-Roman rupestrian necropolis. Monsaraz is one of the oldest towns in the south, and over the centuries it had a decisive role as part of the defence system against the Spaniards.As you breathe in the history, visit the castle and its keep. Walk along a few lanes, and their proud old houses, until they meet in the Rua Direita. This will lead you to the sixteenth-century Church of the Misericórdia. Don't miss the Igreja Matriz (Parish Church), the Church of Santiago, the sixteenth-century cistern and the famous fresco of 'The Good and the Bad Judge' in the Audience Hall.
Wonder at the views over the plains, of the Guadiana, which marks the frontier and the Alqueva dam. And make sure you stay a night in Monsaraz: the lights and shadows give it unforgettable aura.


The Roman Temple of Évora

The Roman Temple, over 2000 years old, is the ex-libris monument of Évora and is one of the most important historic ruins in the country.
The Roman temple in Évora was built in the first century, during the time of Caesar Augustus. It has a long history, serving as testimony to many transformations and different uses over the centuries. It was practically destroyed when the Barbarians occupied the Iberian peninsular in the fifth century, and served as a bank vault and butcher’s to Evora castle in the 14th century.
Its original Roman design was only recovered in the 19th century, in one of the first archaeological interventions in Portugal. It is a testimony to the Roman forum of the city of Évora, consecrated to the Imperial cult, thus clarifying a 17th-century tradition that claimed that the temple had been consecrated to the goddess Diana. For this reason, it was identified for many years as the Temple of Diana. Recent excavations have shown that it was surrounded by a portico and water mirror.


 

 


 



 
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