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Religious History Tour
 of Portugal 
for Groups Only

8 Nights/9 Days


Templars and the Cistercian order tourHistoric tour Portugal

religious history tour in Portugal fully guided

An insightful fully guided tour to Portugal Medieval religious history with visit to Templar strongholds and sites of religious significance as well as UNESCO heritage sites and atmospheric towns and villages

Transfer from the Apt Lisbon to the Hotel in Lisbon, overnight in Lisbon

Breakfast, then visit SANTAREM, a castle of Roman origin overlooking Portas do Sol (Sun Gates) and opening on to a panoramic view of the Tagus river. Monuments: the Roman-Gothic Church of Sao Joao de Alporio (with an archeology museum); the Gothic Convent of Sao Francisco and the Gothic churches of Graca and Santa Clara; the Renaissance Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Monte; from later periods, the churches of Sant�ssimo Milagre and Semin�rio Patriarcal.

Transfer to TOMAR: Christ Convent, classified in UNESCO's International Heritage list (12th-16th centuries). With its famous Manueline window. Visit the  Templars' Castle (12th century); churches of Santa Maria do Olival (Gothic), Nossa Senhora da Conceio (Renaissance) and Sao Joao Baptista (Manueline); and a 15th century synagogue.

Continue on to ABRANTES, well sited above the River Tagus and always of strategic importance over the centuries, Abrantes played a vital role in the reconquest of Portugal after 300 years of Moorish rule. The Duke of Wellington also made it his base during the Peninsula War (1808-14).  Near the hill top stands the 15th-century church of Santa Maria do Castelo. Within the castle walls is the Dom Lopo de Almeida Museum which houses the tombs of the Almeida family (counts of Abrantes). In addition to a fine collection of early Sevillian tiles, the museum also has 15th-century sculptures and mid 16th-century paintings.

CASTELO BRANCO: Of ancient origin, Castelo Branco was refounded by the Templars in the early 13th century. Occupying a low hill at the centre of flat lands just 18 km from the Spanish frontier, it has been known for its embroidered colchas or bed-spreads since the late 1800s, a fine range of which can be seen in the local museum. Castelo Branco's top attraction is without doubt the extraordinary Episcopal Gardens beside the former bishops' palace. Laid out in the mid-18th century, the gardens are a rare sight, planted with a host of profane little granite statues amidst well-trimmed boxed hedges and orange trees. The museum inside the palace houses 16th-century tapestries and fine examples of Portuguese primitive art. Dating back to the 13th century, the Church of S�o Miguel served as the town's cathedral from 1771-1881 before the bishopric was extinguished. Overnight at Castelo Branco or surroundings

Breakfast, then drive to IDANHA A-VELHA, the historic hamlet with an ancient cathedral, Renaissance-style church and ruined the Torre dos Templarios, a relic of the Templars. MON SA NTO: Castle and Wall of Monsanto D. Afonso Henriques gave this castle to the Knights Templar, who gave it its present-day form. Once an imposing mediaeval fortress, all that now remains are the Torre de Lucena and the quadrangular Torre do Pinho, a mediaeval watchtower.

Drive to SORTLHA: Surmounted by a castle built on a formidable crag at an altitude of 760 metres , Sortelha still retains its medieval apperance intact through the architecture of its rural granite houses; then to GUARDA, located on a 1,075-metre-high plateau on the north-east flank of the Estrela mountains, Guarda is the highest place in Portugal. Founded in 1197 by King Sancho I, its name is due to the important role the town once played in the defense of the country's eastern frontier.
Many stretches of the town's original walls are still standing, including three of the main entrances. Begun in 1390 during the reign of Jo�o I and completed in 1550, Guarda's gray granite cathedral is an inspiring Gothic church rich in Manueline furnishings. On display in the nearby museum are various paintings, artefacts and archaeological treasures. Overnight in Guarda or surroundings

Breakfast, then visit CASTELO MENDO: Built on the top of a hill at a point of great strategic significance, on the remains of earlier fortresses dating back to the Bronze Age and Roman times, Castelo Mendo is a historical village surrounded by walls that were rebuilt in the twelfth century at the orders of D. Sancho I.
Drive to ALMEIDA: Classified as a historical village, Almeida is a fortified town that, when seen from the air, has all the appearance of a 12-pointed star, with many bastions and ravelins enclosing a space with a perimeter of 2500 metres . This remarkable fortress was built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, around a mediaeval castle, a very important place for the strategic defense of the region, since it was situated on a plateau roughly 12 km from the border with Spain, as defined by the Treaty of Alcanices in 1297, which was the date when Almeida first became Portuguese

CASTELO RODRIGO: From its lofty hilltop position, the small village of Castelo Rodrigo looks down over the plateau stretching eastwards to Spain and northwards to the deep valley of the River Douro. According to tradition, it was founded by Alfonso IX of Le�n, in order to be given to Count Rodrigo Gonzalez de Gir�n, who repopulated it and gave it its name. With the Treaty of Alcanices, signed in 1297 by D. Dinis, poet and king of Portugal, it came into the possession of the Portuguese crown and became part of the front line of defense system.

MARIALVA: Because of its splendid location on the top of an almost inaccessible cliff, on the left bank of the River Alva, the small village of Marialva was an important military stronghold in the Middle Ages. The same position was, in fact, also the cause of its decline. When wars began to be fought with firearms, the old mediaeval castles became obsolete and lost their function of defending and protecting the local populations, who began to live outside the walled enclosures of the citadels. Today, the buildings of the historical village of Marialva are being restored and support structures for tourism are being developed.

Visit TRANCOSO Castle and the walls of Trancoso The walled fortress still exists with its five towers and pyramid-shaped keep, as well as the walls that once surrounded the town with their various gates. Your attention is drawn to the Portas d'El-Rei flanked by two turrets.
Overnight in Viseu or surroundings

Breakfast, then visit VISEU. According to some explanations, the city's name derived from the Roman term "viso", which means a good view, and in fact from its highest point, where the original settlement was formed in Roman times, Viseu offers its visitors some quite magnificent panoramic views. One of the most interesting features remaining from this period is to be found in the city's outskirts and is known as the Cava de Viriato (an embankment which must date from between the second and the first century BC). This is the largest monument from this period in the Iberian Peninsula, although it has not yet been totally uncovered, and it is thought to have been a fortress where the remarkable warrior Viriatus, the chief of the Lusitanians and the heroic leader of the rebellion against Roman occupation, entrenched himself for defensive purposes.

LAMEGO: Roughly 12 kilometres from the banks of the Douro, Lamego enjoyed a period of great prosperity in the eighteenth century when the city produced the so-called "fine wine" that later gave rise to the world famous Port wine. It is a very ancient city, having been raised to a bishopric by the Visigoths, under the name of Lamecum, as early as the seventh century. Later, it was to suffer the same fate as so many other towns and villages that thereafter became Portuguese: it was captured by the Moors, reconquered by the Christians, and then returned once again into Muslim hands, until it was definitively came to the hands of Ferdinand I, the Great, king of Castile and Le�n, and the great grandfather of D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.

MONASTERY S. JO�O DE TAROUCA: This was the first monastery of the Cistercian Order

to be founded on Portuguese territory in the 12th century, on a site that had a longstanding monastic tradition. This is clearly shown by the fact that the monastery itself is dedicated to St. John, since, as a rule, the Cistercians dedicated their abbeys to the Virgin Mary. The countless endowments received (the first of them being made by the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques), coupled with the efficient management of the resources thus acquired, ensured that the monastery enjoyed great prosperity in the 12th and 13th centuries, possessing a vast estate in the north and the center of the country.
MONASTERY SANTA MARIA DE Salzedas: In its time, this was one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in Portugal, having been given vast areas of land in the surrounding region with the express duty of tilling and populating them. Construction work began in 1155, immediately after the Order had been given the lands by Egas Moniz, the tutor of D. Afonso Henriques, and his wife Teresa Afonso. It was consecrated in 1255, when the complex of monastic buildings was complete. The large church is an imposing building, standing out amongst the uniform houses of the small village that grew along narrow streets to the east of the monastery. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the church was remodeled and given the entirely eighteenth-century fa�ade that can now be seen today, but, inside the church, it is still possible to detect some remains of the original structure. In one of the chapels in the apse, the carved stones that covered the thirteenth-century walls have been preserved in their entirety. If you look carefully, you will still be able to discover columns and capitals with Romanesque decorations. By the entrance, in the nave on the right-hand side, two tombstones can be seen in the wall, bearing fifteenth-century epigraphs referring to Vasco Coutinho, the first Count of Marialva, and Jo�o Coutinho. Two paintings depicting St Peregrine and St Sebastian, attributed to the sixteenth-century master painter Vasco Fernandes (Gr�o Vasco), and several other seventeenth-century paintings by Bento Coelho da Silveira are amongst the most interesting features of the vast heritage contained inside the church. The monastery itself spread southwards, following the course of the river Torno, in keeping with the Cistercian requirement for buildings to be placed next to watercourses. Nowadays, all that remains are two cloisters, the largest one built along the church�s southern wall and the smaller one to the west. Overnight in Oporto

DAY 06 OPORTO. Breakfast. Visit this capital and gateway city to the north of Portugal, Porto is both the city that provided a nation with a name and a fortified wine known world-wide: port. With its splendid geographical location on the mouth of the river Douro and an architectural heritage of exceptional quality, the historic center of Porto was declared UNESCO World Heritage site. Porto is the capital of the North and the second largest city in the country; its hard-working inhabitants are noted for their commercial enterprise, always standing firm against outside impositions and foreign invaders, which explains why Porto has become known as the "unvanquished" city. Overnight in Oporto

Breakfast, departure to COIMBRA, the famouse university town with its renowned library
Long ago, this site of Coimbra was occupied by the Celts, but the process of Romanisation brought a great cultural transformation to this region. The presence of the Romans is still visible in the various archaeological remains housed at the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro, built over the cryptoporticus of the Civita Aeminium, the forum of the Roman city. After them, between 586 and 640, came the Visigoths, who altered the name of the town to Em�nio. In 711, it became a Moorish and Mozarab city.
In 1064, the city was conquered by the Christian Fernando I of Castile and governed by the Mozarab Sesnando. The most important city to the south of the River Douro, it was for some time the residence of the Count Dom Henrique and Dona Teresa, the parents of the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, who was born here. It was the latter king who integrated the city into the Portuguese territory in 1131. Dating from this time are some of the city�s most important monuments: the S� Velha Old Cathedral) and the churches of Sao Tiago, Sao Salvador and Santa Cruz, representing the religious authority and the various orders that became established here.

Coimbra was the setting for the forbidden love of Dom Pedro I (1357-67) and Dona In�s, a lady at court. In�s was executed at the orders of the king Dom Afonso IV, who saw in this romance the danger of Portugal being submitted to the rule of Castile. An inspiration to poets and writers, their story still forms a major part of the city's rich heritage.

Continue on to FATIMA.  With its origins deep in history, it was during the Arabian occupation that this settlement developed and was named. According to legend, during the Christian Reconquest, the Templar knight Gon�alo Hermingues, also known as Bringer-of-Moors, fell in love with F�tima, a Moor captured in the course of an ambush. Reciprocating the love, the young woman converted to Christianity and adopted the name Oureana.

In the sixteenth century, the settlement became first a parish in the collegiate church of Our�m and then a parish within the Diocese of Leiria. Its subsequent development dates from the events known as the Apparitions of F�tima, in the early part of the twentieth century. It has become one of the key centers for the Cult of the Virgin Mary in Portugal and has been recognized world-wide by the Catholic Church. The first apparition took place in 1917, in Cova da Iria, at the site of the current Sanctuary. The most important celebrations are held on 13th May (including the Candlelit Procession on the night of the 12th and the Farewell Procession closing the event on the 13th) and 13th October. Furthermore, the 13th of every month between these two dates is also a day of devotion

Drive to Alcoba�a in the valleys of the Rivers Alcoa and Ba�a, which according to some authors is the origin of its name. It has also been suggested that it was the Arabic name of the place which was split to name the two rivers. Alcoba�a owes its fame and development to the Monastery or Royal Abbey of Santa Maria, founded by the Order of Cistercians in 1153. Building began in 1178 on land donated by Dom Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, to Friar Bernardo of Claraval, founder of the Order of Cistercians, in fulfillment of a vow made after the Christian reconquest of Santar�m, held by the Moors until 1147. Stop at the small fishing villahe of  Nazar�  whre you can still see all over the streets of the town the fish-sellers, and the carapaus (horse mackerel) laid out to dry. The S�tio district, at the town`s highest point (accessible by a funicular), is without doubt the best viewpoint in the area. But it is also associated with the cult of Our Lady of Nazar� who, according to the 12th century legend, was invoked by the alcaide (commander of a fortress or castle) Dom Fuas Roupinho who, while stalking a deer, was about to fall down into an abyss with no possible salvation. As a sign of gratitude for the mercy he received, Dom Fuas Roupinho ordered a small chapel to be built - the Ermida de Mem�ria. Continue on to OBIDOS, this delightful town of white-washed houses adorned with bougainvillaeas and honeysuckle entirely surrounded by medieval walls built by order of King Dom Fernando (14th century). The town, traffic-free, is entered by various gateways, of which the most outstanding is the southern entrance, decorated with 18th century tiles. The castle, situated at the highest point, was built by order of King Dom Dinis (14th century). Overnight in Lisbon

DAY 08 LISBON. Breakfast, then sightseeing tour of Portugal's capital on the right bank of the broad Tagus river estuary. This is a spectacular geographical location and does much to explain the cosmopolitan history of the city. Its exceptional natural light, which has long inspired writers, photographs and filmmakers, the brightly colored buildings straddling the slopes, the striking ochre of the roofs, the tiling on so many facades and the narrow twisting alleys of the medieval districts bestow Lisbon with the peculiar atmosphere of a city perched somewhere between the European north and the Mediterranean south. Overnight in Lisbon

Breakfast and transfer to the airport of Lisbon or possible extension.

Tour can be arranged for 10 or more days as well

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