Lamego, a City on a Hill

We’ve just left the small village of Lamego, which sits on a hillside surrounded by terraced fields of grapes. We spent a few rainy days here, taking in the views, drinking the wine, and climbing the steps to another pilgrimage church. It’s a sweet place, and like the rest of Portugal, it’s soaking in history.

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The view from the top of the hill in Lamego. Photo by T.

This place that was inhabited by the Romans and then the Visigoths and then the Moors and then the Christians. It’s where Portugal’s first parliament met to confirm their first king. These days, most visitors to Lamego come for the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Remédios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies).

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Our Lady of Remedies Church. There are 686 switchback steps to the top. Sorry about the white-out sky. It was a rainy day. Photo by T.

This wedding cake of a structure sits on the Hill of St. Stephen, and originally this was a church dedicated to him. Veneration of Stephen fell out of favor in the 18th century, and that’s no small feat – he was Christianity’s very first martyr. But devotion to the Virgin Mary was on the rise everywhere back then, and people were praying to her for relief from various illnesses and ailments with seeming success. So a new church went up and now there are pilgrimages here every September.

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The view of Lamego from the top of the stairway. Photo by T.

I have to say, the stairs outshine the church itself. There are some wonderful features inside, like the stained glass windows and the ceiling, but the stairway is the highlight.

Apart from the church, there is also the remains of a rather humble castle at the top of a steep hill. What is left for tourists to walk through is a keep tower, the perimeter walls, and the cistern (which was built by the Moors). There are apparently dungeons beneath it.

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The Castle of Lamego as seen from the city center. It stands about 1,700 feet above sea level. Photo by T.

The castle grounds had been used as a garbage heap for many years until the Boy Scouts (go figure) made a project out of cleaning it all up. So now they run the day to day operations of the place. Good for them.

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The tower keep and walls of the Lamego Castle. Photo by T.

It think my favorite part of Lamego, though, was the museum. It’s housed in what was once an Episcopal Palace, but has been a museum for the last 100 years. It’s collection is sparse, but magnificent. There are old manuscripts and silver chalices and giant tapestries. And they’ve found old grave markers from the first century Romans, which for reasons beyond my reckoning I found profoundly moving.

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It says, “Here lies Promut, aged 100.” It’s from the 1st century. Photo by T.
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“Here lies Cumelius, son of Meduenius, aged 30. May the Earth be light upon you.” Heartbreaking, no? Photo by T.

But what’s most impressive is that they’ve managed to install complete altar pieces salvaged from old convents and monasteries.

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This is what a Portuguese altar looks like before they put gold all over it. It’s carved chestnut from a chapel in Cambres and dates back to 1700. Photo by T.
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The Sao Joao Evangelista Chapel (St. John the Evangelist) from the Convent of Chagas in the 18th century. Photo by T.

This is a wonderful stopping point, especially if you’re on your way down the Douro river to do more wine tasting. We’re here at the wrong time of year for the river cruises, but this small little town of Lamego was brilliant.

 

2 thoughts on “Lamego, a City on a Hill

  1. Gorgeous photos and how funny that the stairs were more impressive than the church…and how amazing that you climbed them!
    You are going to need a larger cranium to fit all this knowledge you are acquiring! Thanks for sharing it with us, Tricia!
    Yes, I find the old grave markers emotionally-resonant myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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