Lately I’ve been enjoying the summer weekends at Portugal northern coast. It’s full of small charming villas, most of them fortified, and with a peaceful atmosphere. Today, I’m taking you with me to Monçao, by the Minho river and in front of another small and fortified Spanish town: Salvaterra do Miño.
Why visit Monçao
If you have never heard of Monçao, you should know it is famous for three main reasons: wine (the alvarinho variety that creates famous Vinho Verde), hot springs (which you can enjoy at the local spa Termas de Monçao), and “Deu la Deu”.
Fortified, the old town is on top of a hill and with many slipery and winding roads. You’ll notice you’ve arrived by the cobblestones and small houses.
Deu la Deu
“Deu la Deu” is a local legend dating back to the XVII centuries (aprox.), when Monçao was surrounded by the Castilian army. The story says that at that time, there were almost no food resources on both sides and Monçao couldn’t keep its door closed any longer or they would starve their people.
But deu-la-deu Martins (supposedly the wife of the towns major) ordered their people to gather all the flour they had left (not much) and cook as much bread as they could. Once they had cooked all the bread, she went to the top of the wall and threw the fresh bread to the Castilian army, shouting: “Deu la deu”, meaning “God gave them”. The army, thinking that the town of Monçao still had enough resources for a while, decided to go away and leave them be for a while.
While there is no certain evidence on this, there are several statues in Monçao and it is portrayed at the towns’ coat of arms. Moreover, you can even visit Deu-la-deu Martins chapel at the Igreja Matriz, a small and beautiful Romanic church near the upper wall.
Walking around Monçao’s medieval houses and winding streets
Walking around the towns’ centre, with a medieval twist of small alleys and corridors provides with this feeling that many old Portuguese villas have been abandoned for a while. I personally think it is a pity not to take care of this beautiful or unique buildings, but they make a much more interesting photo tour.
Take, for example this picture above. It seems that I have taken it with a fish-eye or somehow stitched different photos to fit the angle. But the pic has no retouching (except for the watermark), it’s just that the streets are twisted and buildings are weird-shaped.
Or the old signage still hanging around at the walls of many buildings. They tell stories about a town so important that you could book a room in almost every street, buy something at almost every door.
Now, there are many new places emerging to revive Monçao, one step at a time.
Last week it was Monçao’s local festivities of Nossa Senhora das Dores (our Lady of Pains ¿?) so the town was full of lights and there was a market going on and a small fun fair.
Also, the Igreja da Misericórdia was full of flowers and decorations to the top. This church offers different styles, from baroque to neoclassical, but I would say my favourite part is the wooden ceiling.
That and the portuguese way to portray saints. My sister says that their sculptures always more “spooky” than all the other countries, with all the blood dripping and the knives poking and such. What do you think?
Not to mention the little parisher hidden behind the door. Looks like someone “tried” to steal all the esmolas (alms) inside, because the arm is a little broken. But the sculpture is kind of cute anyway.
Walking routes near Minho river
There are also a couple of walking routes around Monçao that are worth the walk, one of them starting just below the wall which goes by the Minho river for a while and connects with the Termas (hot springs). I’ve done it a couple of times myself and they are nice and easy to follow (for the record, I’m no hiking passionate). Or you could always walk around the walls, which are a National Landmark since 1910.
Of course, there’s more to it, but the what would be left for you to discover? Just let me know what you’ve discovered if you visit this little portuguese town 🙂