Medieval history comes alive in Douro River Valley


The Santa Maria da Feira Medieval Journey

Just a few kilometres south of Porto, a small Portuguese town steps back in time to celebrate a great period in the region’s past. Each summer, Santa Maria da Feira once again becomes a medieval town – one complete with knights, swords and jousting.

The Santa Maria da Feira Medieval Journey harkens back to the time of Alfonso III, King of Portugal and Algarve, in the 13th century. From 29 July through 9 August, the town is transformed. There will be a medieval fair with merchants, artisans, blacksmiths, bakers, mule-drivers and liqueur sellers.

Part history, part Portuguese patriotism, part food festival, the event serves up everything that makes the Douro River Valley such a special place. Considered the biggest event of medieval historical recreation on the Iberian Peninsula, the event is the perfect escape for travellers on Douro river cruises.

Complete with a castle, the town has been a crossroads of cultures for thousands of years. Ancient Roman roadways connected the town with Porto, Viseu, Lisbon and Braga, and intersected the region. It was a major market town until the 1800s.

Inside the Castelo de Santa Maria da Feira, visitors can look upon daily lives of the time. Outside, they can be part of the action. In the streets, there will be acrobats, musicians, jugglers and fire-eaters all showing off their skills.

The celebration marks the efforts of King Alfonso III. For much of the 1200s, the region was in chaos due to conflict, invaders and a lack of centralised power. The festival remembers when Alfonso won over the Algarve and expelled the occupying Moors. During the event, there is also recognition of the coronation of Alfonso III in 1268.

Alfonso was considered a patron of the arts. Based on his experiences in the France and other parts of Europe, he tried to model his court on the great cultural centres of Europe. His reign was memorialised in song and epic poems.

Image Credit: Miguel Pires da Rosa (flickr.com)