We spent the turn of January and February in central Portugal. We had the opportunity to visit the place of the famous Marian apparitions from 1917 in Fatima and located next to the Sanctuary and the medieval capital of Portugal – Coimbra.
We started the week with a journey from Lisbon to Fatima. Fatima itself is a small town whose main point is the huge pilgrimage square located between the Marian Shrine and the Basilica of the Holy Trinity. The whole area around the square is prepared for visitors so we had no problem finding a suitable place for two nights.
The temple commemorating the apparitions of the Virgin Mary is the main point of many tourists visiting Portugal. In addition to the events that took place over one hundred years ago, it is worth visiting this place because of its unique charm. The main church is surrounded by a beautiful colonnade from which there is a view of the square, which can accommodate tens of thousands of people.
We look directly at the entrance to the main basilica (Basilica de Nossa Senhora do Rosario de Fatima). On the stairs in front of the entrance there is the main altar from which masses are celebrated during the celebrations of the apparitions and major events, such as the Pope’s visits.
30 km north of Fatima is Leiria, one of the major cities in this region. Using the beautiful weather, we devoted one afternoon to visiting this city.
Leiria is dominated by the former Moorish castle, which was one of the main sources of resistance during the reconquista. After conquering it by the Catholic forces in the twelfth century, he did not stop performing an important defense function, this time on behalf of another religion.
We are in the main city square, Praça Francisco Rodriguez Lobo, from which you can also admire the previously mentioned fortress.
The center of Leiria is mostly neglected, narrow streets reminding only here and there about the glory days of this city. Currently, a lot of shops and restaurants are closed, houses are run down and residents can be found only here and there.
The next two days we spent in Coimbra, the third largest city in Portugal and in the twelfth and thirteenth century the capital of the country. This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
The center itself is divided into two parts – Lower and Upper Town, named because of their location. The Lower is located on the Mondego River, while the Upper is on the nearby hill.
The main temple of the Lower Town is Igreja de Santa Cruz.
What is most beautiful, however, is in the interior. In addition to the enchanting organs there are the examples of painted ceramics on the side walls of the nave which are characteristic of this region.
From Igreja de Santa Cruz towards the Upper Town leads the main promenade Coimbra – Rua Visc de Luz entirely built with richly decorated, high tenement houses.
At the end of the promenade, at the bridge of Saint Klara leading to the left bank of Mondego, also known as the Poets River, there is a square with the monument to Joaquim Antonio de Aguiar, Portuguese politician born in Coimbra.
After crossing the other bank, our attention is immediately drawn to the beautifully restored, enormous monastery of St. Clare, known as the New.
Why New? Because a few hundred meters away is the former, Holy Monastery of St. Clare, which was no longer enough for the needs of the ever-expanding order.
We turn towards the river and look at the panorama of the Upper Town.
The towering buildings at the top are the construction of a university district. It is worth noting that it is the oldest university in Portugal dating back to 1290. Interesting is the fate of the university, which over the years was transferred several times to Lisbon and finally to permanently settle in Lisbon in the mid-sixteenth century.
We are in the university courtyard. It is the characteristic tower of the university that dominates the panorama of the Upper Town.
Right at the foot of the high hill (full of students) are another important monuments of Coimbra. They are located next to each other churches Sao Joao de Almedina and Se Nova de Coimbra, or a new cathedral.
Right next to the first of these temples, the National Museum is located. From behind the arcade of the courtyard you can see the old cathedral in Coimbra.
Here it is, seen from behind and from the front from the street level. All the aforementioned churches are in sight in a really small space.
We are leaving the Upper Town and going to the botanical garden. We are in a small park in front of the Bissaya Barreto Museum and look at the blossoming magnolia.
Behind the wall of the museum enriched with ornate, painted ceramics we can see the Saint Sebastian aqueduct.
In the botanical garden a blooming, lush greenery.
Leaving the garden, we reach the beautiful building of the seminary. Earlier however, on the right we pass the chapel of Hospital Militar de Coimbra.
And the mentioned Seminario Maior de Coimbra.
Returning home once more we passed through the Lower Town. We go the main promenade in the direction of Igreja de Santa Cruz, which appeared already in the first photographs of the city.
On this we have finished our two-day journey through the old capital and visiting this week. On Monday, we’re going further north to visit Braga, Guimaraes and Porto. This will be our last week in Portugal.