over there by the Côa valleyin the foothills of Serra da Marofa, hides Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, a small inland municipality, but which hides a vast heritage that is essential to know.
The charter of this land dates back to 1209, still by the hand of the then King of León, Afonso IX, falling into Portuguese hands in the reign of D. Dinis, through the Treaty of Alcanizes.
It is this treaty that definitively marks the borders of the Kingdom of Portugal, the oldest in Europe, and Castelo Rodrigo is then one of the parcels that is under Portuguese administration.
If it is true that as far as borders are concerned, we still have the old question of Olivença, the truth is that this piece of land gains relevance from here.
Different kings, like D. Fernando or D. Manuel I, undertake improvements in the region, but the course of centuries ended up leading to a progressive decay. But the traces of a centuries-old history are there and make Castelo Rodrigo one of the best tourist villages in the world.
Castelo Rodrigo: cultural and historical legacy
In the first edition of the “Best Tourism Villages”, an initiative of the World Tourism Organization, Castelo Rodrigo stood out among 170 candidates from 75 countries, recognizing the effort that has been made in preserving the cultural and historical legacy of the village and in promotion of sustainable tourism.
But what is so extraordinary about this village, located on top of a hill, with about a hundred inhabitants?
First of all, the ancient wall that surrounds it and which is a testament to the different occupations (Arab, Christian, Leonese, Portuguese) that Castelo Rodrigo has recorded over time.
This walled belt was initially made up of 13 turrets (as The village, in Spain). But the village is also like an open-air museum with a lot to see. Here are some suggestions.
There are no documentary references to the castle prior to the 1209 charter of Alfonso IX of León. However, it is probable that it existed in the 9th century, at the time of D. Flâmula Rodrigues, on a hypothetical Lusitanian castro with a Neolithic foundation.
The medieval walled enclosure features walls from the 13th century and subsequent years. Inside its walls there is a “seat” excavated in the rock, which the population knows as “Cadeira do Rei”. It has been a national monument since 1922.
The Mother Church of Castelo Rodrigo, dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rocamador, was founded in the 13th century by the Brotherhood of the Friars of Nossa Senhora de Rocamador, a congregation dedicated to assisting Compostela pilgrims.
It is a transitional example between the Romanesque and the Gothic, but it underwent later works, namely in the 16th and 17th centuries, which altered the structure of the temple.
Inside, we can admire a wooden coffered ceiling painted with hagiographic scenes, the chancel has blue and white tiles from the 18th century and the chancel’s Hispano-Arabic tiles.
Palace of Christopher of Moura
The Filipino dynasty that ascended to the Portuguese throne due to the succession crisis of 1580, triggered by the death of King Sebastião in the battle of Alcácer-Quibir, would have a direct impact on Castelo Rodrigo.
Cristóvão de Moura, son of a former mayor of the village and a key figure in its diplomacy during the succession crisis of 1580, had his palace built in Castelo Rodrigo in the exact spot where the citadel was located.
With the restoration of independence Portuguese, the palace, symbol of Spanish oppression, was set on fire by the population, and is currently in ruins.
The former medieval Jewry was located within the walls to the west of the current Synagogue street. The Jewish community has its neighborhood separated in the time of D. Dinis and must have had the right to a synagogue, Mikvwéh and cemetery.
With the expulsion of the Jews from Spainin 1492, this community grew and settled all over the village of Castelo Rodrigo.
With the attribution of a charter to Castelo Rodrigo by D. Manuel I, its municipal power is consolidated, as well as its legal and administrative autonomy.
Testimony of these golden times, stands the Pelourinho, based on the five steps that constitute his throne.
Santiago, was one of the first four apostles who followed Jesus and his first martyr, ordered to beheaded by King Herod. His remains were taken to the Galician region of Compostela, where the largest pilgrimage center in Christian Europe was born, Santiago de Compostela.
The existing image in the main church of Castelo Rodrigo represents a warrior on horseback fighting with a Moor already dominated and under the paws of the horse, usually called Santiago “Matamouros”.
As you can see, there is a lot to visit on a getaway to Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo, taking advantage of a visit to the fantastic historic villages of Portugal. They are magical places, where legends, castles, traditions and knowledge are mixed in a unique history lesson. To not lose.