Real Medieval in Santa Maria da Feira
On our second day of Geo and Medieval tour in the Northern Portugal, after visiting the Paper Museum in Paços de Brandão, the bus drove us to the building of the old Convent of Santa Maria da Feira.
There we learned there was a convent in 1560 which is now a church and a museum. The church has 4 altars and St. Sebastian statue is its main landmark. It was in 1834 when the religious order was established here, then in 1992 the Museum was open and 2001 was the year of the reconstruction.
Exploring the museum, we got a chance to understand better the history of the region. We saw pottery that was found in here, also a small golden ring with its meaning USE IT & BE HAPPY (I wish there was something simple like that to use it nowadays, too) and learned about the main industries of the region.
Our guide explained us why there has been a really strong cult of St. Sebastian since the 18th century in Santa Maria da Feira. St. Sebastian, protector of anger and war, was asked for protection by the local people in 1505, the year of a big plague. A lot of offerings seemed to resolve the plague situation which lead to a feast on the 20th January every year ever since. It is on that day when the traditional fogaça is made, sent to relatives and eaten, and little girls in white with blue and red ribbons are part of the afternoon show.
After having a look at some paintings of Antonio Joaquim who regularly donates many things to the museum, we were all ready to taste some fogaça.
We walked around the beautiful old town of Santa Maria da Feira until we got to the famous Museu vivo da fogaça. Two huge tables full of three different kinds of fogaça were waiting for us, together with delicious tea, and local cheese. Within seconds we destroyed tower-shaped fogaças with hands (yes, they look like the tower of the Santa Maria da Feira castle and the best way to eat them is using hands!), put a cheese on it and poured it down the throat with tasty tea. I could eat this every day, trust me!
Unfortunately, it was time to go to try our medieval outfits for the medieval party at the castle. Did I say unfortunately? It was when we still had no idea about all the fun it was going to be!
Fortunately … we got the outfits and shoes, put them all on once in the castle and the medieval dinner could start. OMG! We all looked super sweet.
We were fighting like in old times, guys tasting wine from medieval metal glasses, watched sunset from the top of the castle tower, watched performance with live music and also ate like they used to eat in medieval era! Right, using just wooden spoons, metal jars, and instead of a plate the food was on top of the loaf of bread!
Check out this video that was taken by Santa Maria da Feira council during our medieval visit at the castle.
As much as I love nature and visiting Arouca Geopark the previous day, this was a completely new experience to me. I felt like in a movie and for sure I will never be able to be part of something like this again in the real world. Everything was just like back in time, the music, dancing, food and just the whole evening at the castle?! I felt excited like never in my life. And we even finished the night with fire show!
Why this medieval show for us? Just to let us experience the big Viagem Medieval that takes place in Santa Maria da Feira every year in August. Whole 11 days of medieval performances in the town when people dress up in medieval clothes. As we couldn’t visit Santa Maria da Feira during Viagem Medieval, at least we got a small piece of it.
Castle of Feira used to be place of tribute payment and trading of important goods so around it population gathered, hence the place of Viagem Medieval as it used to have an important role in history.
I am sure that if I ever visit Northern Portugal again, it will be in August to experience unbelievable Viagem Medieval days. And you should too! Btw, Viagem Medieval is the biggest historic event in Portugal :)
Geo and Medieval trip was a press trip. All the thoughts in this article are my own as usual. For more information about Northern Portugal, visit Turismo de Portugal – Porto e Norte website and Porto and Northern Portugal Tourism Board.