Coimbra is a lesson of love and tradition
Coimbra is a lesson of love and tradition mostly thanks to the tragic love affair of Pedro and Inês and to its remarkable University, the oldest in Portugal
Coimbra is a lesson of love and tradition. This sentence is the translation of a famous verse of a Fado de Coimbra, a unique genre of Fado only existing in Coimbra. One might think that the sentence is the mere reflection of the poet’s freedom of writing. However this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Coimbra is truly a lesson of love and tradition.
Love and tradition in Coimbra
Coimbra in love
Offering a bucolic landscape of historic houses that embellish the city’s hill, facing the lovely Mondego River, Coimbra was the stage of the most tragic love affair of the Portuguese history: the love of Don Pedro and Inês de Castro. A love so strong that overcome death itself as Peter, after becoming king in 1357, pronounced Inês de Castro the lawful queen even though she was already dead, murdered under the orders of Peter’s father, king Afonso IV. A love so strong that their coffins were placed facing each other in Alcobaça Monastery so that the two lovers could look at each other as they rise from their graves. A love so strong that their marble coffins witness the promise of Peter that they would be together until the end of the world – “juntos até ao fim do mundo”.
Photo by ho visto nina volare
Coimbra and the academic tradition
Coimbra is a symbol of the academic life in Portugal. Having been the capital of the Portuguese kingdom for almost two centuries, Coimbra grew in importance with the foundation of its University in 1290 by King Dinis, although the University had worked in Lisbon for a few years, namely until 1308. In fact, throughout the first centuries of its existence, Coimbra’s university went back and forward between Lisbon and Coimbra to return definitely to the city by Mondego River during the reign of King John III, in 1537.
Photo by illustir
Regardless its somehow wandering beginning, the truth is that Coimbra’s University is the oldest university in Portugal and one of the oldest in continuous operation in the all world. Since its foundation, Coimbra’s University became a symbol of Coimbra and it gave the city its nickname as the city of students.
The city’s academic distinctive trace gave rise to some of its remarkable traditions. Queima das Fitas or Burning of the Ribbons in Coimbra has a singular ambience not to be found in any other cities housing Universities; this event held each year to celebrate the end the of graduation courses is the oldest in Portugal.
Photo by Renata F. Oliveira
Praxe is another tradition with a special aura in Coimbra. Praxe is a set of rituals and costumes following ancient traditions, intended to welcome new students and to give students a sense of being part of an institution with centuries of existence and history.
Another highlight of the academic life in Coimbra is The Freshman’s Reception week or Semana da Receção ao Caloiro in Portuguese. The highest moment of the week is probably the Latada, the special parade when the new students are baptized in Mondego River after parading through the city’s streets.
The second year students receive their Grelos – a ribbon with the colour of each one’s faculty that must be attached to a briefcase.
Also on this week it takes place one of the most memorable events that remains forever on the heart and soul of all Coimbra’s students: The night-time student fado serenade on the stairs of the Old Cathedral.
The University and the love of Pedro and Inês make Coimbra a special place that inspires all visitors, offering them a lesson of love and tradition!
Where is Coimbra?
Main image credits
Photo by martins.nunomiguel