Guimaraes, the birthplace of Portugal
Guimaraes is considered Portugal’s birthplace as it was here that took place the battle of São Mamede, crucial for the founding of Portugal.
Visiting Guimaraes smeans diving in the foundation of Portugal and finding a unique historical center, which importance and beauty was recognized by the UNESCO that declared it as a World Heritage Site in 2001.
The amazing Guimaraes
This city of north Portugal has medieval origins, dating back to the 10th century. However, the findings existing in the Citânia of Briteiros and Sabroso and in the archeological station of Penha prove that the area had been settled since the Chalcolitic period. The Romans also left their mark in the region as it is said that they used Caldas das Taipas as a spa town.
In the 9th century the area was called Vimaranes. It is said that this nomenclature comes from the knight Vímara Peres, who conquering it for the kingdom of Galicia in the field of the Reconquista. Vimaranes planted the seeds of the medieval village of Guimaraes that emerged during the 10th century. By then the Countess Mumadona Dias ordered the construction of a monastery on the site, leading to the settlement of population in an area known as “Vila Baixa” (Downtown), along with the foundation of a castle on the nearby hill, called “Vila Alta” (Uptown) in order to defend the city. Both buildings were connected by the still existing Rua de Santa Maria. Later on the monastery became the Royal Collegiate Church (Real Colegiada) and a famous pilgrimage site.
The importance of Guimaraes grew with time and it was recognized by the national foral approved by Henry, the Count of Portugal, in 1096, and by the choice of the place as the capital of the County of Portugal.
In 1128 Guimaraes was the stage of the Battle of São Mamede, between Henry’s sun, D. Afonso Henriques and his mother, D. Urraca, which led to the foundation of Portugal. This is why it is acknowledged as the “cradle of Portugal” and in one of the old towers of its walls are inscribed the words “Aqui nasceu Portugal” (Portugal was born here).
Walking along the streets of Guimaraes, visitors feel the weight of History at every corner, especially in the city center, and may enjoy the city’s rich and astonishing heritage. However, Guimaraes is not stuck in the past; on the contrary, Guimaraes is a buzzing place, with a flourishing cultural scene that is going to be at its high next year when, jointly with Maribor, it is going to be the European Capital of Culture. For Lonely Planet these are reasons enough to consider Guimaraes as one of the top 10 cities for next year, so my advice is come to Guimaraes and find out for yourself all the charm this unforgettable city.
Find out more on Guimaraes, European Capital of Culture at http://www.guimaraes2012.pt/index.php?cat=15