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Portugal, Adventure #26, Page 1

Pictures and Stories About Bicycle Adventures

Portuguese Monument to the Discoveries. Jerónimos Monastery Tower of Belém Dennis and Terry Struck on the Bee in Portugal Wines of the Dao Region. Roman Ruins at Conimbriga

Funny Story (on Dennis) Best Story (Children)

Flag of Portugal Flag of Royal Portugal Portugal's
Douro River Valley

By Bicicleta (Bicycle), Septembre, 2009


  • Arrive at Lisbon, Visit 6 Days (Conference 4 Days)
  • Tour West Coast, Central, Viseu, Dao Region, 2 Days
  • Train to Pinhão, Bicycle Self Guided Tour Douro River Valley, 6 Days
  • Train from Pocinho to Porto, Depart Porto, 2 Days

  • Forgive my Americano Keyboard; it does not have Acute, Tilde, or Circumflex accent options.
    These characters must be hard coded with strings of special code - it takes extra effort.
    Pinhão is coded as Pinh&atilde;o, with proud extra effort by the Author.

    FYI, the ão sound in Portuguese is pronounced as 'ow.n' in English and
    the oa sound in Portuguese (Lisboa) is pronounced as 'on' (Lisbon).

Geographical Map of Portugal. Map of Roman Empire Time.

Cool Facts and Observations

As a People, the Portuguese are friendly and helpful to all travelers. Surprisingly, to us, French is a common second language of elder Northern Portuguese, while younger persons, country wide, are taught English in School. We, of course made a good effort to learn rudimentary Portuguese before our trip and there were places in the back country where we put our knowledge to work. This, of course, is what makes for good stories and adventures - We had fun. The entire country was clean - a very pleasant surprise.


Food was good. Seafood predominates and is economical while on or near coastal cities. Beef, lamb, and ham predominate and are more economical inland. Interestingly, we never saw a cow or pig during our entire six day bike trip and we only saw sheep on two days.

One of the things that a traveler should be aware, is that when sitting down for a meal or snack at a cafe table or restaurant, the Portuguese have a custom of setting out appetizers. Where in most countries, things set out for you are free, in Portugal appetizers that you eat are added to your meal cost. Villages are less pushy about such things but in the cities these meal cost add-ons are pushed aggressively. So if one doesn't want bread, don't eat any. If one doesn't want olives, don't eat any. If one doesn't want a small glass of Port, don't drink any. On the other hand, if you have one taste, you just bought the entire snack or aperitif content, enjoy it. This is mentioned in most travel guides, but it's easy to forget because the presentation is so friendly.

Villages, no matter their size, would have at least one café which allowed us to travel with less weight for food and water. One caveat was that food stores would close for lunch, so we learned to buy bread, meat (like pre-cooked sausage), fruit, and cheese in the morning when bread was fresh at the market and food selections at their best.

Mass Transportation

In Lisbon (Lisboa), we wisely bought a week long transportation pass for each of us. They cost about €24 each and entitled us to ride any bus or tram in the city as well as the vertical tram and elevators (lifts to and from low and high elevations). Lisbon's mass transportation is so good that one can live in a less costly non-tourist area and transport one's self anywhere with great convenience. We rented an apartment for a week, and our total cost was the same as one day at the recommended conference lodgings. Our average transportation wait time was about 4 minutes and the longest that we ever waited was once at 15 minutes.

The Knights Templar and Portugal

Cross of the Knights Templar.This is important because Portugal had always had a special relationship with the Knights Templar:
  1. The Templars financed a Crusade to rid Portugal of its Muslim Occupiers.
  2. The Templars were technicians with various skills (in a time when any skilled labor was uncommon).
  3. The Templar Cross (Symbol) was adopted by the country of Portugal.
Facts: Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (Latin: Pauperes commilitones Christi Templique Solomonici), commonly known as the Knights Templar or the Order of the Temple (French: Ordre du Temple or Templiers). Source: Wikipedia. In Portugal, they are called The Order (d'Ordem).
After King Philip IV of France started his purge of Templars (1307, October, Friday the 13th), many escaped to Portugal. They were immediately accepted by King Denis (of the House of Burgundy, King of Portugal and the Algarves 1279-1325, Son of Afonso III of Portugal and Beatrice of Castile) for several reasons. One, King Denis knew King Philip's charges to be false and Templar confessions to be under duress (torture), but the Pope (Clement) literally resided in France at the time so the Pope had to be careful and did issue the Papal Bull to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. King Denis petitioned the Pope to allow Templars outside of France to not be persecuted and to even maintain their holdings. This petition was finally approved (long after all holdings were taken). Meanwhile, the Templars had money and skills as masons, shipwrights, sailors, and soldiers. All of which King Denis put to use. Important Note: Templar Masons built simple and practical structures using late gothic conventions - It appears that Templar Masons have nothing to do with Freemasons and vice versa, except that some Freemasons have used some Templar symbols and some Templar names [many myths here].

Escaping Templars went to Scotland , Switzerland , Ship image of Portuguese Cross on Vasco da Gama's tomband Portugal and it is interesting that each of these countries have had or still have a cross in their national flag. Some knights were absorbed into other orders like the Knights Hospitaller or Teutonic Knights (outside of Portugal). A significant fact is that the symbolic cross of the Knights Templar soon became absorbed into the shape of the Cross of Portugal (with little change). The Templar cross was a solid red color and the Cross of Portugal maintained the same basic shape, but made a little wider than Templar Cross so as to imbed a smaller white (unadorned) interior cross.

Knights Templar: Cross of the Knights Templar. Knights of Christ: Cross of the Knights Templar. Portugal: Cross of Portugal.

The Knights Templar organization, already well established in Portugal, upon persecution by King Philip IV of France simply changed their name from Knights Templar to Knights of Christ. One of the larger Templar holdings in Portugal is the Convent of Christ in Castle Tomar. Built in 1160 as a stronghold for the Knights Templar, it became the headquarters of the renamed Order of Christ (Portugal), often called or referred to as "the Order". One of the lesser known facts about the Knights Templar is that they had a small fleet of ocean going Ships [18 known], mainly used for cargo, transport, and high speed messaging that saw service from the Mediterranean to France and England. They also had inland river boats. At one point, the Templars owned the island of Cyprus.

Royal Emblem(s)

Shield of Alfonso I of Portugal.The Shield of the House of Burgundy has always been a variation of a blue cross. Later variations show five smaller shield shapes arranged in a cross pattern, the shields themselves containing five white circles or squares. Later, the Portuguese Burgundy's added a ring of castles around the Shield of Burgundy to symbolize the organized action of Portuguese Houses to retake Portugal from the Muslim Occupiers. The number of castles has varied, but the latest version has seven castles, supposedly for the seven major strongholds and engagements to retake Portugal from the Muslims. The displayed shield emblem is more or less the emblem in the current Portuguese National Flag.

The Armillary Sphere

Year 1480 Painting by Botticelli, Featuring an Armillary Sphere.This is quite interesting. Other names for the Armillary Sphere are: astrolabe, spherical astrolabe, armilla, or armil - Wikipedia. Armillary derives from armilla latin for (circle or bracelet) - Wikipedia. The Armillary Sphere is a celestial navigation tool. Both the Greeks and the Chinese had simple Armillary Sphere models before the time of Christ (BC or BCE). Pictured is a Sandro Botticelli (more known for his famous Nude in a Clam Shell) painting with an Armillary Sphere

Armillary Sphere at Monument of DiscoveriesThe Armillary Sphere is a tool or device that demonstrates: star positions around the earth (on a rotating sphere); the tilt of the earth (whether understood or not); and some show lunar, sun and planet positions. The Armillary Sphere, of da Gama's time had rings for the Equator and the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer (which demonstrated issues of hemispheric navigation, such that geographic areas on the other side of the equator may have increasingly longer or shorter days or nights. Thus Latitudes and Longitudes for any global position could be addressed for any time of the year. These concepts are important to global navigation.

Armillary Sphere at Tower of BelemWhat's more interesting is that some of these navigational devices showed the sun at the center and some demonstrated a round earth with objects going around the earth, these spheres also demonstrate astronomical 'right ascension' and the fact that each day's rotation of earth was a few minutes short of 24 hours. In the 1500's a clock was added - In fact, the Armillary Sphere represents many accumulations of knowledge over time. This is all heady information with interesting implications (like the earth is round and rotates around the sun, and seasons [in the form of astrological signs: Summer - Leo, Winter - Aquarius, ...] were predictable and associated with the tilt of the earth, and differences in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere mattered).

Armillary Sphere at Mosteiro Dos JerónimosIt probably wasn't hard for Galileo to figure out that the Earth orbited the Sun, many educated people already suspected as much. Since the reader is probably wondering, Galileo lived from 1564 to 1642. The golden age of Portuguese wealth from global trade was about 1490 to 1520. In Portuguese culture, to have one's painting (or photograph) made with an Armillary Sphere was a sign of implied wisdom and knowledge. The Armillary Sphere is so important to Portugal that it is displayed in the background of the current Portuguese National Flag and the Armillary Sphere is what is displayed in the foreground of the current Brazilian National Flag (it's disguised, see the band). Portuguese were probably the first Europeans to discover Brazil and Brazil is the only country in South America to speak Portuguese as a national language.

Armillary Sphere in Background and Royal Shield of Alfonso I in Foreground. Disguised Armillary Sphere in Foreground.

Famous Portuguese Explorers

The Portuguese were Explorers. Some famous, known, Portuguese explorers follow.
  • Henry the Navigator, 1394 - 1460:
    • Encouraged his father to conquer Ceuta (1415), the Muslim port on African side of the Straits of Gibraltar, also a pirate base who made Portuguese Slaves
    • Saw the possibility of bypassing the Mediterranean land/sea trade routes to Asia
    • Brought African Slaves and gold to Portugal
    • Member of the Order of Christ (Knights Templar)
    • Had charts made (hired cartographers, gathered/collected chart information
    • Circumvented Muslim Sahara trade routes, circumnavigated Africa (as far as possible)
    • Charted and explored much of the African Coast
    • Rediscovered Madeira Islands, 1420, colonized in 1427

    Left side view of Vasco da Gama's tomb. Center view of Vasco da Gama's tomb. Right side view of Vasco da Gama's tomb.

  • Vasco da Gama (buried at Mosteiro Dos Jerónimos), 1460 or 1469 - 1524:
    • Died in India
    • Very successful
    • Commander of the first ships to sail directly from Europe to India thus avoiding the Mediterranean land/sea trade route controlled by the Republic of Venice
    • 1497-8 Exploratory Journey to India (Explored from Southwest, South, and Southeast Africa to West India). Tried to find a friendly port in West Africa but ran into unfriendly Muslim sultans
    • 1502-3 with Military and Naval reinforcements, set up bases and trade agreements
    • 1524 for financial gain, conducted problem resolution, was granted Governor and Viceroy of India

Plaque commemorating Ferdinand Magellan, Sabrosa. Ferdinand Magellan's home in Sabrosa.

  • Ferdinand Magellan, (Fernão de Magalhães), 1480 - 1521:
    • Sailed/Explored under Spanish sponsorship
    • Found the Spice Islands of Indonesia
    • First European to lead an expedition across the Pacific Ocean
    • First to attempt to circumnavigate the Earth, killed in the Philippines but ship went all the way
    • Found the Strait of Magellan, a protected inland passageway that avoids the rougher seas found at Cape Horn (Drake Passage)

Manueline Architecture

Manueline Architecture (1490 to 1520) represented the end of Gothic Architecture (Late Gothic) and the Beginning of the Renaissance (early 1500's). It was principally Portuguese but it borrowed facets from Spanish (Plateresque), Italian, and Flemish styles. It was funded by the increased wealth provided by new and increased trade, resulting by circumventing the Sahara Road and Silk Road trade routes and establishing direct trade with India, South America (especially Brazil), China, Indonesia, and Japan. The word Manueline is a derivative of King Manuel I (1495 to 1521). Note that the King received 20% of the Income, which is called 1/5 (one/fifth) or Quinta in Portuguese. King Manual initiated 62 major building projects in Portugal, many in Lisboa (Lisbon).

The following are characteristics of Manueline Architecture (Wikipedia):
  • Elements used on ships: the armillary sphere (a navigational instrument and the personal emblem of Manuel I and also symbol of the cosmos), spheres, anchors, anchor chains, ropes and cables.
  • Elements from the sea, such as shells, pearls and strings of seaweed.
  • Botanical motifs such as laurel branches, oak leaves, acorns, poppy capsules, corncobs, thistles.
  • Symbols of Christianity: such as the cross of the Order of Christ (former Templar knights), the military order that played a prominent role and helped finance the first voyages of discovery. The cross of this order decorated the sails of the Portuguese ships.
  • Elements from newly discovered lands (such as the tracery in the Claustro Real in the Monastery of Batalha, suggesting Islamic filigree work, influenced by buildings in India)
    Tower of Belém
  • Columns carved like twisted strands of rope (this is not an original concept, as twisted columns can be found in the 13th-century cloister of Basilica of St. John Lateran, in Rome)
  • Semicircular arches (instead of Gothic pointed arches) of doors and windows, sometimes consisting of three or more convex curves
  • Multiple pillars
  • Eight-sided capitals
  • Lack of symmetry
  • Conical pinnacles
  • Ornate portals with niches or canopies
  • Beveled crenellations (castellated battlements like square sine waves - Dennis)
  • A linear element, a line, sometimes itself called a Manueline, which could be plain but was often represented as a rope or a vine, often 3 or 4 inches wide, that completely surrounds a door, window, or portal, or it could completely go around a room or even a building - Added by Dennis.
Some examples are Jerónimos Monastery [Portuguese for Gerome, pictured above], Tower of Belém [pictured just above], and the Convent of the Order of Christ at Tomar (formerly, property of the Knights Templar).

Jerónimos Monastery

Jerónimos Monastery
FACT: The location of the garden, in this picture of Jerónimos Monastery, used to be in the Tagus River. In fact, ships could port alongside the front of the Monastery (Monastary) and allow sailors to pray or attend mass. The Great Earthquake of 1755 moved the Tagus River about 3-400 meters/yards away (southward). To the picture viewers left, the Tower of Belém, a canon armed River Watch Tower previously stood in the middle of the Tagus River, but now it is located on the shoreline of the Tagus. FYI: Gerome or Jerome is the English word for Jerónimos.
Jerónimos Monastery Jerónimos Monastery

Quoting Wikipedia:
The house for the Hieronymite monks was built on the same site of the Ermida do Restelo, a hermitage that was founded by Henry the Navigator at about 1450. It was at this hermitage, that was already in disrepair, that Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer before departing for India in 1497.

The existing structure was started on the orders of Manuel I (1515-1520) to commemorate Vasco da Gama's successful return from India. It was originally meant as a church for the burial of the House of Aviz, but it also became a house of prayer for seamen leaving or entering port.

Construction of the monastery began in 1502 and took 50 years to complete. The builders used a local gold-coloured limestone called 'Pedra Lioz' for construction. The building of the monastery was funded by a 5% tax on eastern spices. By this influx of riches, the architects had enough financial margin to think big. The enormous amount of funds needed for this monastery, meant abandoning the construction of the Aviz pantheon in the Monastery of Batalha.

  • The monastery was designed in the Manueline style by Diogo de Boitaca.
  • The monastery withstood the Great Earthquake of 1755 without too much damage.
  • The Church of Monastery is called Santa Maria.
  • There is a statue of Baby Jesus, Mother Mary, and her mother Saint Anne (Santa Ana or Santana)
Church of Santa Maria. Courtyard of St Jerónimos.

Above Left: Church of Santa Maria.

Above Right: Courtyard of St Jerónimos.

Santa Maria main knave Santa Maria, Knights Templar  symbol.

Above Left: The Chancel of Santa Maria. King Manuel had a few wives. Going against the wishes of the King and the other Wives, the last surviving wife, Queen Catherine of Habsburg (Hapsburg), built the Chancel as she wanted it. It contains the tombs of the royal family (including herself). The Chancel is built in a 'Classical Style' (not a Manueline or Late Gothic Style) - To Queen Catherine's credit, this architecture marked the beginning of the Renaissance Style of architecture.

Above Right: See the Knights Templar symbol?

Knights Templar  symbol. Knights Templar  symbol.

Above Left: See the Knights Templar symbol?

Above Right: See any Knights Templar symbols?

St Jerome (347-420 AD), thought to be of Illyria (the Balkan area between Italy and Greece) was a well educated and a well traveled man who is credited for translating the bible into Latin. He spoke and wrote Greek and Latin and is considered a Doctor of the Church (as in Doctorate). His translation included Hebrew sources while other previous translations were just from Greek. He was a Christian Apologist. Apologist's "present a rational basis for the Christian faith, defend the faith against objections, and expose the perceived flaws of other world views" [Wikipedia].

Statue of St Jerome's Lion. JSt Jerome's Lion
The St Jerome LION Story If the reader has ever heard the story of the man that removed a thorn from the paw of a Lion, it is supposed to be Jerome who performed this act. He apparently actually had a Lion as a kind of pet. The story goes that Jerome was entering a Hermitage/Monastery when all the students/initiates were seen running out of the building. They told Jerome that there was a lion in the Monastery. Jerome entered the building to investigate and, long story short, removed the thorn from the paw of the lion. From then on, the lion hung around the Monastery, and eventually became an item of the Monastery. Many paintings of St Jerome show a lion in the foreground.

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