The Caminos de Santiago leading to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, cross Portugal from north to south and pilgrims have followed them for centuries. The pilgrimage tradition dates back to the Middle Age targeting the dazzling Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where we can find the tomb of the Apostle James, who evangelised the Iberian Peninsula when it was still a part of the Roman Empire.
This week we follow the Central Portuguese Way starting in Lisbon across Tomar, Coimbra, Águeda and Albergaria-a-Velha, heading to the North of Portugal. This is a journey across the most incredible landscapes. But it is above all a journey of self-discovery. Deeply personal and non-transferable. It's all about finding ourselves during the way, embraced by the utter beauty of silence.
The Central Portuguese Way starting in Lisbon Cathedral has always been one of the most sought-after paths and the second in terms of number of pilgrims, only beaten by the French St. James Way.
This Way follows the banks of the River Tagus via Tomar, the former seat of the Knights Templar in Portugal. From here it continues towards Coimbra, passing Alvaiázere and Ansiãol. In Coimbra, it’s mandatory to visit the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova, housing the tomb of Queen Isabel (14th century), who made the pilgrimage to Santiago. The Holy Queen is buried with the symbols of the scallop shell, the cross of Santiago and the staff. Continuing north, the Way goes via Mealhada, Águeda, Albergaria-a-Velha, São João da Madeira and Grijó, before entering Porto, where the Northern Ways begin.
Picture a bridge and a peaceful river running underneath. Picture a charming romantic city, as if it were painted by the gifted hands of Cézanne. Picture a magnificent convent with eight cloisters. Picture a place where the presence of the Knights Templar can still be utterly felt. No, this is not the plot of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
This is Tomar, hidden gem of Portugal that every 4 years proudly bursts with flowers for the whole world to see during the famous Trays' Fest – “Festa dos Tabuleiros”. The whole city is deeply engaged in this event, leading the expression “team work” to a whole new level! But it is totally worth the passion. Art does imitate life.
In the surroundings of Tomar all the ways will lead you to Fátima, one of the most inspiring Catholic sanctuaries in the world. A place of silence, where no words are needed, only the strength of one’s faith. Fátima embraces everyone, regardless of religion, creed or believes. A place of confinement and sheer quietness.
Come along. This is a journey to remember.