Discover the enduring influence of the Roman legacy in the city of Coimbra (former Aeminium), as well as in the surrounding region with the stunning must-see spots of the Roman Ruins of Conímbriga and the Roman Villa of Rabaçal. Quoting the popular Monty Python sketch: "What have the Romans ever done for us?". As far as Coimbra region is concerned, a lot!
Dating back to the 1st century a.C., the Aeminium Criptoportico is regarded as the best-kept Roman building in Portugal.
The criptoportico was used as a platform for erecting the Roman Forum, a public square that was the religious, political and administrative centre of the city.
This Roman construction supported the courtyard and its surrounding buildings. The forum was the heart of the Roman city, located near the intersection of the two main roads – the cardo and the decumanus. These two streets used in Roman town planning had a similar orientation to the cardinal points – north-south and east-west.
Housed in the iconic Machado de Castro National Museum, the criptoportico is a true city beneath the city!
Conímbriga is a true jewel of the Roman world. A place that we can not miss on our journey to Santiago. The living testimony of the fascinating power of History and the enduring influences on the national cultural legacy.
Inhabited since the Neolithic, Conímbriga was a castle when the Romans arrived here in 138 BC and took over the Oppidum. In the time of the Emperor Augustus, the Forum and the baths were the first buildings to be built. The water came from a place known today as Mãe-de-Água de Alcabideque and through an aqueduct which is still visible today. The city was walled, a basilica was built and also many places of worship. The head of Augustus and his feet in strap sandals, found near the temple are the proof of this.
When Conímbriga was given the statute of a township, probably between 70 and 80 AD, a new Forum was built. Its Portico and the new square populated with magnificent statues proved the power its inhabitants.
The streets and the houses with its fresh and perfumed patios, the floors paved with polychromatic mosaics and the smell coming from the baths, lead us to imagine a pompous, and almost “imperial” Conímbriga.
In Condeixa nature was generous. A walk through the Mata da Bufarda proves this. It is a wonderful world were the Oak, the scarlet oak and the cork tree mark the south. We are enchanted by the discovery of small bright coloured flowers: the lily, the thistle, the pennyroyal, the hyacinth, and the orchids.
Very near Conímbriga, the Canhão do Rio de Mouros, shows us thousands of years of work of the water over the limestone: at the bottom of its bed and on the margins, grottoes and caves, wild rose bushes, and lilies surprise us.
The road from Tomar to Conímbriga passed very near Rabaçal as proved by the discovery of a milestone from the time of Emperor Decio. It marked eight miles from Conímbriga.
Earlier, many centuries earlier the owner of the Roman Villae in Rabaçal could see these mountains when looking out of the tower, towards the rising sun. He was certainly well to do and from here he could see his properties.
We know that he was rich because of the dimensions of the palace: large halls, with a dome resting on columns. The walls were covered with marble stone. The floors had multicoloured mosaic better than the ones in Conímbriga.
The Roman Villa of Rabaçal is located 12 km south of Conímbriga, part of the territory of the old civitas, near the Roman road that linked Olisipo to Bracara Augusta, in the current county of Penela, district of Coimbra. The probable date of its construction is the middle of the 4th century AD, as confirmed by the findings, especially the abundant numismatic collection, and it would have been inhabited until the 5th century AD. Centuries after the Roman Villa was abandoned, it was partially reoccupied in the 15th and 16th centuries as a cemetery.
National Monument since 1978, the Monumental Complex of Santiago da Guarda is a beautiful example of Manueline architecture in the region. But it is also a living proof of History. A manor house of the Counts of Castelo Melhor with its iconic tower dating back to the 14th century, built upon an ancient Roman villa of the 4th and 5th centuries. The collection of multi-coloured mosaics is absolutely breath-taking!