Santa Maria de Marvão’s landscape, in Portalegre, Alentejo, is dominated by the castle that stands between the walls and towers of the medieval village. And the history of the protection of this village is entwined with a legend.
The Marvão castle, considered a national monument, stands 850 meters above sea level, built on a quartz ridge and inset in the Serra de São Mamede natural park. It was built in 1299 functioned as a strategic point, for its height and proximity to the border allowed for discovery of the neighboring country’s troops if they tried to invade the lands of Portalegre.
This castle has undergone several architectural changes, keeping only the Torre de Menagem’s walls, with the original Romantic style door and narrow vertical slits. In the early fourteenth century, king D. Dinis was forced to rebuild the castle after taking the position. But it was only more recently, in the seventeenth century, that the legend of Nossa Senhora da Estrela (Our Lady of the Star) was born.
Legend of Nossa Senhora da Estrela
In the seventeenth century, the inhabitants of Marvão were forced to leave their land, seeking refuge in the asturian mountains, where they kept the Christian resistance alive. Before they left, they hid all their sacred imagery on their land and, according to legend, it was only centuries later that one of these images was found, when a shepherd, guided by a star, walked towards the image of Our Lady, in the hillside of one of the mountains that borders Santa Maria de Marvão. Honoring this moment, a Franciscan convent was built, named Convent of Our Lady of the Star, which became the castle’s patron saint.
This history-filled monument is just one of the places you can see during our Alentejo Heritage tour, and just one of many stories to discover in Portugal, a country full of history and beautiful landscapes.