We’ve just left the small village of Lamego, which sits on a hillside surrounded by terraced fields of grapes. We spent a few rainy days here, taking in the views, drinking the wine, and climbing the steps to another pilgrimage church. It’s a sweet place, and like the rest of Portugal, it’s soaking in history.
This place that was inhabited by the Romans and then the Visigoths and then the Moors and then the Christians. It’s where Portugal’s first parliament met to confirm their first king. These days, most visitors to Lamego come for the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Remédios (Church of Our Lady of Remedies).
This wedding cake of a structure sits on the Hill of St. Stephen, and originally this was a church dedicated to him. Veneration of Stephen fell out of favor in the 18th century, and that’s no small feat – he was Christianity’s very first martyr. But devotion to the Virgin Mary was on the rise everywhere back then, and people were praying to her for relief from various illnesses and ailments with seeming success. So a new church went up and now there are pilgrimages here every September.
I have to say, the stairs outshine the church itself. There are some wonderful features inside, like the stained glass windows and the ceiling, but the stairway is the highlight.
Apart from the church, there is also the remains of a rather humble castle at the top of a steep hill. What is left for tourists to walk through is a keep tower, the perimeter walls, and the cistern (which was built by the Moors). There are apparently dungeons beneath it.
The castle grounds had been used as a garbage heap for many years until the Boy Scouts (go figure) made a project out of cleaning it all up. So now they run the day to day operations of the place. Good for them.
It think my favorite part of Lamego, though, was the museum. It’s housed in what was once an Episcopal Palace, but has been a museum for the last 100 years. It’s collection is sparse, but magnificent. There are old manuscripts and silver chalices and giant tapestries. And they’ve found old grave markers from the first century Romans, which for reasons beyond my reckoning I found profoundly moving.
But what’s most impressive is that they’ve managed to install complete altar pieces salvaged from old convents and monasteries.
This is a wonderful stopping point, especially if you’re on your way down the Douro river to do more wine tasting. We’re here at the wrong time of year for the river cruises, but this small little town of Lamego was brilliant.