Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
WALKING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MY ANCESTORS by Fr FRANK de GOUVEIA
I arrived in Lisbon on the second and was met at the airport by my cousin Joao Carlos and we had lunch at the Seminary. He then took me to the Amalfa area of Lisbon where there are sights of Santiago interest -- Cathedral, St. Georges Castle, Church of Santiago. I then decided to set out a day earlier and so on the 3rd May I set out on the Caminho de Fatima. There is a new trail that I found out about through the Internet and in Lisbon I bought the complete guide. And because it was still far away from the 12/13 I had the whole Caminho all to myself. The local people prefer to travel on the road with all the traffic. But the road through the 'serra' is absolutely beautiful.
Arrived yesterday in Fatima and am having a rest day today. It was a wonderful walk from Lisbon. Big problem is where to stay. There are no refugios. The first 2 nights I stayed in small pensao's. On the third night in Santarem I stayed with the Combon's. I stayed with the 'bombeiros'! 'Bombeiros is firemen! As I walked into this town I asked a woman where the church was and she said it was quite complicated but that the pilgrims stay at the Bombeiros. I went there and they told me that it was only by arrangement beforehand but because I was alone could stay. Later two other pilgrims arrived. As I went to sleep I prayed that there would not be a fire in Alcanena that night!
Last night I arrived here at 7.00pm. I had heard that there was a building were priests could stay (for a fee!) When I got there they were not so happy about my staying because it is for the priests who are taking turns at hearing Confessions at the shrine. They agreed I could stay for 2 nights. And now the big decision: What do I do tomorrow? Everyone I speak to say that I must wait for the Mass on the 13th. The adeus with the white hankies at the end of Mass seems to play the same kind of role as the botufumeiro in Santiago. This would suit me as it means I could then bus to Tomar and to Batalha over the next few days.
The faith of the people is really something to behold. That is one of the big differences between this Caminho and the one to Santiago. I sometimes had the impression 2 years ago when walking the Camino that we were re-living something that was past. Here the devotion is very much present tense. Today I concelebrated mass with the celebrated Fr. Gobby. It was a special mass to mark the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Marian Movement of Priests. The liturgy at Fatima and throughout Portugal that I have seen so far is really well prepared and well executed. I feel instantly at home. I suppose that's the nature of ritual.
Things are warming up in Fatima despite the cool weather and occasional drizzle. People are beginning to arrive in big numbers. On Tuesday I seemed to be the only pilgrim who walked. Now there are many and they walk around with their walking sticks complaining about how difficult it all was. I made the big mistake of telling the parish priest of Ourem at supper the other night that I enjoyed the walk through the Serra. He seemed shocked that I should have chosen to walk the 'Caminho dos gabritos' (goats!) and even more shocked that I actually enjoyed it (despite the blisters!) It seems the bigger the sacrifice the better.
Yesterday I went to Alcobaca by bus. Had been there before but really enjoyed the visit immensely this time. Had all day because the bus back was only at 5.00pm. The monastery church is very narrow and its high columns give you the impression of being lifted into space.
Today I went the other direction to Tomar. Well worth a visit. The Knights Templar castle and the whole history behind them becoming the Order of Christ were fascinating. There is also a synagogue that has been turned into a museum about the Portuguese Jews who were expelled from Portugal by King Manuel I in 1497. I don't think he wanted to but did so at the insistence of his wife who was a Castillian. The Portuguese are a more tolerant people. One often hears com vontade, as you wish. And they really mean it. When I told the man at the museum that I was from RSA he immediately responded -- Camps Bay! He then showed me a Passover Meal bread cloth that was presented by 'Mrs. Beulah Goldman of Camps Bay and her husband'
Well, it is Sunday afternoon 5.oopm and words just can't describe the many different impressions, emotions, etc. the mass this morning was quite awesome. We had the hankie thing and there wasn't a dry eye to be seen. Women cried out as the statue of Our Lady was carried by. 'Olha por os jovens' one woman appealed. (Look after the youth). Concelebrating mass and being part of the whole drama was very moving. Witnessing the faith of the people. Families were walking in together, husbands and wives performing the Stations of the Cross together, people burning candles, like sacrificial offerings, lamenting as if they were at the wailing wall, the 'adeus' is so much like the fado, that Portuguese song that longs for the one that is absent (saudades), looking for something more, yearning, waiting. People moving up the sanctuary on their knees because they had made a 'promesa' (promise?). Sounds a bit commercial or bargaining with God and our Lady but when one sees the faith, the hope, one realises that there is something deeper there, a real belief in a God who does provide, who cares, who will not abandon us.
And so I have prayed for all, and lit candles and celebrated Holy Mass.
After singing 'Fatima, adeus' one last time I left Fatima on Monday afternoon. Because of the rain I was really tempted to stay on at Fatima till the next morning. But I said a couple of Ave Maria's and I experienced my own miracle of the sun. Although it was overcast all around me, the sun shone wherever I walked. When rain threatened I prayed an Ave and when the sun shone I remembered how fortunate I was and prayed another Ave. So rain or shine there were many prayers prayed that on that day. Tuesday was a really beautiful day through all the back streets and little villages. I was struck by just how helpful people were. Every time I asked people for directions they would stop whatever they were doing to have a conversation! That night I reached Pombal.
Next day was mostly on the national road. Now that is a real penance. But with my stick pointing ahead of me I approached the oncoming traffic like a matador at a bullfight. Needless to say I survived to tell the tale. Got lost once when I tried to find Redinha that has an old Roman Bridge. Ended up in a little village called Bernardos! Wednesday night I reached Condeixa and went to visit the Roman ruins at Conambriga. They had a rock there with Emmanuel written on it dating from the 5th century when Christianity became the official religion of the empire.
Then yesterday I walked 35kms and passed through beautiful Coimbra. It is about 90kilometres to Oporto and should take me 3 days. I hope to walk into Oporto on Sunday which I've learned from past experience is a good day to walk into a big city. Then it is 245kilometres to Santiago de Compostela.
I love Oporto and am tempted to stay on a day especially since it is already midday. Got my Caminho passport stamped at the Office of the group that is studying the Portuguese Caminho. My first day is only 18kilometres to Maia or Moreira. This should be much easier than the last 3 days through the traffic. Being the weekend there weren't any trucks but still lots of cars, bicycles and motorbikes. Yesterday I walked 31kms, plus extra for the times I got lost! But the day before 39kms! After leaving Anadia I stopped over at Agueda on Friday and Sao Joao de Madeira on Saturday. Yesterday I arrived at Oporto and staying at Residencial Universal right in the centre near the Cathedral and the station of Sao Bento. I really like it here and the food so cheap! Had some lovely frango for supper last night.
There is no refugio in Caldas de Reis. I stayed at the La Ruta bar-Restaurant. The biggest bargain this side of the Portico de la Gloria! I had a very comfortable bedroom and good bathroom and laundry washing facilities. This I had to share with only one other person. When you walk into Caldas de Reis, cross the bridge and St. Tomas Church is on your left. Turn left after that on to a road that has a few different bars and restaurants. La Ruta is about 150m up just opposite the Concepion School. Xuan will be happy to attend to you. He is also very helpful when it comes to choosing local food dishes!
The next 11 days should be more like what the French Camino was. The road from Pombal to Oporto is to the Portuguese Caminho what the Meseta is to theFrench camino. Long, hard, hot. But thanks to the many 'Aves', no more rain!
Vila de Conde on the coast and at the mouth of the Ave River is most beautiful place but it is now pouring with rain! The good side. I'm staying at Pensao Princesa de Ave (recommended by the CSJ booklet) and it is right across the road from the Municipal Library and I recalled from emails that one could use their computers to send emails!
I feel conned because I've lost the little yellow arrows! The story is this. For this part of the Caminho, from Oporto to Santiago, I have 3 main sources. Firstly, the CSJ booklet that was printed a few years ago. Then a book that I bought in Oporto, describing in Portuguese, the Portuguese Caminho. Lastly, information selected from Djalma's website.
I left Oporto following the CSJ booklet route. And there in front of me like a star rising was a little yellow arrow. Well, that was just such an emotional moment. After 8 days of working with maps, getting lost, constantly asking directions, etc. here I was just like the good old days -- just follow the yellow arrows, the Caminho carries you, and so on. I put away the books and enjoyed the walk. Until I came to Maia, my over night stop. It was then that I realised that the CSJ booklet was written before this area was way marked. I had to make a choice. Follow the yellow arrows or the booklet. I decided on the arrows even although I did not know which route they would go (via Barcellos or Braga).
Had a wonderful morning this morning. Rain threatened but held off. And I just followed the yellow arrows. When I had my tea break actually coffee and one of those lovely pastries, I realised that if I just kept on the arrows I could reach Barcellos tonight and bypass Vila de Conde. But I wanted to reach Vila de Conde. So I made the momentous decision to give up the security of the yellow arrows and make my own Caminho! I was conned by the yellow arrows. I am sure that there are lots of parallels about life in all of this which will become clearer the more I reflect on it.
But then conned again. The weather has been good all along. I only had to use the poncho once -- the day I reached Fatima. Since then rain threatened on 3 occasions but each time I said my Ave's and I was kept dry. This happened the days I left Fatima, Anadia and Oporto (all of them comfortable places where I had to deal with the temptation of staying on another day!). And this morning it happened again. Each time the heavens wanted to open (so to speak) I said another Ave and it held. UNTIL I crossed the River Ave leading intoVila de Conde and then it really came down! It is all part of the journey.
I don't know what tomorrow brings. I should be walking to Barcellos but I really don't relish walking 27kilometres in the rain. And my 'Ave's' have all washed down the river!
The church in the town on the other side of the river was closed when I came by but it is one of the ones built at the request of King Manuel I when he went on pilgrimage from Lisbon to Santiago in 1502. No one else seems to be celebrating this anniversary but in my own little way I am contributing towards the tradition! His pilgrimage is well documented. Also 500 years ago he established the conselho of Calheta, Madeira (under which the village of my parents Ponta do Pargo falls). I wonder if that anniversary is being celebrated. Why the interest in King Manuel I? Well my ancestor, Francisco Homem de Gouveia, was a noble man in the court of King Manuel and he (or possibly his father may very well have gone on the pilgrimage too!) Francisco or his father was given land in Calheta and that is how the family came to be in Madeira. Francisco and his wife built a chapel in Calheta in the 1520's dedicated to the three kings. It is still standing but I have never seen it. I hope when I visit Madeira next month to do so. How do I know all of this? Well, my father's uncle was Conego Antonio Homem de Gouveia quite a famous son of Madeira particularly around the 1920's. He was a priest and a politician who represented the island of Madeira in the Portuguese parliament in the 1920's. Why talk about him? Well, the genealogy books when talking about Francisco Homem de Gouveia always mention that one of his descendants was Conego Homem de Gouveia. So I am not walking alone to Santiago!
It is raining today at Ponte de Lima and so I've decided to make this a layover day. I was at the Post Office a while ago and made several attempts at sending this message but each time the computer just went dead on me. We have different problems from the pilgrims of old!
Yesterday was a beautiful day from Barcellos to here through farmlands and all the different shades of green as the earth pours forth-new life. The vines are particularly striking as they are trained to grow very high. Once I got very lost as the yellow arrows disappeared on me just after coming over the pass to here. Had to do a lot of extra walking as a result. Also got my feet wet a few times as I walked through some very marshy areas and had to have several changes of socks! Future pilgrims, please note. When they offer you an alternative route for the inverno (winter) then take it EVEN IF IT IS SPRING!
Ponte de Lima is a wonderful place. The Roman Bridge across the river which has given the town its name. Beautiful mother church and remains of the city walls. One account says that St. Francis stopped here on his way to Santiago and there is a fountain named after him where he stopped to drink.
Yes, it is getting time to say Adeus to the Caminho again. I am so sad. I arrived in Spain yesterday and spent the night at the albergue at Tui. The albergues on the Portuguese Route (5 of them) are absolutely beautiful. The one where I am now at Redondela is really a 5 star hotel compared to what I experienced on the French Camino. Being in Spain means that here there are many Internet cafes! Hopefully more reliable than the Portuguese P.O. I wrote at least 'Getting the point at Ponte de Lima messages and they all disappeared into thin cyber space! All that wonderful creativity just gone.
The last three days have been absolutely beautiful. It is just so quiet and peaceful, I could stay here forever. Was trying to figure out how I could do that. I could ask for early retirement and pray to win the Lotto. But I suppose there is as much chance of getting the first as the second I think I was born to be a pilgrim. The church here at Redondela is dedicated to St. James and has a beautiful statue of Santiago above the high altar. I spent a long while reflecting on that statue as the congregation prayed the rosary before Mass. There is something about being on the move and yet seemingly not moving at all. Time and space take on different dimensions as you walk the Caminho/camino.
I am walking this last part of the Camino with a group of 8 people from Abrantes, near Fatima. Now when I say walking with I don't mean as a member of their group. Rather they are walking and I am walking and when our paths cross we chat and we meet sometimes for meals. But they take ages to decide on everything. So I've left them deciding which of two restaurants they were going to have supper and I may join them later. Doing all the Spanish things again like eating torillas and bocadillos. A bocadillo is like a baguette -- half a French loaf filled with cheese or gammon or whatever. Very filling.
You know, doing all that road walking in Portugal got me thinking about litter. These things happen when you live close to the ground! They are very good about recycling in these parts but the litter along the national roads in Portugal is unreal. You can tell when there is McDonald's within a radius of 5kms. As you would expect there are also lots of coke cans, etc. But one item that surprised me by the frequency with which it came up was audiocassette tape. They hang on the bushes like tinsel on a Christmas tree.
Well it's time to see what my Abrantes friends are eating for supper. Last night we also had a Belgian pilgrim in the refugio. He had walked from France to Santiago and now is walking to Fatima! From the border down to at least Oporto it is marked with blue arrows. Four more days and I'll be in Santiago. Now I will have to start working on one of the other routes. Perhaps the Aragonese Route for 2 years time when I think it is the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier and this route goes through Javier, the place where it all happened.
There are cyber cafes all over the place in Pontevedra. The albergue here is wonderful. Am getting to know the Abrantes group well now. There is also a Swede at the albergue tonight. Pere is his name. He has just cycled from Rome via Santiago and plans to go on to Evora in Portugal because "I hear there are many churches there". Anna, one of the Abrantes group took great pleasure in telling him about the chapel made of bones. On the door is the inscription: "Where you are now, we once were. Where we are now, you will one day be!" Quite a thought! Reminded me of the walk 3 days ago, just before Sao Rogue and just after Ponte de Lima. There is a cross there of the dead (Cruzeira dos Mortos) which is becoming a bit like the Cruz de Ferro on the French Camino. People are putting stones there.
Today's walk was absolutely beautiful. Even in the rain. The walk into Arcadia is really spectacular. Then a lot of forest walking, through trees, Roman bridges, waterfalls, stone crosses. I really don't think that there is anything quite as lovely on the French Camino. But there is a price to pay for all the greenery and the waterfalls! Rain. The day started off just misty as I left Rodendela but then it started to drizzle and then rain. It is interesting to see how one's tolerance threshold shifts as things get worse. Only 3 more days until I reach Santiago. At least I know that I can walk in the rain although tomorrow the forecast is SUNNY and then the next 2 days cloudy.
Inevitably, I do make comparisons between this Caminho and the French one. Biggest one for me is that the valleys are definitely deeper and the hills steeper! Loneliness would be a factor for many people but for me it did give me the opportunity to indulge the hermit part of me. AND I'm enjoying the company of the Abrantes group. Their leader, Antonio Domingos is a nurse and in his spare time sings fado with a group from Coimbra. He is very interesting. The others in the group are all somehow colleagues, mostly in the medical field. There is one married couple (although the husband is the driver of their support vehicle). Pere is also quite entertaining. He has cycled all over the world, e.g. India, South America.
This is much more civilised, a more leisurely walk in the sun with plenty of time to do everything: get carimbo (sello), get accommodation (no albergue here), shower, laundry, Mass, eat, etc.Plus time to check for messages on the Internet. Again a cyber cafe right across the road.
The Abrantes group is busy scouting around for a place to eat. We'll meet at Mass at St. Thomas' Church at 8.00pm and then go for supper. I'm starving, as the route today didn't bring us to any bars so I feel deprived of my daily bocadillo! But I did have fruit and things in my backpack, just in case.
Well the traffic signs say just 36 kilometres to Santiago on the national road. But by following the Camino route (at the moment a lot of it on private farms and today again beautiful rivers and bridges and so on!) it is 21km to Padron and 22 to Santiago.
Well, like St. Paul I can soon say that I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race and the only thing left now is for me to enter into the Cathedral of Santiago in Compostella, Galicia, through the PORTICO DEL GLORIA! It is beginning to get exciting and yet different from the last time. There isn't the element of surprise. Last time I was surprised that I had made it, surprised that I could even think of doing it. This time it feels a bit more normal.
Some ideas for people thinking of doing this or some other route. Three of the most useful items I brought with were ones I got just a few days before I left. Firstly, I attached a little compass to my pants and it has been really valuable. The Confraternity booklet often speaks of north and south and so on. When the sun wasn't shining (about half the days) it was really helpful. Once or twice it got me out of a tight spot when I was going completely in the wrong direction especially in Portugal when there were no arrows. Another item was a little pocketsize umbrella. A lot of the time the rain was just drizzle and the umbrella was sufficient even if just to get me to some shelter. The third thing is a lightweight windbreaker with two big front pockets. It is ideal and I have been living in it even if the rain wasnt in the offing. It is only water resistant but again good for the drizzles and dries quickly.
When I finish on Friday I will have walked for 23 days (plus I stayed in Fatima for 5 days and Ponte de Lima for one)... I guess that I will probably have walked for close to 700kms. The shortest road route would be about 600kms but I did a lot of zigzag walking. The French Camino took me 29 days of walking and the distance was about 800kms.
Today I joined the group and we are having great fun and they treated me to lunch in the village just before Padron. They are still busy doing laundry etc. and some of their spouses will be joining us later. We will then tour the local church dedicated to Santiago and then go to Mass, and supper. Padron is the place where, according to tradition, the two disciples. Brought St James body and took it to Compostella to be buried. Hopefully the sacristan will agree to point out the exact spot under the Church where the body first touched the land of Spain.
Why should I be asking pardon at Padron? Well it is probably one of the biggest lessons I learned on this Caminho. Last time, the big lesson was "the tourist says 'give me'; the pilgrim says 'thank-you'". This time the lesson was a bit more complex. When I reflected on the messages I have sent I realised that most of them contained some form of complaint, even although couched in humour, re the bank officials in grey suits. But I was also critical of my fellow pilgrims (both to Fatima and to Santiago), the Post Office, the local people, the way things are done, the slow service in some places and so on. But it just occurred to me. As a pilgrim I need to accept that people are different and do things differently. It is an honour for me to be allowed to walk on their land and to share in some way in their life. Much of the Caminho, especially these last few days, goes through private property. You see their laundry, their backyard, even sometimes what they are having for supper. You drop in on their conversations. That is a privilege, not to be abused. So I beg pardon for every criticism I uttered. Have to get that off my chest so that I can go to Confession in Santiago and so earn the indulgence! But it does make one think. People are different and do things differently. I understand the Abrantes group much better now as well as the individuals within the group. When people allow us into their lives we must tread on their territory with care. Just a thought!
I'm here! Arrived at 1.30pm. Walked the last 22kilometres almost non-stop, so eager was I to get here.
Coming in with the Abrantes group was really an emotional experience. They were all wearing their Abrantes t-shirts and insisted that I walk in with them although I did feel like a bit of an intruder. They really were a close-knit group, having practised at least twice a week for more than 3 months. They know one another well, strengths and weaknesses, etc. All their spouses were there and the whole group walked in with lots of photos been taken. I then took leave of the group by presenting the leader Antonio with my stick, called Clarinha. Why Clarinha? Well she kept the way clear for me this past month and was always faithful.
We'll all meet tomorrow at the Pilgrims' Mass at midday. And the good news is that they will be swinging the botufumeiro! I've arranged to concelebrate so hopefully will be lifted to new heights again! I must say a lot of today's walking was through forest and farms and often it was like going through a tunnel, covered either by vines or by oaks.
As I consider the trauma and pain before starting the Caminho in Lisbon, it was like a re-birthing experience. And now I'm out on the other side!
The Pilgrims' mass today was beautiful. The botufumeiro was out but unfortunately not the magnificent organ. The nun with the angelic voice sang the parts of the Mass and some other beautiful hymns but not the grand anthem at the end. They had recorded music for that. Still, the botufumeiro never ceases to move me for some reason.
And me, where to from here? I want to go to Braga because you will recall I chose the Barcellos route. So I've just bought a bus ticket to go to Oporto tomorrow afternoon (after going to the Pilgrims' Mass again!) and then on Monday go to Braga.
In the centre of Portugal at what is also its highest point is SERRA DE ESTRELLA (Mountain of Stars ... a relative of Compostela ... Field of Stars?). This part of Portugal is a most beautiful nature reserve and the entry into this heart of Portugal is through a little town called GOUVEIA! So I shall have to go there and pay respect to the ancestors. My ancestor Francisco Homem (which means 'man') de Gouveia (or his father) came from there. Having done that I go back to Lisbon and then fly to Madeira on Thursday evening where I'll be for a week.
Most people I met along the Caminho were surprised that I was walking all the way from Lisbon to Santiago on my own. The Abrantes group could not understand it. But when we arrived at a town and I went looking for Internet cafe's I think they began to understand. I told them that I was not walking alone. I walk with Our Lady, St. James and all the saints. I walk with all the ancestors who walked this way before me. And besides, I would say to the Abrantes group, the 7 of you meet every evening and discuss how your walk has been. But before I go to bed at night at least 50 people from all over the world know all the details of my outer journey and all (or almost all!) the most intimate details of my inner journey. So, no, I do not walk alone.
They say the Camino never ends and that "el Camino est una droga!" and so maybe I'll be sane again and again and again in Santiago but for now it is time to say good-bye. It has been very different to the first Camino. Mostly it has been a solitary journey but this forced me to make greater contact with the local people (something I did not do much of on the French Camino). Having the opportunity to practise my little bit of Portuguese was also a wonderful experience. Before meeting the Swede I had had only one other opportunity to speak English in nearly a month! I missed having the company of fellow pilgrims to share experiences with but the other blessings that came in its place more than made up for it.
In summary: Lisbon to Fatima: no problem. Oporto to Santiago: no problem. Pombal to Oporto: needs some looking into to cut down on the amount of walking on the National Road. In Ponte de Lima (where I finally got the point!) I came across a little poem at one of the fountains in the town centre (Ponte de Lima is the oldest 'vila' in Portugal and has resisted attempts to make her a city!) Isn't it wonderful that there can be poems at the fountain? When Antonio was trying to explain the concept of "saudade" to me he said that Amalia Rodrigues said that it was untranslatable. And he agreed. He tried to describe the feeling but then gave up and said that only Portuguese can know what it feels like! How unique can you get?
Back to the poem. A rough translation of the gist of it (I think).
LOVE AND TIME.
Love, Time, my Friend and I went for a walk up the mountain.
We were having a wonderful time of sharing with each other.
I did notice that my friend was beginning to be a bit tired and Love and Time overtook us.
I called out to them: ' Why are you going so fast? Slow down.'
Love turned round and said.
'But that's how it always is with me.
I must fly ... Adeus! Adeus!' (Good-bye! Good-bye!)
Spent the day yesterday at Braga and walked up all 600 steps to the Igreja de Bom Jesus. The visit to Gouveia has been very rewarding. It is so beautiful up here although I need another week to explore the Serra de Estrela. I could walk around here forever. To use the re-birthing story again: coming up in the bus yesterday was a wonderfully womb-like experience. Everything is so green: trees, ferns, just beautiful. Gouveia itself is very interesting. The lady at Turismo was very helpful and confirmed Sarraivo's story re the Jews in Gouveia. There is a long story about 3 New Christians who were burnt to death and died clutching a cross protesting their innocence. They had been falsely accused of hanging a statue of Mary in the parish church. The Jesuits (who had a big college here -- now the municipal buildings) insisted that the community build a chapel of the Holy cross where the three were burnt (or hung, I need to check that up). Will be going to see that chapel now. It is beyond the old town.
Coming into Gouveia yesterday was really exciting. Always I have had to explain my name and spell it. It was wonderful coming into a place when everyone knew exactly what you were talking about when you said that your name was Gouveia. I decided that I am no longer a pilgrim but a tourist so last night I spent in the luxury of HOTEL DE GOUVEIA. Had chicken soup (canja) and rye bread for supper (for starters!) in honour of my Jewish foremothers who lived in these parts. The Jewish story is very interesting. When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 they escaped into Portugal, many via Serra da Estrela. Hence there were many Jews here and a lot of jealousy that was why we had that incident which I reported earlier. By the way they were burned to death. And it was not the Jesuits who got them to build the church of the Holy cross, but the Franciscans. I bought a little comic book on the history of Gouveia. It would seem that there was a bit of rivalry between the Dominicans and the Franciscans in that story. The Dominicans were involved with the Inquisition and organised the execution of the 3 new Christians. The Franciscans said that they were not guilty and spread the account of them holding the cross and other religious objects. They then got the people to build the church as a form of reparation.
I visited the Abel Manta Art Museum (here is a good Jewish name!) He lived here until he died a few years ago. Interestingly he was honoured with the Santiago cross which is in the museum.
I am in Ponta do Pargo and later I shall go to Calheta. There I will visit the church built by my ancestor Francisco Homen de Gouveia on ground given him by King Manuel I. They also have a chalice presented by the king to Calheta on the occasion of its being established as a conselho 500 years ago this year. (The same year the king went on pilgrimage from Lisbon to Santiago!)
On Sunday I went by boat from Calheta to Ponta do Pargo and then to Madalena do Mar and back to Calheta. So I was able to re-live the entry of the ancestors into Calheta and tried to imagine what they would have seen (without the Calheta Beach Hotel, etc!!) Remember the chapel of the Three Kings that my ancestors Francisco Homem de Gouveia and his wife built in 1529? Well, I arranged to say Mass in that chapel on my birthday and what a beautiful experience. At the altar there is a triptych (nothing much else in the little chapel). The central part has a wooden sculpture of the arrival of the 3 kings at the manger and on the sides, there kneeling, are Mr. and Mrs. Francisco Homem de Gouveia. So I know what my ancestors (well, at least two of them) looked like in the 16th century. And there they are in all their blue blood, these ancestors of mine.
I will be walking that route as well this fall. Late September/ early October. I found most of my accommodations on Booking.com. They had everything from shared bunk rooms to private rooms. Something for everyone. The best part is the cancellation policy which gives one until early September to cancel, if necessary.