1 Year of the Blog

Historic Villages of Portugal - II

This small sleepy village in the interior of Portugal witnessed important historical events. Today it is a small open-air museum in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova.

One morning in August, I decided to get up early, grab my bike and, before the heat hits me, visit this place where the Ponsul River passes, which makes this village very beautiful but also enigmatic.

Founded in I B.C. in the time of Augustus I (of the Roman Empire), it served as an important strategic point between Mérida and Guarda (who knew?). It was known as Egitânea. But around here there are inscriptions and traces that are previous than its official foundation.

The walls that can be seen date from the 3rd and 4th centuries, a period prior to the barbarian invasions. Having been under the control of the Suevi and Visigoths, they ended up destroying much of the infrastructure and assets from Roman times.

Afterward, this town was occupied by Arabs and finally, later, it was conquered by Afonso III of León during the Christian reconquest, which followed the Muslim invasion of the entire Iberian Peninsula initiated by Tarique in 711 A.C.

Later it became part of "Condado Portucalense" and then finally to the kingdom of Portugal, with D. Afonso Henriques handing over Idanha-a-Velha to the Knights Templar.

Some people say that this was where Pope Damaso I (the only Portuguese Pope) was born in 305...

Chapel of San Sebastian

North Entrance

This was one of the entrances belonging to the wall that surrounded Idanha-a-Velha when it was used to defend this small village from possible attacks.

The road that entered through this door came from Braga towards Cáceres!

This is still one of the best preserved urban walls in the Iberian Peninsula.

Casa Grande (Morocco family manor)

This house was built from another existing one in the same place in the 20th century by a family with more possessions in that rural area. This building from the last century was built in an eclectic style.


The pillory of Idanha-a-Velha dates from 1510 and was assigned by D. Manuel I through the "Carta de Foral".

Mother Church

This church formerly known as Mercy Church dates from the 16th century and has a Renaissance-style structure. The main church was recently remodeled.

More than words, these pictures show the beauty of this place.

Church of Santa Maria - Cathedral

Its construction began in the year 585(!) and later passed through the hands of different people. Over time, it has undergone several works and renovations, but even so, it has the original structure that has lasted until the present day. The church of Santa Maria was a place of worship for Swabians, Visigoths, Muslims, (becoming a mosque during the occupation of the Iberian peninsula), Templars, and nowadays Christians. However, this is still a very enigmatic place and one of the most interesting Portuguese Pre-Romanesque monuments.

Surrounding ruins of the Church of Santa Maria

Only from the 1950s were these ruins uncovered through excavations that lasted until the early 1970s. According to archaeologists, these ruins belonged to the Swabian and Visigoth eras.

To visit the interior of the Sé church, it is necessary to go to the tourist office in the village and ask them to open the church.

Timetable: 10:00 - 12:30

                       14:30 - 16:30


The 43 foals, stones placed along the river, allowed in very remote times to cross the Ponsul river thus overcoming its current (especially in winter). This was a rather archaic, unique, and dangerous way of going from one shore to the other!

Old Bridge

Located on the Ponsul River, this is one of the few works left by the Romans that have survived to the present day, resisting barbarians and Moors.

What secrets will the stones of this village keep? All the details breathe history and tradition!

Tower of the Templars

Built in the 13th century by the Templars, it has an inscription from 1245 and would have been part of a defensive structure that would have degraded over time.

Picturesque landscapes of Idanha-a-Velha...

Even knowing that desertification has already passed here, the purity and beauty of the village are still maintained.