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Travel Photos...Spain and Portugal


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Coimbra is a city in Portugal roughly halfway between Lisbon and Porto. It is also the third largest city after the latter two. It sits astride the Mondego River.

This photo was taken looking North East from the Santa Clara Bridge. RIght at the top of the hill we can see the major buildings of the University of Coimbra (more about that later).

The Ancient Romans called it Aeminium. It was occupied by the Visigoths from the middle of the 1st Century AD until the Moors conquered it in the early 8th Century. King Ferdinand I of Leon and Castile reconquered the territory for Christendom in 1064.

The heart of the Old Town in Coimbra is built on a hill which is filled with narrow, twisting streets, the heritage of the Middle Ages.
This bronze statue of a water (?) carrying maiden is on one of those twisting roads. I noticed that she only seemed to have one shoe, which may explain why she is sitting down.
When I arrived at my lodgings at the Pensao Santa Cruz in Coimbra, I discovered that it was right opposite the famous Church (Igreja) and Monastery (Mosteiro) of Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). The first two Kings of Portugal are buried in the Church.

Wikipedia states: "Founded in 1131 outside the protecting walls of Coimbra, the Santa Cruz Monastery was the most important monastic house during the early days of the Portuguese monarchy. St. Theotonius founded this community of Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra and served as their first prior. The monastery and church were erected between 1132 and 1223. The monastery was granted numerous papal privileges and royal grants, which allowed the accumulation of considerable wealth, at the same time as it consolidated its position on the politico-institutional and cultural scene. Its school, with its vast library, was highly respected in medieval times and was a meeting point for the intellectual and power elites. Its scriptorium was used for the consolidation of royal power by King Afonso Henriques, thus it was not considered strange that he decided to be buried there."
Looking towards the altar in the Igreja de Santa Cruz.

None of the Romanesque features of the Church and Monastery remain. The entire complex was renovated and rearranged in the first half of the 16th Century.

Just to the right of the Church of Santa Cruz, and occupying a part of the 16th Century Monastery complex, is a lively restaurant which features performnces of Fado, a quintessential type of Portuguese folk music.
Musicians getting ready to play at the restaurant.
There are two Cathedrals in Coimbra. This is the Old Cathedral of Coimbra (Se Velha de Coimbra). It is a Romanesque building.Construction began in the early 12th Century and it may have been completed by the early 13th Century.

Wikipedia says: "In the 16th century there were many additions to the cathedral. The chapels, walls and pillars of the nave were covered with tiles, the monumental Porta Especiosa was built in the north side of the façade, and the southern chapel of the apse was rebuilt in Renaissance style. The basic architecture and structure of the Romanesque building was, nevertheless, left intact. In 1772, several years after the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal by the Marquis of Pombal, the seat of the bishopric was transferred from the old medieval cathedral to the Mannerist Jesuit church, thereafter called the New Cathedral of Coimbra (Sé Nova de Coimbra)."

We shall be visiting the New Cathedral later on this page.

Romanesque decorated pillars in the Main Porch of the Old Cathedral.
The Old Romanesque Cathedral of Coimbra is about a third of the way up the main hill of the Old Town.
The Nave of the Old Cathedral looking towards the mind-boggling altar piece.
Have no fear. I include close up photos below of this magificent work of art.
I suppose that we would call this section of the altar piece the "predella".
The Cloister of the Old Cathedral of Coimbra.
Right at the top of the hill in the Old Town stands the University of Coimbra.

This University has had a complicated history. It was first established in Lisbon in 1290, but for a variety of political and religious reasons, it was moved from Lisbon to Coimbra, and back again, several times.

In 1537, King John III finally moved the University pemanently to Coimbra.

To show their gratitude for moving the University permanently to Coimbra, a statue of King John III was erected in the University Square (Paco das Escolas). That's him on the right of the photo.

John III appears to have the same bold swagger as his contemporary, England's Henry VIII. SInce the Royal families of Europe were often related, it would not surprise me to learn that John and Henry may have been cousins.

The Google Map describes this building in the Paco das Escolas as Via Latina.
One of the main attractions in Coimbra is the Joanina Library of the University (Biblioteca Joanina). This photo shows the lower secrion of the Library which serves as an austere foundation for the magnificent Baroque section above.
The Library has a priceless collection of about 200,000 volumes.
The Baroque splendour of the Biblioteca Joanina.
Right next door to the Joanine Librrary is the exquisite Chapel of St Michael (Capela de Sao Miguel). It is also a part of the University complex.
The Portuguese excel in tile-making.
St Michael's Chapel was constructed in the early 16th Century.
This is the New Cathedral of Coimbra. It is located near the University at the top of the Old Town.

Wikipedia says:

"The New Cathedral was, originally, the church of the Jesuit Formation house of Coimbra, established in the city in 1543. In 1759, the Jesuit Order was banned from Portugal by the Marquis of Pombal, Prime-Minister of King José I.

In 1772, the bishopric seat was transferred from the old Romanesque Cathedral of the city (now called the Old Cathedral of Coimbra) to the vacant, spacious and more modern Jesuit church.

The church architecture was influential in the Portuguese colonial world. The façade of the former Jesuit church of Salvador, in colonial Brazil, (now the Cathedral of Salvador), built in the 17th century, seems inspired by the Jesuit church of Coimbra."

The Nave of the New Cathedral.
Both the Nave and the Transepts have magnificent gilded wood alterpieces which were built in the 17th and 18th Centuries. They are in a distinct Portuguese style.
The arches above are part of the remnants of the Ancient Roman Aqueduct. This photo was taken just inside the Botanical Gardens of Coimbra.
Now, THIS is what you call a Greenhouse!
Stairs and Gateway in the Botanical Gardens.
This is a lift to help weary travellers on their way to the top of the hill.
This statue is close to the Santa Clara Bridge which spans the Mondego River.

Wikipedia has this to say about the politician commemorated here:

"Joaquim António de Aguiar (Coimbra, 24 August 1792 – Lisbon, 26 May 1884) was a Portuguese politician. He held several relevant political posts during the Portuguese constitutional monarchy, namely as leader of the Cartists and later of the Partido Regenerador (English: Regenerator Party). He was three times prime minister of Portugal: between 1841 and 1842, in 1860 and finally from 1865 to 1868, when he entered a coalition with the Partido Progressista (English: Progressist Party), in what became known as the Governo de Fusão (English: Fusion Government).

He also served as minister of justice during the regency of Peter IV and in that capacity issued the 30 May 1834 law which extinguished "all convents, monasteries, colleges, hospices and any other houses of the regular religious orders". Their vast patrimony was taken over by the Portuguese State and incorporated into the Fazenda Nacional (the National Exchequer). This law and its anti-ecclesiastical spirit earned Joaquim António de Aguiar the nickname "O Mata-Frades" (English: "The Friar-Killer")."

When I was in Coimbra, there were several bushfires raging close by, and the sunsets were vivid. The sad news is that many lives were lost during the 2017 fire season.
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