Valença do Minho

The walled Valença do Minho

Valença do Minho is a historical town in the North of Portugal, located on the border with Spain, with only the lovely Minho river separating it from its neighboroughing country. The town is surrounded by defensive walls, showing its ancient defensive facet. The impressive fortress with two towers and double walls, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, continues to be the focal point of the town. Within the fortification, four gates: the Porta do Santiago (or Porta do Sol), Porta de Gaviana (a Gothic arch), Porta da Fonte da Vila and Porta da Coroada and twelve ramparts built at different times have been preserved.

Valença was of extreme significance during the Middle Ages, benefiting from a hilltop position with a privileged view over the border line. It was beleaguered several times by Spain. This stronghold was populated by order of King Sancho I during the 12th century. It was called Contrasta which means a village opposite another one, clearly refering to its position across the river from the town of Tui in Spain. It played a decisive role in the defense and integrity of Portugal from the attacks of neighbouring Spain.

Valença was also a passage for the Way of St. James on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Today, Valença is peacefully invaded by the Spanish as the town is full of small shops selling items, particularly textiles, of interest to their Spanish neighbours. The fortress is nowadays home of a luxury hotel, with magnificent views of the hills, river plains and the border towns of Spain and Portugal.

Below are some places of interest:

1. The old international bridge – In 1879 Portugal and Spain agreed to construct a bi-functional (road and train) bridge. The bridge’s construction was inspired by Eiffel’s work.

2. Roman milestone – Located within the fortress, this milestone dates back from the 1st century AD. It marks the 42 mile distance on the road from Braga to Tui.

3. Church of Saint Stephen – It is a romanic church built in the 13th century. Inside there are several pannels representing scenes of Saint Stephen’s life.

4. Church of Saint Mary of Angels – A romanic church built in the 12th century.

5. The cannons – Several well kept old cannons are positioned along the north wall facing Spain.

6. Statue of Sao Teotonio – Sao Teotonio was the first portuguese saint. He was born near Valenca and is the patron saint of the town.

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