There is a small village next to the river Tejo that you shouldn't miss out on visiting; Amieira do Tejo. It is indeed tiny (only 300 inhabitants!). Nevertheless, its few houses hide many, many stories behind. Inside these homes, according to the legend, the fairies wove the finest linen. Also, behind the most prominent chapel, an old Moor woman was said to give gold coins to mothers in need. Later on, a brave knight defeated the Moors and built here a castle. And at the old river dock, an old boat is hidden. Hundreds of years ago, it carried the corpse of the Saint Queen Elizabeth. Do you want to find out the secrets of this fascinating village?
When the visitor leaves the main road, the first thing to visit is the chapel of the Calvário, on the top of a hill. A very kind lady, who lives nearby will open it for you. Once inside, go to the balconies. From there you get the best view of Amieira, with its castle standing out massive and its four towers on display. At first, it was the residence of the Great Master of the Hospital Order, the hero that beat the Moors' army. He lived at the Homage Tower. Thus, being a residence, the castle was not built at the top of a mountain. However, the Moors' army was still beyond the river Tejo; therefore, later on, it became a fortress, then a prison, then even a cemetery. The place is used now for exhibitions, and it really is worth a visit.
From this spot, you can join a short circular route of 11kms. It will take you around the most critical places of Amieira, including the old river dock, still working. According to the legend, in 1325 the dead Queen Elizabeth took a boat here on her way to Coimbra, where she was finally buried. The miracles that happened on her journey made her Saint 300 years later. In fact, the elderly say that when the monarch left, she cast protection on this village against all natural disasters. It still lasts!
Amieira do Tejo's origin goes back to the Lusitanians. They were a Celtic tribe that became a nightmare for the Romans, unable to beat them. After that, the Moors lived there, and according to the legends, they must have been rich. For instance, one Saint John's night (June 24th), an old Moor woman gave a Portuguese mother a bunch of dry figs that turned into gold coins the moment she reached home. As a matter of fact, next to the castle you can visit the chapel of Saint John, probably the only one in Portugal to have phalluses designed in its ceiling. The reason for this weird painting on a Catholic building cannot be explained to this day, for it is a pagan motif of fertility... and richness. Another Moor man, living on a hidden underground palace (!), called a midwife to assist his spouse. When the baby was born, he paid her with... coal. The midwife, offended by the scarce reward, let go most of it on her way home. But, once there, she found out that it had turned into big diamonds...
...Jans, the invisible women that wove fine, knotless linen at night...
However, Amieira do Tejo's most amazing legends are about the Jans, the fairies that at night weave the finest of the linens- provided only that a cake is left next to the pure linen that needs to be worked on. If you leave nothing, you will find it burnt when you wake up. Indeed, they usually arrive in the middle of the night, coming down the chimney, like some Portuguese tiny Santa Claus.
Amieira used to be a place of passage, with many people coming and going from its dock by the Tejo. But nowadays it is just another little town, lost at the far end of the Alentejo, away from all the main routes. Maybe that is why it has preserved all its ancient traditions. If you ever get the chance to go there, speak to the people, find out more legends (there are so many!). The landscapes around the river are amazing. Nearby you can find some natural beaches to swim in the summer season. See if you can find one of the 40,000 rock paintings existing in the area. Most of them are under the water of the Fratel reservoir, but you may get lucky. Also, take the boat and cross to the other side of the river. Do not worry, nothing wrong can happen to you in this area: the saint queen is protecting you...
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