The Viagem Medieval is three weeks of medieval mayhem when an entire town in northern Portugal goes back seven hundred years in time.
There is everything you would expect and a whole lot more. I visited last Friday – fresh, or not so fresh, from the medieval fair at Obidos (in central Portugal and more about that in another blog post) – and found Santa Maria da Feira in full historical swing.
This was my second year at the event and I wasn’t disappointed. One of the main streets had been converted into a souk while on the path leading up the hill to the impressive – and very real – castle was an area devoted to magic and the mystic arts. In front of the castle walls, musicians played and aspects of Portuguese medieval history were acted out.
This year, the story of King Sancho I was told – a monarch of a young country called Portugal that was still menaced by the Moors – the Islamic warriors who continued to rule Portugal below the Tagus as well as most of Andalusia…though this situation was changing rapidly.
Thousands turn out at the Viagem Medieval
The thousands of visitors who turned out to drink and buy from the many stalls were also made aware that they were now part of King Sancho’s greatest and most determined attempt to repulse the Moors – and also to step out from the shadow of his illustrious father, the first king of Portugal – Dom Afonso Henriques.
Sancho suffered setbacks in his fight against the Moors – who had become religiously radicalised under the influence of the Almohads – what we might call Islamic fundamentalists – who injected a new purpose and spine into the Moorish fightback.
So the night ended with a very incendiary battle between the forces of King Sancho and the Almohads. It was quite the most impressive re-enactment I’ve seen and I share some pictures below.