We have never understood why the famous fado of Coimbra says that the beauty of Coimbra strikes the most as we leave the city. It’s the other way round. As we approach this charming city knelt upon Mondego river, we can feel History in all its speechless splendour. And lots of Harry Potter-like black clad University students. But that’s part of the mystique of Coimbra, one of the oldest University cities in the Old Continent.
If you are patient enough to wait in line a little bit, don’t miss the opportunity to enter the truly magnificent gold-covered 18th century Joanine Library, considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. And the whole University of Coimbra of course, led by memorable guides who really love their job and who have the privilege to work in such a prestigious institution, praised all over the world.
Now that you have visited UNESCO World Heritage University of Coimbra, you can feel the true groove of this lively city, walk across the streets of the old quarter, buy creative items by Portuguese designers and taste the most tempting “petiscos”. Don’t forget to visit Machado de Castro National Museum with its overwhelming Roman crypto-portico that will leave you “wow”!
Visiting Coimbra is aslo paying homage to the Portuguese-speaking world.
Isabel de Aragão, the pilgrim Queen
While in Coimbra, you must visit the Convent of Santa Clara-a-Nova, housing the tomb of the Holy Queen, Isabel de Aragão, the Patron Saint of Coimbra. The tomb was sculpted in 1330 by Master Pêro in a single limestone block. The representation of St. James, which can be found in one of the niches, as well as the pilgrim’s stick and the purse of alms, sculpted on the lying statue, witness her role of Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela.
The Holy Queen Feasts take place in July in even-numbered years. They are the greatest sign of devotion of the city towards its Patron Saint. Queen Isabel de Aragão, married to King D. Dinis, dedicated her life helping poor people and also performing miracles. The most famous miracle became known as the "rose miracle". When asked by King D. Dinis what was she carrying in her lap, she said "Roses, Sir". But she carried bread to distribute to the poor. She allegedly transformed bread into roses. This is why during the Holy Queen Feasts rose petals fly around, as a beautiful tribute to her role as great benefactor.
The highlights of the Holy Queen Feasts are the two processions (a day and a night procession). The image of the Holy Queen, canonised in 1625 by Pope Urban VIII, is carried to the Church of Santa Cruz Monastery, later returning to its origin place, the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova, where the immaculate body of Holy Queen Isabel de Aragão lies in her tomb.