Celtic ruins? What Celtic ruins?
Viana do Castelo is a nice little town in northern Portugal near the Spanish border. It has what I'm told is a very nice beach, but we did not have time to take the ferry to it on the day we visited. The downtown is also nice, with tons of the types of tourist shops and restaurants that you would see at any beach town. It also has a medieval fort at the river's edge. But the real attraction is the Santuario de Santa Luzia that sits at the top of a steep hill (accessible by a funicular.)
Santa Luzia is a brand new chapel, by Portuguese standards - it was started in 1904 and completed in 1959. It sits on the site of what had been a medieval hermitage dedicated to St. Luzia - the patron saint of sight. A local cavalry captain, Luís de Andrade e Sousa, came to the hermitage to pray for help with his eyesight. When his sight improved, he instituted a fraternity to take care of the hermitage in 1884 in gratitude. The chapel (and later, a complete temple) was erected to serve the "cult" of Santa Luzia that continued from that group. The temple is nothing spectacular - though it has beautiful stained glass rose windows - but the view over the coast of northern Portugal and part of Spain, is amazing.
Another site our guide book had noted as being a "must see" at the top of the hill were the well-preserved ruins of a pre-Roman Celtic settlement. We stopped in at the chapel museum and gift shop to ask directions. The guide there claimed to have never heard of Celtic ruins in the area. Either our guidebook or the young lady was mistaken! We assumed it was the latter and began looking about for a road to the ruins. We stumbled across a beautiful pousada, the Pousada Viana do Castelo. (Pousadas are luxury, traditional or historical hotels in Portugal that were formerly run by the Portuguese government, but are now privately owned.) A short ways behind the pousada we found the Celtic ruins! But, being Monday, they were closed. We walked around the exterior of the site and could just see the tops of the circular buildings that had been homes more than 2,000 years ago. It was very large for a Celtic community. We were disappointed not to have been able to see all of the carvings and totems that we assumed were behind the fence.
I still shake my head that the tour guide from the Church disavowed even having heard of the important archeological site less than a quarter-mile away. Had she really never heard of them? Or did she assume (or been told) that she shouldn't speak of this evidence of a civilization that predated Christianity?
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