What does a wedding planner, stylist or anyone else in the wedding industry do after their first international wedding, one that had them on their feet for 17 hours, getting to sleep around 4 then back up for lovely breakfast overlooking a pretty view over Povoa de Varzim by 10 the next/same morning? Well, naturally they get in their rental car, after finishing said yummy breakfast, fill up the tank and venture off a little farther off course back home to explore one of northern Portugal well known spots. Viana do Castelo, a famed northern city and region, the farthest I had known explored in the north.
If you’ve heard of this historical city then, you may have also seen certain photos associated with it, of the Santa Luzia Santuario. I will give you a heads up, only because I wish I had the fair warning, unless it was a known fact that this is a modern structure, having been built in the last 80 years, not 1600 or 1800’s if you may have assumed like I had done. They constructed it so, to fool the eye and honor the architecture created in those monumental architectural eras.
I went calmly about, not in a rush, taking in the scenery of the journey, while paying as much attention on the ride of course. What I failed to remember was that is was a Sunday, a sunny perfectly weathered Sunday, in the middle of August….it was going to be tourist central. And it was, but of locals and those from the region celebrating special occasions like christenings and small weddings. Couples gathered for engagement shoots and those walking around, did so with their family and friends, exploring on this lovely Sunday.
Despite the search for parking, the good thing is most cars are small. They squeeze in with several people gathering round to have their lunches and picnics. As you near the exiting road at the top near the forest walk, you’re bound to find plenty of spots, underneath the best shady trees at that! The walk is quick downhill, a nice mixture of nature and the far sights of the city of Viana begin to show itself behind Santa Luzia.
It really was a great day, weather wise for exploring, warmth filled with a brisk breeze, particularly strange for August, even for the north. The sun was gently its warm summerness, so those brisk coastal breezes we quite welcome when walking and strolling along, admiring the architecture created in this Santuario. But if like me, the thing you’re admiring most are the human interactions and connections on display everywhere I looked. There was so much joy, in these small moments; like this one for myself — happening in so many different forms, amongst so many different people, of all different ages, and walks of life.
That I think, was the most exciting part of being here, some would unfortunately automatically label a religious tourist spot, but
it’s the delight to travel somewhere to admire the interaction of human beings, that is what Travel brings us.
In the most unlikely or grandest of places, Travel always awakens the need of connection and exploration within us, it inspires us to build and explore more together, to continue to learn and grow into better humans, more cultured beings.
I was captivated by the grand window structure creating the iconic symbol for Santa Luzia. It was so familiar. I had seen it many times, in smaller forms, used in side windows or within doors. Yes, throughout my other travels in Portugal and European influenced cities, including recently in Ireland too, I have seen this flower-like window design! Now my curious mind, it had to know its meaning, the design’s origin, the history and significance within historical architecture design….
My curious mind did find quite the discovery about this pretty window design — commonly found in Gothic based or inspired designs, originating in Roman architecture. Building advancements in the Gothic era, allowed for these large structures and ideas to actually be built.
It’s properly named, per the English I say, ” wheel window,” and was often saved for the window designs that were more high complex in design. Gothic style lingered on in European architecture through the Renaissance, giving way to the Baroque era and into what we now know as modern.
There’s your bit of history of European architecture focusing on window designs. Yes, I love it that much!
So yes, when it was designed and built 80 years ago, they factored in all these Byzantine and Gothic elements of centuries past, to create a religious building unlike any other, and one that, in my opinion sadly, didn’t boast the same historically rich and important texture.
To say its design isn’t what makes it an outstanding tourist attraction, is an understatement, also it is a church and religious sanctuary monument, in Portugal that will always get you lots of travelers. The steps where all those said celebratory folk were gathering, snapping photos — they really are a quaint wraparound staircase, climbing to the walkway around the church’s doors. The interior is a lovely immense dome shaped cathedral style Catholic Church. I respect and value the interiors of religious and sacred places too much to take photos. But like all places of worship, lovely.
There terrace around Santa Luzia and overlooking the ocean is certainly the loveliest place to see all the sights of this well known northern city. I can see why this panoramic picturesque view was once rated by the National Geographic Magazine as third most beautiful in the World….would you look at that?
Its views, its spectacular views, out onto the scenery and landscape of the sanctuary and coastal backdrop of the Limia river valley and city of Viana.
And the way the sun captured its warmth amongst the hazy and breezy coastal clouds over the dim lit valley hills, well even with all the noise around, it was serene.
Quite serene indeed,
a blissful moment of travel,
newness, peace, calm,
excitement and relief.
Then I hopped back in my rental and whisked my way south, but not before making another stop in lovely Guimarães, to take myself out to lunch at a favorite new go-to for lunch and glass of Vinho Verde, and then explore some of the city and country’s most historical castles…..
I’m loving getting to know new and different parts of Portugal, I place I grew up visiting and is basically like home! Who knows to where to this year, maybe the islands 😉