The town is located at the Northeast foot of the Montemuro mountains and is 12 kilometres from the Douro River. It is the capital for the Regional Tourist Office of Douro South. It is the epicentre for the production of sweet and sparkling wines. The famous Port wine was born here. In the 16th century an English merchant discovered this "nectar" and introduced it into England.
However it is not just the wines that make Lamego famous; every September thousands of pilgrims descend on the town for the religious festival of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The sanctuary was and is a major attraction.
Many different peoples have passed through Lamego and left their mark. First the Romans, followed by the Visigoths. After 4 centuries of war between the Moors and Christians, Lamego was conquered by Fernando Magno of Leon in 1057. In 1102 the Moorish King Echa Matim and Count Henrique fought the Battle of Arouca here. Egas Moniz helped the Count and they won. The Moor was captured and converted to Catholicism. The Count then made him the Lord of Lamego. Lamego was already a city in 570 CE. It was elevated to a diocese in 1071 and received its first charter in 1191 from King Sancho I and again in 1514 from King Manuel. The populace grew during the time of Egas Moniz who had a house here near Britiande, where his wife raised the children of King Afonso Henriques. Today the city has 30,000 inhabitants and 24 parishes south of the Douro.
Roughly 12 kilometres from the banks of the Douro, Lamego enjoyed a period of great prosperity in the eighteenth century when the city produced the so-called "fine wine" that later gave rise to the world famous Port wine. It is a very ancient city, having been raised to a bishopric by the Visigoths, under the name of Lamecum, as early as the seventh century. Later, it was to suffer the same fate as so many other towns and villages that thereafter became Portuguese: it was captured by the Moors, reconquered by the Christians, and then returned once again into Muslim hands, until it was definitively reconquered in 1057 by Ferdinand I, the Great, king of Castile and León, and the great grandfather of D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. Remaining as evidence of these mediaeval times are the castle, on the hill overlooking the city, the Cathedral and the small church of Santa Maria de Almacave. The Church s powerful influence over many centuries, later curtailed by the suppression of the Religious Orders in 1834, has left Lamego with a large number of churches revealing the classical influences popular at the time of their construction in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Whenever you pass by one of these, make sure to enter inside and appreciate the stories recounted on the azulejos lining the walls, the sacred paintings and the beautiful carved and gilded wood decorations added in the baroque period. Particularly impressive are the Church of the Convent of Santa Cruz, offering a delightful view over the city and the sumptuous and monumental baroque shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in the form of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, who, from her lofty position some 600 metres above the town, responds to the appeals of distressed worshippers by granting them a remedy for their afflictions. Each year, the city pays Our Lady much-deserved homage by devoting a festival to her - the splendid Romaria de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The nobles and the clergy built their stately palaces here in order to perpetuate their power and glory: the Casa do Poço, with its well-preserved and beautiful double windows, one from the twelfth century and another from the sixteenth century; the Casa das Mores and the Casa das Brolhas, both from the seventeenth century, to name but a few examples.
At the opposite end of the city, but in direct line with the staircase leading to the shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, stands a beautiful eighteenth-century palace, built in an elegant and sober baroque style, which was once the residence of the bishops of Lamego. Carved above the front door is the coat of arms of the bishop D. Manuel Vasconcelos Pereira, who was responsible for the rebuilding and enlargement of the old episcopal palace. About 1940, this space was altered to house the extremely rich collection of the Lamego Museum, an essential item on the list of all visitors.
The fact that Lamego is situated so close to the banks of the river Douro means that there are a variety of walks and tours offering remarkable panoramic views over the extensive valleys planted with the vineyards that produce the famous Port wine. At the top of 700 steps lies the most beautiful Baroque sanctuary in Portugal, complemented by an enigmatic medieval tower.
This ancient city, hidden in the mountains, represents two periods of time. Moors and Christians fought ferocious battles over it. However, in 1057, Fernando Magno, great grandfather to the first king of Portugal, definitively took it for Christianity. This era survives in the tall castle tower, where on foggy days the soul of a Moorish princess is said to return to weep. Outside, walk up the steep streets where houses emerge out of the medieval walls. Get your strength back with a little smoked Lamego ham before returning to the centre. The façade of the church of Almacave, in front of which founding king Afonso Henriques would gather his warrior knights, is a genuine example of Romanesque art. The tower adjoining the Se dates from the same period. And when the great bell was being cast, Bishop António Telles de Menezes poured a sack of gold coins into the mould to ensure that its sound would be the richest of all cities. The interior of the Se however is not as Gothically austere as the façade. The colour and lightness of paintings by Italian artist Nicolau Nasoni leap out at you. He also designed the Sanctuary dedicated to Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. This beautiful monument is a symbol of religious devotion and admiration. Take a look at the fantastic gold leaf carvings and the stories told across the church s tiles. And a visit to the museum is a must - it is one of the best in the country.
Make sure this Douro city, birthplace of the fine wine that was to become Port, features on your itinerary.