Casa de Vilarinho de São Romão nests in a pleasant and fertile location on the right bank of the Pinhão river, 3 Kms from the borough of Sabrosa, in what was one of the best areas for Port Wine in the 19th century. Due to its altitude it has a mild climate in the summer, and none too harsh in the winter.
Vilarinho de S. Romão is both the name of the very old village where this house is placed and the aristocratic title of its previous owners, Squires of Vilarinho since the 16th Century, Viscounts since the 19th century, and responsible for important deeds both in cultural life as well as in innovative activities of the highest interest for the economy and for agriculture.
The charms of the past are pleasantly combined with modern comfort in this 17th century manor house which is remarkable for the grandeur of its harmonious architecture including a blazoned adjoining chapel built in 1462.
Located in the heart of the Douro Valley demarcated wine region, it is situated at a comfortable travelling distance from some of the region’s most famous landmarks and historic centres such as Viseu, Lamego and Coimbra.
Vilarinho de São Romão
The charms of the past combine with modern comforts in this 17th century house which is noted for the grandeur of its architecture including a chapel built much earlier in 1462. Located in the heart of the Douro Valley wine country, it is comfortable travelling distance from some of the region's most famous landmarks and historic centres of Viseu, Lâmego and Coimbra.
In Solares de Portugal The art of good living , Edições INAPA, 2007
History of Casa de Vilarinho
Vilarinho de S. Romão is both the name of the very old village where this house is placed and the aristocratic title of his previous owners, Squires of Vilarinho since the 16th Century, Viscounts of that ilk since the 19th. The village is already mentioned in the 1220 Inquests and was one of the original parishes of the Panoias domain, where a Roman sanctuary used to be. Some ascribe it to the chart granted by king Afonso III on the 5th April 1258.
The village lies in a pleasant and fertile location on the right bank of the Pinhão river, three kilometers from the borough of Sabrosa, in what was one of the best areas for Port before the philloxera attack on the vines in the 19th century. On the top of a hill, from where Sabrosa can be seen to the north, Sanfins do Douro and Alijó to the north-east, and Celeirós to the south-east, it is a mandatory crossroad for those who from Vila Real wish to reach Pinhão, another of the best areas for Port in the Douro country. Due to its altitude it has a mild climate in the summer, and none too harsh in the winter.
II. MAIN BUILDING AND CHAPEL
Albeit austere, as suits the Douro buildings of this period, this house's style is quite harmonious and fits perfectly in the surroundings. Its architectonic features are those of a 17th century building. But the prosperity brought by the Port wine trade, before the philloxera pest, allowed for great expansion and manifold improvements. Behind the 17th century façade unfold sober and not too big rooms, covered by beautiful eightfold ceilings with woodcarvings. But the most imposing parts of this remodelling are doubtlessly the fountain with stone carved dolphins, as well as a stone carved bowl, not to mention the plane flanked alley leading to the house.
Afonso Cabral wrote "the past lives again in the aged manor, in its blazoned chapel, in its crenellated gates, in its courtyards where the fountain dolphins break the silence spurting water into the basins, as placid as sand thread running in the hourglass".
The chapel was founded in 1462 and entailed that same year by Gonçalo Lobo. In the remaining 15th century it was used as main church, while the parish church was being built - witness to this fact is the baptismal font which as a rule only exists in parish churches. On the main front looking on the village square hangs a stone coat of arms and shield, where a skull is carved between sword and scourge, meaning its owner had the right of to pass sentence and give shelter (Lord of Axe and Hanging Rope).
On the main door's lintel there is the following inscription "Chapel of Our Lady of Salvation and family vault for the lords of this chapel and the successors to this entailment". There are various graves inside the chapel and one has this inscription "House of the domain of Gonçalo Lobo". This Gonçalo Lobo founded the brotherhood of Our Lady of Salvation.
III. HISTORICAL NOTES
Among other places, it was in the farm next to this house that potatoes were sown in Portugal for the first time; in 1780, 200 hundredweight were harvested by the owner D. Teresa de Sousa Maciel Girão, reason why she was awarded a gold medal worth 50$000 (fifty thousand "reis") by the Academia Real das Ciências (Manuel Monteiro).
Next to the house was a great estate which produced 200 pipes of wine, but by mid 19th century, after the philloxera onslaught, fell down to only 3 pipes. At the time hunger ravaged all Douro country, but so remarkable were soil and climate, and so fertile, that the owners of the estate and its hall undertook to grow tobacco as a substitute, so as to recover some of Douro's lost wealth. However his initiative never became successful, due to high taxes, and possibly to a set of difficulties imposed by the State, which up till then had been the sole grower of this commodity.
The 1st Viscount of Vilarinho S. Romão, born in the house of the same name, was a peer of the realm, prefect of Trás Os Montes and deputy for this province to the constituent assembly. He published a great number of scientific and literary works, namely on the Douro and agricultural subjects.
The 3rd Viscount of Vilarinho S. Romão was an outstanding expert both in agronomic science and techniques; he left a remarkable works, specially "Viticultura e Vinicultura de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro" and "Portugal Agrícola". A wine-grower of great merit, he brought into use the practice of grafting other vines in "american" vine stems, to try and restore wine growing he tried abundant grafts of various vine breeds. He drew out a recovery plan for his property which he followed closely, always according to the motto "get the highest and best quality production with the least growing costs", rejecting any non productive expenses.
He was one of the first to argue that wine growers had the right to sell their wines at a price according to the high quality and heavy production costs.
Both the village of Vilarinho de S. Romão and this house and chapel have been mentioned by numberless authors. They refer to the house, to the families linked to it, to the history of this village - which was a borough long ago - to the charm of the surroundings, to the agronomical importance and the remarkable role their owners played along the centuries, both in cultural life as well as in innovative activities of the highest interest for the economy and for agriculture.