Very close to the Spanish border, you’ll find the medieval village of Castelo Mendo, one of the “12 Historical Villages of Portugal” (a program created by the Portuguese government in 1991, to restore and enhance a series of villages in the Beira Interior region, older than the country itself).
Castelo Mendo belongs to the Guarda district and is located just 19 km from another historical village: Almeida. Besides, it’s also of the smallest villages on the Route of the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal, so you can (and should) visit it in a more relaxed way!
So, do you want to know more about 1 Day In Castelo Mendo: The Perfect Castelo Mendo Itinerary? Keep reading!
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- Vila Gate
- São Vicente Church (or Misericórdia Church)
- São Pedro Church (or Mother Church of Castelo Mendo)
- Mendo & Menda
- Santa Maria do Castelo Church
Brief History of Castelo Mendo
Although there are traces that this place was inhabited in the Bronze Age and the Roman Empire, the actual history of Castelo Mendo begins in the Middle Ages. This is because the village received the Foral in 1229 from King Sancho II, which led to the construction of two walled centers: the Citadel and the Barbican.
Castelo Mendo was decisive in the 12th and 13th centuries, in defending the borders of the Kingdom of Portugal during the Reconquista – just like other neighboring towns. However, with the definition of the Portuguese borders, the village lost importance and many of its military constructions ended up collapsing.
Visiting Castelo Mendo
As I mentioned in the introduction, Castelo Mendo is one of the smallest historical villages – or at least with the least “dispersed” cultural heritage in terms of area. Not to mention it’s also one of the least visited villages, which means you won’t have to queue up or wait to take photos without “photobombers”!
Honestly, some of the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal can be visited in one morning or afternoon, as is the case of Castelo Mendo, Idanha-a-Velha, Linhares da Beira, Marialva, Piódão, or Sortelha. As for the others, it depends on the number of monuments you want to include in your itinerary.
Since Almeida, Belmonte, Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, and Monsanto are towns, it’s likely that you’ll need a day (or two) to explore them from one end to the other. And the same happens with Trancoso, which is a city. By the way, here’s the list of the 12 Historical Villages of Portugal:
- Almeida, in the Guarda district
- Belmonte, in the Castelo Branco district
- Castelo Mendo, in the Guarda district
- Castelo Novo, in the Castelo Branco district
- Castelo Rodrigo, in the Guarda district
- Idanha-a-Velha, in the Castelo Branco district
- Linhares da Beira (or simply Linhares), in the Guarda district
- Marialva, in the Guarda district
- Monsanto, in the Castelo Branco district
- Piódão, in the Coimbra district
- Sortelha, in the Guarda district
- Trancoso, in the Guarda district
Castelo Mendo Itinerary
The Vila Gate (ie, Town Gate) of Castelo Mendo, with its two stone turrets, is one of the most imposing monuments in this historical village. As you can see from the name, this was the main entrance to the town – now a village – for many centuries.
The Vila Gate was the link between the residences and other buildings and structures built inside the walls and the cultivated fields and pasture land outside.
On each side of the arch, you’ll also find a Verraco (or Berrão) in the shape of a pig or wild boar. These animal statues carved in granite were typical of Protohistory and these are linked to the Vettones.
São Vicente Church (or Misericórdia Church)
São Vicente Church of Castelo Mendo (ie, Saint Vicent Church, also known as Misericórdia Church) was built in the 13th century, with Romanesque and Gothic influences. However, it was the target of successive interventions in the 16th and 17th centuries, which profoundly altered its architectural structure.
With punctual finishes in Mannerist and Mudejar style, the current São Vicente Church consists of the main nave and the main chapel. The carved altarpieces were created between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century and are one of the most impressive decorative elements in this small temple!
São Pedro Church (or Mother Church of Castelo Mendo)
São Pedro Church (ie Saint Peter Church) is the Mother Church of Castelo Mendo and is still used as a place of worship by the few inhabitants who live here.
As far as is known, this temple was built at the beginning of the 14th century, on the site of an old church (of which there are no traces).
But, similarly to what happened with São Vicente Church, São Pedro Church was significantly reformulated in the following centuries.
Besides the addition of a bell tower, the gilded altarpieces in its interior and the curved pediment that adorns the main door stand out.
Did you know that the Pillory of Castelo Mendo is one of the highest in the Beira Interior region, at seven meters in height? Erected in the 16th century, this “cage pillory” – the name comes from the type of capital that crowns it – is located in a square with the same name, a few meters from São Pedro Church.
Together with the Square of São Vicente Church, Pillory Square was one of the most important public places in the old town. All kinds of social events took place here, from religious celebrations and royal announcements to judicial and administrative acts.
Mendo & Menda
Legend has it that Mendo and Menda were two lovers who spent the day looking at each other until they were embedded in the walls of Castelo Mendo! In fact, Mendo is the gargoyle on the façade of the Domus Municipalis, while Menda is in a bas-relief hidden in the façade of the house in front.
The Domus Municipalis was built in Mannerist style in the 16th and 17th centuries, on the walls of the old Citadel. At that time, it served both as a Prison (on the lower floor) and as the Town Hall and Court (on the upper floor). Today, it functions as the Tourism Office and also houses a small ethnographic museum.
Santa Maria do Castelo Church
In my opinion, Santa Maria do Castelo Church (ie, Saint Mary of the Castle Church) is the most interesting monument in Castelo Mendo. Constructed in Romanesque style at the beginning of the 13th century, it underwent profound changes in the 16th century – just like the other two churches in this historical village.
It was precisely at this time that the side chapel with an innovative Mudejar roof appeared. Unfortunately, Santa Maria do Castelo Church has reached the present day in an advanced state of degradation – it doesn’t even have a roof and, honestly, there are few elements left beyond the walls and windows!
Map of the Castelo Mendo Itinerary
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What Photography Gear Do I Use?
- Camera Body: Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless
- Camera Lens: Fujinon XF 18-55 mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS
- Tripod: Manfrotto Compact Action
- Small Tripod: Manfrotto PIXI Mini
- Smartphone Adaptor: Manfrotto PIXI Clamp
- Memory Card: SanDisk 128GB Extreme PRO SDXC