Quinta do Convento da Franqueira
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The Monte da Franqueira thickly wooded with pine eucalyptus and cork oak lies some five kilometres south-west of the notably beautiful town of Barcelos. The Monte commands a panorama of the Atlantic beyond the flatter country stretching westward on either side of the River Cavado to its mouth at Esposende and of the valley of this river framed by receding mountains running eastward to Gerez almost on the border with Spain. Its views thus cover the full width of Portugal at this latitude. From a point about one kilometre outside Barcelos on the road to the coastal town of Povoa de Varzim (Estrada Nacional 205) a secondary road now runs to a cul-de-sac view-point on top of the Monte at a height of 298 metres. Here on the rock stands a little eighteenth- -century church with a Romanesque apse which was originally a chapel. Its altar is formed of half the jasper dining table of the Moorish chieftain Salat ben Salat brought back as loot from the Portuguese capture of Ceuta on the 21st. August 1415 by Dom Afonso 8th. Count of Barcelos and 1st. Duke of Bragança. On a secondary wooded summit some two hundred feet lower to the north west lie the extensive ruins of the Castelo de Faria which until 1373 dominated the valley of the Cavado and was an occasional Royal residence. The ruins stand on land which is now State property and which adjoins the Quinta da Franqueira to the south west. They date from the 10th. centurybut the site was previously occupied by a Roman Castrum and before that by a very large prehistoric settlement or Citania. A small area of this on State property was excavated some forty years ago revealing the clearly defined foundations of the bronze-age buildings including circular houses. The castle is believed to have been developed as a fortress by Frankish military engineers from Burgundy. It has been suggested not only that Franqueira derives its name from them but that the arms of the Faria family which include five fleurs-de-lys are a heraldic link with the Royal arms of France dating from this time. In 1373 near Carapeços north of Barcelos a Castilian invading army led by Pedro Rodrgues Sarmento Adiantado de Galicia met and defeated a smaller Portuguese force under Dom Henrique Manoel Count of Seia and an uncle of the King. In this action Nuno Gonçalvez the Alcai de-Mor of the Castelo de Faria (Governor) was taken prisoner by the Spaniards. He had sortied to support the Count of Seia leaving his castle lightly garrisoned under the command of his young son Gonçalo Nunes. Having captured him the Spaniards produced the Alcaide in chains under the walls of his great castle anticipating that Gonçalo Nunes would surrender after a parley in order to save his father s life. But the old Alcaide shouted to his son on the walls a ringing and historic call to patriotism and duty forbidding him to surrender a castle he held for the King. He was lanced under his son s eyes and a great Spanish assault mounted against the walls. But the boy and his heroic little garrison held it off and the Spaniards when they could no longer live off the surrounding country were obliged to raise the siege and retire. Goncolo Nunes returned the castle he had so gloriously defended to the King and became a pr:est. The incident is rightly famous in Portuguese history. The castle seems never to have been repaired from the damage it suffered in the siege and the assault. In the year 1429 Vicente and Caterina Afonso a well-to-do couple from Oporto chose religious poverty and isolation and found them by a spring which bubbled out of the mountain (and still does) in a natural amphitheatre lying below the ruins of the Castelo de Faria. This spring they dedicated to St. John the Baptist and beside it they built themselves huts thus founding a cenoby which was the embryo of the subsequent monastery. Their little religious community grew and its huts round the Fonte de São João increased in numbers as