The medieval monuments are an irrefutable evidence of important episodes, events and historical moments, that took place in this territory during the troubled period of the Middle Ages. With regard to monuments, the Cistercian monasteries of Arouca and S. Cristóvão de Lafões are specially worth mentioning, since these buildings, from their primitive to most contemporary structures, strongly marked the life, economy and culture of the various peoples, who have settled in these lands over the times.
Also relevant are the romanesque monuments existing in almost all municipalities of the territory, particularly in Cinfães, Castelo de Paiva, Castro Daire, Arouca and Vale de Cambra: Catholic temples and monasteries, bridges, memorials and belfries, highlighting the most expressive features of romanesque art and architecture.
Some villages, including Arouca and Castro Daire, had their origin in an old medieval town and suffered a natural evolution. Now they have the appearance of modern villages. In Cinfães, a gallows where convicts would be executed still persists from medieval times. It is called Forca Medieval (Medieval Gallows) or Forca de São Sebastião (São Sebastião’s Gallows). Countless legends of enchanted Moorish and the names of some localities of the territory, such as Almofala, Mamouros and Moura Morta, attest to the prolonged presence of the Moors in these lands.
Among the historical personalities who stood out in medieval times, we must mention Lady Mafalda, daughter of King Sancho I and granddaughter of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, who received the Arouca Monastery by her father’s donation in 1210, and was its legitimate owner until her death in 1256. Lady Mafalda, who was responsible for the prosperity of the Monastery and for the Lands of Arouca, was adopted by her people as a queen and as a saint. She extinguished the previous rule of São Pedro and adopted the Cistercian rule, and transformed the monastery in a female monastery. Beatified in 1792, the religious celebrations in honor of Queen Santa Mafalda are held every year on the 2nd of May (municipal holiday in Arouca).
The Sevéri Count was also an important personality in the local historical context, since the designation of the city of Sever do Vouga comes from his family name. The story goes that the Severi Count was a remarkable Visigoth warrior, who was involved in the struggle for the possession of the Sever do Vouga land, against the Swabians at the beginning of the 6th century, and settled in these lands after winning the battle.
King Afonso Henriques, King Manuel I and Queen Amélia had an important link to the territory, in particular because of their frequent visits to the S. Pedro do Sul Thermal Waters; because of the charters assigned to the municipalities (mostly by King Manuel I) and because of King Afonso Henriques’ childhood experiences in some of the territory municipalities.
11 Lord Egas Moniz, King Afonso Henriques’s Tutor and also an important personality in the national historical context, lived in the municipality of Cinfães and became “Lord of Ribadouro”, a highly relevant circumstance for the people of this county.