In 1148 Dom Afonso Henriques recaptured the town from the Moors. Later in 1282, the King of Portugal Dom Dinis made a wedding present of the town Óbidos to his new wife Dona Isabel. This Queen was later to become the famous subject of the “miracle of the roses”.
At that time the town was a important trading port but in the 16th Century the river access silted up and destroyed its previous trade. In the main church within its walls the later to be King, Dom Afonso V at the tender age of ten was married his young cousin Dona Isabel who at the time was also only eight years old.
Recently discovered at approximately one kilometre to the northeast of the town is the ruins of a sizable Roman town originally believed to be called Beleza Moreira.
To the visitor this charming small and fortified town is suggestive of a medieval film set. It has been carefully preserved and its inhabitants take careful pride in maintaining the architectural image of days gone by.
Impressive 18th Century blue tiles line the walls within the southern gate that is appropriately known as Porta da Vila and acts as the main entrance.
Besides its historic importance, the Igreja de Santa Maria is also the resting-place of the Count of Dijon, D. João de Noronha and his wife D. Isabel de Sousa whose tombs were finely sculpted c. 1525 by Nicolau Chanterenne.
On the opposite side of the square to the church is a Manueline pillory adorned with a fishing net that symbolizes the efforts of the local fishermen who unfortunately failed to save the Queen’s son from drowning.
The ancient town walls have been restored over the centuries and the castle itself has been carefully turned into a charming Pousada. The town was also the permanent home of a competent lady painter of the 17th Century.
Josefa de Óbidos as she is commonly known was born in Seville but her Portuguese father who was also a painter brought her back to Óbidos at the age of six where she was to remain for the rest of her life.
Not withstanding the high quality of her work, the fact that she as a woman of that time and was given public commissions and accepted in society makes Josefa de Óbidos an exceptional artist in history. The small museum alongside the main church has a just a few of her little remaining works.
Reasonably close to the town is the Santuário do Senhor da Pedra that was built as from 1740. This architectural hexagonal shaped church stands quite alone on the landscape and was sadly only completed as a building in this century.
To the north is the Spa town of Caldas da Rainha that is renown for for its Spa Hospital and local ceramic industry that can be seen in the Museu de Cerâmica. Within this town is also the Museu de José Malhoa, a prominent artist who lived from 1855 until 1933.
The museum not only exhibits a substantial collection of this artist’s works, it also has on show many of the works created by the amusing ceramist and caricaturist of the same period, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro.
To the west of Óbidos is the small fishing town of Peniche that besides its excellent fish restaurants is also know for the Fortaleza, an uncomfortable 16th Century fort that was used as a prison for political prisoners during the dictatorship of Salazar.
A local museum exists to tell the stories including the famous escape of Álvaro Cunhal, the notable leader of the Communist Party. From this town there is a ferry that takes visitors to the Berlenga Islands, a voyage of about one-hour and about 11 kms from the mainland.
These are rocky virtually uninhabited Islands that are reserved for bird life. On the largest of the Islands is a 17th Century Fort that has been converted into an unpretentious Hostel. From here small boats can be obtained to explore the coves, reefs and grottoes.
A 70-metre tunnel opening approaches the spectacular Cova do Sonho on the Island of Furado Grande into a cove lined by red granite cliffs.
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