In the Historical Village of Linhares da Beira, all the legends have color and flavor. There are many and for all tastes. But the legend that tells the story of Dona Lopa and her maid with the cloven hooves, advised by the local alcalde, still echoes loudly in the village.
Only the legends that help tell its history are older than the voluminous stones that await outsiders in Linhares da Beira, There are many. And they unravel as linen itself, the mother activity, and origin of the historical village’s name. The legends are passed along from mouth to mouth, remaining current and without losing flavor. As António Alves says. Whoever sees him, next to his sweet wife, both born and raised in the region, no one would guess that he was afraid to death of the stories told at his grandmother’s house as a kid. It was the dish of the day. And at night, it was even worse. And it didn’t help upon the return to his parents’ house.
“He always went running home,” teased his wife before the accomplice and slightly embarrassed smile of António Alves.
Those were other times. The grandmother would finish telling the legends of witches and demons, and he would straighten the path between the stone houses. Today, perhaps to scare away other fears, the couple dedicates itself to making small replicas of stone houses, which are traditional in Linhares. Perfect to the most tenuous detail. They are one of the main attractions of point 2 in the Route of Flavors in the “12 in Network” festivities. Another attraction is a good, homemade mistelle that is priceless. Or better. On festive days, the guests decide which price is fair to pay. It’s always good for warming up the body when it gets cold. Even when it’s the coldness of nightfall, fear’s palate. Since, soon enough, it will be the occasion to recreate the legend of Dona Lopa and her secret.
Preparing the broth
For now, night has not yet fallen in Linhares da Beira. The colors remain vibrant. But the party has already started. One hears the guests traveling the Route of Flavors here and there. They do not miss one little house and its specialty. The group Fidalguinhos and their little concerts provide background music. They go from one side to the other. And they seem to be everywhere.
In the garden of Inatel, the head, Tiago Bonito, bearing a Michelin star, shows the gastronomic gifts associated with the region. But, in our case, we surrender ourselves to little Matilde, 5 years old, who takes us to the entrance of one of the restaurants of the village and immediately suggests a central place in the room. One can see the window and table with two chairs reserved eternally for the last alcalde of the village, the same one who gave the name to the restaurant of the parents. Excellent Public Relations, Matilde does not take long to bring the route’s card, where number 5, referent to the house, is already duly stamped.
However, night begins to fall. It happens quickly in Linhares.
Drinking the legends
There have been those who tasted the maid’s snacks and did not complain. Who is the maid? Nothing like running to the Misericórdia square to watch “O Segredo da Dona Lopa” (Dona Lopa’s Secret) live. Become a part of the street production directed by the Associação Hereditas. The square gradually fills itself. The people went to the street to hear the argument that ensued in loud bellows.
“It’s a killer!” some scream.
“It’s the devil!” others add.
They argue over a young woman who has recently arrived in Linhares, suspected of the worst spells. For example, some say that she had assigned the worst fate to her old patron, in a neighboring village. She denies everything. They were all rumors from the neighbors and the population.
“Criminal!” the villagers continue.
The alcalde is the only one who doesn’t join the people’s cries, enchanted by the young woman. Even worse. Informed of the interest of the countess of Linhares for a young woman with a similar profile to be her maid, he soon tries to present her for that purpose. And the spell.
Unfortunately for her, Dona Lopa is seduced by the young woman’s guile and the advice of the alcalde of the village and chooses her as her maid. The “broth had spilled.”
The story spreads throughout the village and abroad. One can say that some physical material is needed to follow every moment. Until Fernando appears, an old native local, however, back as a Franciscan and baptized as António. Only he can shed some light on the situation.
“The countess is crazy,” some alert.
“The maid blinded her!” others voice.
Fortunately, the Franciscan had an original idea.
“Your maid is not who you judge,” he begins to warn.
“I said so!” several yelled.
“I wasn’t the one who chose her,” dismisses the alcalde.
But the Franciscan kept his serenity.
“Sprinkle flour at the door of the countess’s house!”
“Are they going to bake bread?” asks a distracted villager.
“And you will see that the maid leaves behind the devil’s goat tracks!” added the Franciscan, António, his (new) name.
He said it. And it was done. It does not take long to hear the countess of Linhares scream.
“Help! Help!” she screams.
Overall panic in the village. People running from one side to the other.
“I said it was the devil!” one hears.
The goat tracks have left their mark at the entryway of Dona Lopa’s house. There is no doubt left regarding the tracks in the flour.
Running. Screaming. Torches in hand. Everyone, all of us, in pursuit of the creature. And once inside the castle, we corner her.
The devil is wrapped in a blanket. Crouched over. When the devil gets up, the maid herself appears dressed in a white veil. She disappears, at a slow pace, over the walls, taking the countess, the alcalde, and all the other characters with her. After a juggling performance with fire, everyone goes back. The maid takes us by surprise, everyone, spectators, people, still with torches in hand, to say that, in the end, the devil may even be us. Maybe. But there isn’t even time to reflect on the subject.
When we begin to put one foot over the other and go down the stones that separate the castle from the village, the Marafona make their drums and thick voice be heard. They are encrusted in the middle of stones and illuminated by a red light that composes the music. They do not waste time in singing “Justiça do Diabo” (Devil’s Justice), which makes complete sense in such scenery. While I listen to them, I try to eat the Maid’s Broth, which was green, after all. There are worse sins.
A castle turned into a stage
The program for entertainment, culture, and gastronomy of the Historical Villages of Portugal “12 in Network,” whose fifth “stage” took place in Linhares, is a good pretext to explore in a different and festive way this important cluster of medieval urban centers and even learn a little more about the History of Portugal.
Despite the intense activities program, “O Tesouro da Meia Noite” (The Midnight Treasure) party in Linhares is loose enough to allow the visitor to discover the streets, heritage, and people of Linhares.
Sculpted into half of the mountainside of the northeast slope of the Serra da Estrela, Linhares da Beira prominently dominates the Mondego basin and offers a mountainous landscape with the rustic, typical beauty of the Beira. Its strategic location guaranteed remote occupation that dates back to the Turduli, with traces of Roman, Visigoth, and Muslim presence. We are right in the territory of Monte Hermínios and the Lusitanian tribes, based on the history written here in each nook of the mountain range.
A village founded in the medieval age, with a charter conceived in 1169 by D. Afonso Henriques, Linhares went on to lose this village statute with the liberal administrative reform of 1855. But its castle and urban model created within the context of the Christian Reconquista remain as a live memory of our history. Walking through the village, signs of a medieval population model (12th-14th centuries) are clear, combined with development and buildings from the quinhentista (16th century) and Renaissance periods. But it is the imposing castle that dominates the whole landscape and leaves a watermark in Linhares.
It’s a towering fortress implanted on a stony head nearly 820 meters high, where the Mondego Valley begins. Classified as a National Monument in 1922, the castle exhibits two towers, the Keep and the Watch Tower. “Surrounded by a long walled perimeter where the battlements extend, or surrounding paths to discover, and the access stairs,” the castle erected during the reign of D. Sancho I was the stage of numerous tragic and heroic episodes in fights against Castilian invaders. But today, instead of war drums, there are bagpipes and traditional Portuguese instruments reverberating from the walls. Instead of raised flags, illustrations projected onto the wall in an impressive light and sound show, with the grandiose scenery of the centennial castle walls.
The devil’s music and the midnight treasure
On a granite stage, the “Seiva” trio, composed of Joana Negrão, Vasco Ribeiro Casais, and Rita Nóvoa, demonstrate that traditional Portuguese music breathes new life. Inspired by the Beira’s musical repertoire and resorting to a panoply of traditional instruments, such as the daf or the accordion, “Seiva” uses electronic music without desires or false purism for compositions of great dreamlike force. The new Portuguese folk sets the rhythm of the party in Linhares da Beira and creates the nocturnal atmosphere for the performance of the “Lenda do Tesouro da Meia Noite” (Legend of the Midnight Treasure), which served as the motif for this party for three days of entertainment.
Community street theater, theater that takes us through the steep streets of Linhares, recreating an episode of folklore and the imaginary of this mountain village-fortress.
Legend has it that Bernardo da Costa, a greedy man worthy of Moliére, was a rich property owner who exploited and enslaved his tenants, which allowed him to accumulate an overwhelming fortune. Up until here, nothing new in the history of many villages of the border. The tale gains fantastic dimensions at the funeral of Bernardo da Costa. The people say that Bernardo da Costa’s spirit showed up to hunt, telling his tenants that he forgave their rent. “At the wake, they found that the coffin was full of rocks and that there was no sign of the body…From then on, whoever worked on the properties of Bernardo da Costa’s family constantly heard gargles of laughter and other noises and felt a spirit grabbing their clothes.”
Not even in the peace of the tombs did the greedy man cease to torment the people. Some time afterward, an inhabitant of Linhares dreamed of a treasure three nights in a row – Bernardo da Costa’s treasure. A voice from beyond whispered the treasure’s location to the poor believer, who would have to go to the stone graves in the Quinta da Fidalga at midnight. The voice even told the treasure hunter that he would have to go on this expedition alone, but afflicted and afraid, the sleepwalker decided to take a friend. When they arrived at the gravesite, they found the fabulous treasure, but it was totally burned.
Recreating these moments involved passing through some of the most emblematic locations of Linhares, such as the magnificent Royal Court mansion, the old guesthouse, the chamber house and prison, the diving fountain, or the Misericórdia church, constructions that are testament to the various eras recorded into the history of Linhares, and that on a night walk, lighted by the torches of the actors of “A Lenda do Tesouro da Meia Noite,” gain a haunting presence.
To scare away the spirits and demons, Bernardo da Costa’s sphinx was burned, the devil’s broth (which was green like the maid’s) was drunk, and burned distilled alcohol, “the one that best scares away the devil,” was distributed.
The night went on until a fantastic performance by Vasco Ribeiro Casais, now working solo with his project Omiri, which runs through a traditional Portuguese repertoire with a thousand instruments and an electronic touch of the devil, with an electronic remix and video projection based on the documentary series “A música portuguesa a gostar dela própria” (Liking Portuguese Music). The Omiri project, as presented by the author himself: “To reinvent tradition, nothing better than to bring the true intervening parties of our culture to the show itself; to play and sing music and sounds from all around the country as if they were a part of the same universe. Not physically, but in sound and image, with collections transformed and manipulated in real time, serving as a basis for musical composition and improvisation.”
A devil’s dance to scare off the evil spirits in a territory where it is impossible to visit without filling the spirit.