Oral tradition in the Historic Village of Castelo Rodrigo keeps the Legend of Marofa alive. As when someone says, “amar…Ofa!” (to love…ofa!), she was the most beautiful damsel, the daughter of the richest Jew. A story of love between two religions.
Not all popular legends end in tragedy. In Castelo Rodrigo, oral tradition narrates the Legend of Marofa and has many beginnings, but they all have a happy ending. When one enters this Historic Village, it is not uncommon to hear one or another version of the legend. There are numerous versions. For all creeds. But there is hardly a better way to experience this story than by seeing a live play staged on the street with a cast of local actors and professionals, which brought this year’s “12 in Series” festival in Castelo Rodrigo to a close.
This play tells the love story between Luís, a Christian knight, and Ofa, a young, beautiful woman and the daughter of a Jew named Zacuto who received a vast fortune in the region and took refuge in the highlands. According to legend, the love affair between the two religions did not start out well. Neither Dona Guiomar, Luís’s mother, nor (especially) Zacuto wanted to hear about courtship between the two children.
But the young Luís, hopelessly in love with the Jewish damsel, decided to set an astute plan into motion to win over the Jew’s affection. He called on some friends to pretend to rob old Zacuto so that he could burst in as his savior at the right time. An act that granted him praise and invitations to be a guest at Zacuto’s home and, finally, to court Ofa, the finest of all women that the village had ever seen with its own eyes. Legend has it that the village’s name originates from the days when the young, smitten Luís would climb the mountain to sing that he would “love…Ofa,” eternizing the Serra da Marofa over time.
The love story survived several tragedies, including Dom Manuel I of Portugal, who expelled the Jews who did not convert to Christianity. After initial resistance, old Zacuto ended up assuming the Christian faith, which finally facilitated the two youths’ marriage. Based on legend, the wedding lasted three days and three nights, and many healthy children were born from this union and populated the village.
Long string of images
On these festive days, the village wears its best suit. Every nook has its charm. All the houses are decorated. One example is the long string of images displayed on doors and trees that also tell Castelo Rodrigo’s history. From photos of the landscape and people of the region to those of work tools, traditional dishes, and even local cats. You can see a bit of everything in the Corda d’Imagens pela Aldeia Histórica (String of Images through the Historic Village) exhibit, the result of a Photographic Tour on the first morning of the festival.
Whoever passes by the door of Ginjinha do Castelo can hardly resist António Salvado’s invitation to taste one of the house specialties. Both he and his wife, Rosário Camisa, were born in Castelo Rodrigo. On the days of the Legend of Marofa festival , they attend to many tourists who are looking for a characteristic memory of the Portuguese tavern. Or who “only” intended to taste a Ginja liqueur from Almeida directly from the Casa da Amélinha, the former Pátio do Ginjinha Almeida, founded in 1883. António always has interesting chit chat as he is the son of an historian who also happens to be José Hermano Saraiva’s cousin.
For an overnight stay in the village, there are lovely accommodations to choose from. For example, at Casa da Cisterna, a view of the pool with the majestic mountains and stone houses is more than a hymn to eloquence. It seems to speak for itself and to tell many stories of the time when it served as a water reservoir for the entire population.
Today, this space is home to one of Castelo Rodrigo’s most referenced tourist accommodation ventures. A project created by two professional biologists, Ana and António, who were mesmerized by this medieval village.
Casa da Amendoeira is another available option, a field house that has been renovated and transformed into lodgings where refinement and attentiveness stand out in each tiny detail.
And we cannot forget Quinta de Pêro Martins, a rural tourist house that was restored by Sara and Miguel, two architects who fell in love with this region full of traditional architecture, dazzling landscapes, and welcoming people.
And if you still need reasons to explore Castelo Rodrigo and the other Historic Villages, this is the first destination in a series at the global level and the first destination at the national level to receive BIOSPHERE DESTINATION certification. This proves their commitment to preserving the locals’ traditions, nature, and the historical and cultural heritage of these 12 villages.