Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Golegã ...

Horse sense is the thing a horse has, which keeps it from betting on people.

W C Fields



The Golegã Crest
The Golegã Crest

Golegã (say it Go-gan) is the Portuguese 'Capital of the Horse' (Capital do Cavalo), and has been the site for the gathering of breeders since at least the 18th century. Two fairs take place every November in Golegã: the Feira Nacional do Cavalo (National Horse Fair) and the Feira Internacional do Cavalo Lusitano, dedicated to the 'Lusitano' The Lusitano is an ancient Portuguese breed of horse that until the 1960's shared its registration with the Spanish horse, the Andalusian.

Both are sometimes called Iberian horses, as their land of origin is the Iberian peninsula.

These Iberian horses were developed for use in war, dressage and bull fighting.

A pencil drawing of a Lusitano stallion.
Subject and drawing are magnificient!


I think I made my position clear in the last post; I am no lover of the horse. I accept that I am probably in the minority with my take on equine hi-jinks, so I am willing to try to understand what it is that horsey-people see in them. However, being thrown together arbitrarily with these huge beasts by choosing to live in horsey-wonderland was not part of my plan.

Shit happens! But there again, horse manure appears to be a much sought-after fertilizer.

Determined to make the best of it I began asking questions about Golegã. It appears the little town is steeped in history. At this point I expect many readers of this post to switch off. History can really bore the pants off the masses. If it didn't, there would be as many historians as there are bloggers. So my task here is to try and hold your attention with a little bit of 'this' and a little bit of 'that'!

The River Tagus ('Rio Tejo') dominates the region. Along its banks, north and south, farming is the main occupation. Grape, olive and fig orchards are also in abundance. Local activities consist of wine-making and glass-blowing. Bullfighting is also a regional pastime, as you would expect in a horse-dominated region, but I shall skip over the subject here as that's a topic for a later date. There are several nature reserves in the surrounding area, dedicated to the heron and other migrating birds, and most of them are only a bicycle ride away from where we intend to put down our roots.

Apart from its horsey-status mentioned in the opening paragraph, the foremost historical sight of Golegã is its main church (Igreja Matriz da Golegã), built in the early 16th century in Manueline (Portuguese late Gothic) style. The remarkable main portal and the ribbed vaulting inside the main chapel are its most important artistic features.

The winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature, José Saramago, was born in the parish of Azinhaga in 1922.

One more significant fact. Located less than 5 kilometres from Golegã is the Quinta da Cardiga (the Cardiga Estate), on which a manor house with its origins in a 12th century donation to the Knights Templar stands. Originally the site of a castle, the property was remodelled in the 16th century into a Renaissance rural palace. Why is that important to me? Because the palace is only a couple of hundred metres away from where we intend to live after we have renovated the property that we've recently bought.

Enough, already! Time to insert a few pics ...


The horse is a prominent feature, and that includes traffic signs as well. The houses are small, but very neat and tidy, and brightly painted. The main square showing the Café Central, famous for its steaks - beef, not horse. The church is out of shot on the right.
The ornate 16th century Manueline portal of the Igreja Matriz da Golegã The interior of the church. A shot of the church lit up at night.
The Carlos Relvas Museum. It was formerly his house and studio. Lusitano's grazing peacefully in the surrounding countryside. A mare and her foal running freely. A lovely sight, even for a non-horsey person!


That's it for now. It was a simple tour of the area, and I'm sure I will come up with more in time ...

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