From Monte dos Olivais to Jardim da Sereia ("mermaid's" park)

Itinerary: From Monte dos Olivais to Jardim da Sereia ("mermaid's" city park)

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Itinerary road map

Just click and start your itinerary. Diretly with the Google Maps or sending the coordinates to your mobile, just click at "more options" and enjoy.

You will find cultural and touristic information about interesting stopping points that you can easily reach with a click on the Itinerary road map

When you reach a stopping point, give yourself some time to explore the surroundings as well as the information we gathered, before you click to restart your walk! How about taking a photo and send it to us, so we can co-create a Booksteps®' Journal.

Enjoy. Restart and ... 

Let yourself have an amazing experience!

Igreja de Santo António dos Olivais (Santo António dos Olivais church)

This is the same place where, in the beginning of the 13th century a new community of friars inspired António, born Ferdinand, to change his lifepath and become a Fransiscan. Let´s go back to those times for a few moments. Disclaimer: we need to place ourselves in those times, with a way of thinking completly different from what we have now; even the words we use had a quite different meaning.

In the beginning of the 13th century, Monte dos Olivais was in the outskirts of the city we know as Coimbra. It would take lots of time, half a day or more, to walk up here from what is now known as downtown. Ferdinand, born in Lisbon, came to study at Santa Cruz Monastery, joining the Augustinians community, the same he had joined in His early years in Lisbon. Ferdinand (that from now on we'll name António, as he is known worldwide) came to study in what was at the time one of the most important and prestigious cultural centres in Europe, what we would call today a highly prestigious Academy.

António lived in Coimbra for almost 10 years, his Academic years, so to speak. Around 1218 he met five young Franciscan friars (a new religious order, 1217, created by Francis of Assis) who stopped here on their way to the north of Africa. They became friends. António discovered a different way of living what he had learned from the Bible (Did you know that He knew the Bible by heart, from back to front?!). In 1220, this five Fransiscan friars "returned" to Coimbra as relics (they were barbariously killed for religious reasons, and became the first Franciscan Martyrs), and this was the trigger for António to change His lifepath: now he wanted to follow His Franciscan friends' footsteps. 

António left the Augustinians and came to Monte dos Olivais, this same place, to become a Franciscan: that's also when He decided to change His name from Ferdinand to António; the small community of friars welcomed António and that same year, António started His worldwide journey as Franciscan, and became the greatest portuguese walker and Ambassador of all time.

António died in Arcella, Padua (Italy) in the 13th June 1231 and became a Saint less than a year after;  in the 1940's He was given the title Doctor (Teacher) of the Church. Santo António is a worldwide citizen, you will find him represented in almost every country. Did you notice? 

Let's come back to the 21st century and discover what we can find now at this same place. Symbols tell stories and help us interprete what we see. Stairs that invite us to climb up to a higher place, with a challenge: 3 archs as open doors, inviting us to cross through one of the church pillars (faith, hope and charity). What's your choice?

In the church façade a sculpture of Saint Francis, holding a scull, reminds us that vanity is a waste of time as we all end our lives on earth in the same way  

Just before crossing the iron gates we can feel the embracing open arms of the Fransiscan community in the architecture of the main entrance. 

In the entrance room, look at the painting in the ceiling: the Franciscans' symbol (two arms crossed: an unsleeved arm, Christ, and a sleeved one, Saint Francis); on each side iron doors from the 20th century, each one telling stories: the one on your left leads you to a small chamber with a Pietà and the one on your right leads to a corridor that will take you directly to the secretariat and other dependencies; take a look: there's Saint Anthony of Egypt, founder of christian monasticism, represented (you'll find a sculpture of Him in the altar, on the righ side), as He was the patron saint of the small community of Franciscans who lived up here and whose name inspired Fernando when He changed His lifepath and became António (Anthony). 

Let´s cross the medieval arch and go inside the church!

Blue 18th century portuguese tiles tell us stories, some of the miracles, for which António became known and loved by people all around the world. Can you find out which are they? The Sermon to the Fishes, for example. You will find them represented in other places, either in painting or tiles. 

Now let's go to the sacristy, the most amazing treasure you'll find up here; looking like a church inside the church, a painting from Pascoal Parente (18th century) in the altar represents the moment when António changed his lifepath; can you detect some differences between the two religious orders? 

Let's look up at the ceiling. Now we have a different symbol from the one on the entrance room: the Bishops' coat-of-arms.

The Franciscans community left this place at the end of the 13th century and went to a new Convent on the left side of the Mondego river bank; in the beginning of the 19th century (1834) all religious communities had to leave Portugal and so did the Franciscans, who were invited to return to Monte dos Olivais, to this same place, only in the 1960's.

Curious about the story of this inspiring place? Just take a look at Booksteps® library where you can find some more information or ...    

in case you want a tour guide/ heritage interpreter, contact us!

FEUC - Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra

Why stop here? Simply to appreciate the arquitecture of this special University building. Two main city streets are connected through stairs that take you through a private garden, almost romantic style. The building itself has a story to tell: from the portuguese "art noveau" style of the 1920's-1930's to its resemblance to the University Tower and Saint Michael's Chapel façade (did you know that this house, the tower on your right, is the highest spot of the University of Coimbra?).

Look at the bright colours of the decorative motives, the round balconies, but also to the way they were taylored so as to create a festive urban cenography. This was one of the first Manor houses to be build in this street and the main building remains almost as it was from the very beginning. It's amazing the way the University links and mingles so well with city life, can you feel it? 

Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Celas - Cister Abbey

Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Celas (Santa Maria de Celas Monastery) is part of the European Network of Cister Abbeys. The Monastery was founded in the 13th century by D. Sancha, one of the daughters of D. Sancho I, the second portuguese king. Imagine you are in the 13th century, who would you find here? a community of girls, young ladies, coming from some of the most important families of the kingdom, who chose to go or create a Monastery to have some kind of independancy. D. Sancho I believed that his daughters and sons had the same rights  - the first born would be the king, of course, but the properties and economic independance would be equal for all. Can you see how ahead of his time our King was?! D. Sancha didn't join the religious community, though she had her own cell (like a small room to pray and where to be most of the day; you can see it on your right, when you enter the church), so as to keep her independancy, economic but mostly diplomatic. The Monastery begun to house a small community that already lived in small cells (here's the origin of the Monastery's name, Celas, from cell). It started by the round church you can see today, with cells all around. 

You can look for more detailed information at Booksteps Libray, but in the meanwhile lets go in and take a look at the truly unique medieval storied cloister. You will not find another like this in Europe! 

The Monastery had a kind of farm, with people coming from the surrounding places to work in the fields, from olive trees to vinyards, but also sheep, chicken, vegetables, ... all that was needed for the community's nutrition but also to be given to people in need. We believe that some sweet pastry and other culinary portuguese receipes and traditions came to our century due to this workers / helpers by word of mouth, mostly. 

Time for a tasty stop.    

In case you want a tour guide/ heritage interpreter, contact us!

Tosta Rica - bread and pastry shop

Meeting our retailers is part of the experience, allowing you to feel and be immersed in the community. At Tosta Rica you can taste some of the recipes that we believe belonged to the Monastery (Manjar Banco, Arroz Doce, Marmelada, ....) but also new recipes inspired by the products you could find during the time the Monastery had a religious community. A reminder: as with the masculine religious orders, in 1834 the feminine monasteries had also to close, though the nuns were allowed to remain until the last one died; new entrances were completely forbidden).

With a portuguese cup of coffee, let's taste "Mimos de Santo António", a sweet tartlet named after Santo António, that won a contest for best tartlet in the 1980's; with some medieval inspired ingredients in its composition and a twist of contemporary flavours.  Take a bite, try to find them out and, better still, ask the baker! 

Are you curious about portuguese gastronomy? Take look at Booksteps® Libray and you may find something there.

Jardim da Sereia - "mermaid's" city park

Jardim da Sereia. Nature at its best for you to enjoy. Breathe. Listen. Smell. Enjoy. Feel. Taste. What we now know as city park, belonged to Santa Cruz Monastery until 1834; it was inside the property and farm that was part of the Monastery; since the 20th century a new urban plan gave it the cenography we experience today: a big roudabout, near the entrance, opens up (irradiates) to several streets and a large main avenue having in the middle greenery and small lakes that takes us downtown.

Sereia has also been transformed and adapted all through the years, from a forest to what we can enjoy today, lots of stories can be guessed, some serenades can be imagined; back in the 18th century the community decided to create a cenography that would represent "paradise on earth", a place where the friars came to meditate, have some kind of holiday, in a word: to have some time for themselves. 

Since the Municipality bought the park it became one of the most iconic Coimbra city parks' and also a unique natural outdoor city concert hall.

The park is dedicated to Nature, specially to water: the source of all life. You will see this in the magestic cascade, that looks like an altar dedicated to Nature, when you look inside in from the 3 arches on the entrance; but also on the big lake and the iron contemporary art (7 pieces) you can see spread all around and listening to the sound of water running constantly along "streams" and spring fountains.

Sustainability in the middle of the city in a cenography that goes back to the 18th century and before. Enjoy. Take a deep breath and why don't you take a juice and a slice of homemade cake on the Tea House you have inside the garden?     

In case you want a tour guide/ heritage interpreter, contact us!

Other amazing points worth a visit

Santa Cruz Monastery

Machado de Castro National Museum

Catedral de Santa Maria - Coimbra's Old Cathedral