Guimarães Castle, Portugal

One of the things I love about digital photography is you have so many options regarding the finished photograph.  When I was shooting film, I had to use specific films for specific results.  With digital, you can shoot as a color photograph and, if you don’t like the result, use a photo editing application to modify the photo to your liking.

For instance, when we visited Portugal, I took hundreds of photographs. Many of them were “okay,” but after playing with them a bit I got something that I could live with.  Here’s a photo of Guimarães Castle, the “Birthplace of Portugal,” so named because this is where Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born.

Guimaraes Castle

The original color photograph was fairly monochromatic, with the main colors being the greyish-brown of the granite and the grey-blue of the clouds.  It wasn’t much to look at, but I thought it might make a nice black-and-white photo.  I used Paint Shop Pro 2019 and Silver Efex Pro 2, one of the Nik Collection suite of plugins, to modify the photo.

If you’re not familiar with the Nik Collection, it’s a great set of seven plugins that allow you to use the included presets or, if you are a bit more adventurous, to play with individual settings to modify your photos in a variety of ways.  In 2016 Google, the owner of the Nik Collection, began giving the suite away for free.   In 2017 DxO purchased the Nik Collection from Google.  It’s no longer free, but the $69 price tag is still a bargain.

So, back to the photograph.  After playing with some of the presets, I finally settled on something I liked much better than the original color version.  The darkened sky adds drama to the previously bland photo and the grain of the stones stands out much better in black and white.  In the days of shooting film, this would have never seen the light of day.  With digital it’s a photo I can live with.

Dukes of Braganza Palace, Guimaraes

The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza has seen a lot throughout its history.  Originally built in the 15th century as the residence of Afonso, the first Duke of Braganza, it remained in the family until the end of the century, when it was closed.

Several years later the palace was passed to the House of Aziz, when it was given as dowry to Isabel of Braganza when she wed the Infante Edward, the sixth son of King Manuel I.  For many years it remained unused.

Over the next few centuries, the abandoned palace fell into ruins, as stone from the structure was taken to build or repair roads and structures in the area.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, the palace was deemed beyond repair.

During the 1930s, plans were created for the restoration of the palace.  The reconstructed palace was based on an analysis of various medieval palaces across Europe.  The restoration was completed and the Palace of the Dukes of the Braganzas was opened to the public in 1959.

The restored palace was probably much more ornate than the original structure.  The palace served for many years as the Presidential Palace during Antonio Salazar’s Estado Novo regime.

The palace is a beautiful place and well worth a tour.  We spend a couple hours exploring the building and its many beautiful possessions.  In addition to the historical rooms and belongings, there are a couple really nice modern art displays, including a Paolo Neves sculpture and an exhibit of art by local artist José de Guimarães.

Here are a few of the photos from our tour.

José de Guimarães Exhibit

Born in Guimarães in 1939, José de Guimarães is one of Portugal’s most important artists of contemporary art.  His art is exhibited all over the world.  The small art gallery at the Dukes of Braganza Palace is dedicated to the city’s most famous artist, and has a great selection of his work.

Art Exhibit

Stone Hall, Portugal

This stone hall is in the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in Guimarães, Portugal.  I love the texture of the stone and the way the light “bends” as it goes from the floor to the wall opposite the doorway.  I also like the austerity of the hall.  Much of the Dukes of Braganza is given over to extravagance.  This simple hall appeals to me more than the palace’s many large rooms full of treasures.

Arched Light

Braganza Palace, Guimarães, Portugal

I like unusual angles.  This photo of the Dukes of Braganza Palace in Guimarães was taken from high atop the walls of Guimarães Castle.

I like how the moss on the castle walls tie in with the green grass around the palace and I like how the walls frame the palace.

Guimarães is a beautiful city, full of history.  It’s called the birthplace of Portugal, because the country’s first king, Afonso Henriques, we born here.

Palace from Castle

Arched Stairs

In March we visited the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in Guimarães, Portugal.  A beautiful structure, it’s hard to believe that a century ago the palace was in ruins.  It was renovated based on an analysis of other European palaces of the 15th century.  The newly reconstructed palace was opened to the public in 1959 and once served as an official residence of Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

The palace is full of interesting rooms with priceless antiques and paintings, but this arched staircase, with a simple wooden door at the bottom, caught my eye.  It’s primitive and elegant at the same time.

Arched Staircase

Paulo Neves Sculpture, Braganza Palace, Guimarães, Portugal, March 2018

From the plaque:

“It is said that “trees die standing tall”.  But, the leafy horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) that lived here in front of the Palace of the Dukes, and whose trunk “slices” are exhibited here, fell ingloriously on a stormy night in 2016.  The chestnut fell, but the magnificence of the trunk and the beauty of its wood deserved better fate than that of ending up heating someone’s home.

“So, we challenged the sculptor Paulo Neves to use his creativity, and his great wisdom, and sensibility to give life to the old trunk. And thus, this set of pieces was born, beautiful in their natural simplicity, open in their core, rough on their exterior, combining the lightness of the wood and the darkness of the bark and adorned with two parallel incisions in a dark shade.  The old trunk turned into art to be enjoyed by all those who come by”.

Paolo Neves Art

Everywhere we went in Portugal, there was art.  From magnificent paintings in the local church to street art painted on a wall, it’s evident that the people of this country love art.  I love this piece for its simplicity and the way Paulo Neves uses Nature itself to create art.  Beauty can be found everywhere, even in the ruins of an old chestnut tree.

 

Guimarães Castle, Portugal, March 2018

We made a day trip to Guimarães from Braga.  This beautiful city is a historically significant place, known as “the birthplace of Portugal” because Afonso Henriques, Portugal’s first king, was born here.  The castle, though, has a history older than even the founding of the country.

Guimaraes Castle

Guimarães was founded as Vimaranes in the 9th century.  It may have been named for the first ruler of the County of Portugal, Vimara Peres, who ruled the county from this area.  There’s a beautiful statue of Peres at the Cathedral in Porto.

Statue at Se
Vimara Peres, the first ruler of the County of Portugal

In the 10th century,  Countess Mumadona Dias, the most powerful woman in the Northwest Iberian Peninsula, ruled the County of Portugal from Guimarães.  A devout woman, she had he Monastery of Guimarães built.  To protect the monastery from raids by the Vikings and the Moors, she had a castle built on the hill overlooking the monastery in the place where the Castle of Guimarães now stands.

Mumadona- Guimaraes
Mumadona Dias, builder of Guimarães Castle

In 1096 Alfonso VI, King of León and Castile, gave the County of Portugal to Henry of Burgundy as dowry for his marriage to Alfonso’s daughter, Teresa.  Henry expanded and remodeled the castle.  It was here that his son, Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born.

The castle was remodeled once more at the end of the 13th century, this time by King Dinis.  This is the castle that exists today.  Over the next several centuries, though, the castle fell into ruin until, in 1836, a plan was made to demolish the castle and use its stone to repave roadways.  Fortunately, the plan was never carried out.  In 1910 the Castle of Guimarães was declared a National Monument and in 1937 the first of several restoration projects was started.

Castle Exterior 2
Castle exterior

The castle sits high above the city and provides some great views of the surrounding area.  It was built as a military fortification, and withstood several sieges during its early history.  The green space around the castle would not have existed during its use as a fortress; all of the trees and shrubbery would have been removed to eliminate hiding places for enemy invaders.

Castle Tower and Cityscape
One of the castle’s eight towers

There are eight towers surrounding a central keep.  The keep would have been where the castle’s owner would live.  The walls and towers would provide a shield for them from any attacks.

Castle Walls
The castle wall

The castle is adjacent to two other national monuments- The Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza.  The palace can be seen from the castle walls.

Braganza Palace from Castle
Braganza Palace seen from the castle wall

The Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo is a tiny church in the shadows of the castle.  Legend has it that this is where Afonso Henriques was baptized.  That may be stretching history a bit as the first reference to the church wasn’t until the 13th century.  A restoration project at the end of the 19th century took place and then, in the 20th century, several more projects were carried out to restore the church to its original medieval character.

Baptismal Chapel
Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo

The area of the castle, the palace and the church are part of the historical center of Guimarães and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  There’s a lot of history here in the Birthplace of Portugal.