First Pousada de Portugal opens on Madeira, joining other new hotels
Discovering "A Raia" - frontier lands between Portugal and Spain

The Portuguese queen who turned bread into roses

There are a couple versions of this legend, but the tale goes that in the 13th century, Queen Isabel of Aragon - wife to King Denis of Portugal, who ordered the planting of the country's oldest pine forest - inexplicably transformed bread into roses as she was helping the hungry.

So, 13th century Portugal lacked resources and, despite the King's efforts and agricultural reforms, the majority of the population was still quite poor. At the time, dozens of people gathered daily outside the Castle of Leiria, as the Queen distributed bread to the poor. Unimpressed by his wife's kindness, King Denis eventually forbade the Queen giving food to those seeking for help and ordered the peasants to go back to the fields. 

Queen Isabel of Aragon became conflicted, because while she didn't want to challenge the King's will, she couldn't remain indifferent to the misery around her. So, before her daily outings, the Queen started hiding loafs of bread in her royal mantle and nobody could tell that she continued feeding the poor.

One day, as the Queen was leaving the Castle, the King had grown suspicious of her many outings and confronted her before all the royal court. Castelo_de_Leiria_(vista_geral)

"What are you carrying there?", he asked. Queen Isabel promptly replied she was holding roses from her garden. Unconvinced by her answer, the King asked once again. "Roses, my lord, roses!", she cried in fear of being caught. King Denis insisted she showed what was tucked inside her mantle and, as the Queen unwrapped the forbidden bread, she revealed a bundle of roses sitting on her lap.

This feat soon became known as the Miracle of the Roses and Queen Isabel of Aragon was later canonized, becoming Saint Isabel of Portugal. The late Queen is buried in the Convent of Santa-Clara-a-Nova in Coimbra, which she founded. Her tomb is decorated with silver and crystals, and can be visited today in the convent

As for Leiria, it is just over an hour from Lisbon - and the castle is an national moment today. The city boasts a river that flows uphill, a tower that does not have a cathedral, a cathedral that does not have a tower, and a High Street that is not straight. So, so they say.


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Vivian Medeiros Mcfadden

My mother immigrated to Hawaii from Madeira with her family at the age of 2. She never did get to return to see the place of her birth, so in 2005, 2 of my daughters and 2 of my grand daughters accompanied me for 2 weeks in Madeira where we tried to piece together some of her and her family's history. Would love to return.

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