Ana Valentina Angelo

Santa Olaia Fortress

Under the Skies of Figueira XVII

Hello Figueira, your squares are still in bloom … and the Figueirense likes it.

The sky is blue and the sun is almost shy … the breeze refreshes the most daring who walk on the sand beside the seagulls. The corona virus scared the city, but it is already showing signs of withdrawal, as long as the safety rules are followed: no crowds, and mandatory masks in closed places. So, tourists … no, Figueira! …. your guests are mixed with figueirenses and enjoy the sand, the waves, the sea …


Being a figueirense is a unique adventure. We crave time to enjoy all the opportunities that only you, Figueira, can offer. So … let’s go for a walk.

Santa Olaia (Eulália) Fortress

I drive from Buarcos beach to the Clock Tower at Praia da Claridade and head east, and in ten minutes by car, I’m on the border between Figueira da Foz and Montemor o Velho in front of a rustic staircase that takes me to a small and old construction – the simple Chapel of Santa Olaia (or Eulália). The small sanctuary, as well as the ruins of a fortress with the same name, were considered a Public Interest Heritage in 1954, however it is not available for visits because it is waiting for restoration, since its famous dome began to collapse.


The vegetation is natural, robust, predominantly Mediterranean and contrasts with the view of the endless rice paddies that, benefiting from Mondego’s right arm, carpet the region around Monte de Santa Olaia and Ferrestelo.

Santa Olalia Chapel's Dome - photo:

The ruins of Santa Olaia (Eulália) Fortress

Entering the surroundings of the Chapel, one can see, compact stone foundations that sprout from the underbrush; these are the remains of the old Santa Olaia (or Eulália) Fortress on Monte Ferrestelo. The sensation is unique, indescribable, comments the visitor from newer continents.

The oldest documentary reference about Santa Olaia Fortress dates from 1087, in the testament of Count Sesnando, according to the “Black Book of the year 1087” ¹.

The Town of Santa Olaia

Montes de Santo Olaia e Ferrestelo - foto: Cesar Angelo

Stepping on the land where – it seems – the Phoenicians, ancient people, of commercial maritime culture in the Mediterranean Sea walked from 1500 BC to 300 BC makes me imagine the scene.

“The village of Santa Olaia is located on the right bank of the old Mondego estuary, a river that is currently about one km away, the Santa Olaia site was probably, in antiquity, a small islet” ²

Archaeological research (Santos Rocha and Isabel Pereira) has shown traces of human occupation in the place since prehistory, in the Iron Age and later in the Roman and medieval times. It is possible to say that there are archaeological remains of six settlements: one from the Neolithic period, three from the Iron Age, one from the Roman occupation (2nd to 3rd century BC and one from the Middle Ages. In 1116, the Moors destroyed the Fortress of Santa Olaia.

Historical losses on the town of Santa Olaia

Over time, the need for land connection between the region and Coimbra, both politically and commercially, as well as to facilitate access to rice fields, the settlement of Santa Olaia undergoes serious changes in its configuration due to the construction of roads, that would result in the destruction of its rich historical heritage.

Thus, it is described in the Centro de Estudios Fenicíos Y Púnicos – University of Lisbon:

“In 1937, the widening of the road now called EM 111, would cause the destruction of parts of the wall and pavements put in sight by Santos Rocha and also the embankment of the“ well ”, in order to allow access to the rice fields. More serious was (…) the damage caused by the construction of IP3, when the structures in the North (moat, wall, furnaces) were seriously affected ”.

I know, Figueira, history and archeology lovers cannot understand or even justify the loss that humanity suffers when one has to give up such rich heritage related to the values of life.

Museu Municipal Santos Rocha de Figueira da Foz

For lovers of archeology, Figueira da Foz invites you to visit the city’s Museum named after Antônio Santos Rocha (1853 – 1910) who made the first excavations at Monte de Santa Olaia de Ferrestelo where the ancient remains of the region’s settlements were found .

Museu Municipal Santos Rocha de Figueira da Foz - photo:

Column: Under the skies of Figueira
Author: Ana Valentina Ângelo