The enchanting inland city of Guarda has a strong identity made of granite stone and a rock-solid historical heritage. The imposing Cathedral of Guarda stands out as the greatest icon of the city, a living testimony of the transforming force of Time. Authentic places with character.
Rising majestically at the beautiful main square of Guarda historical center, Luís de Camões square, the construction of the Cathedral of Guarda, a "stone ship" in the words of renowned Portuguese philosopher Eduardo Lourenço, dates back to 1390. However, the construction works lasted over 150 years. It would only be completed in the beginning of the 16th century under the ruling of King Dom Manuel I.
The Cathedral of Guarda became one of the most emblematic in Portugal with a structure that creates a mixing between Gothic and Manueline styles. The imposing granite building stands out with its fortified shape, rising majestically towards heaven with its pinnacles and counterforts depicting refined Manueline decorative elements.
The interior of the Cathedral has a Gothic design. The monumental altarpiece of the head altar, carved in ançã stone by prestigious artist João de Ruão, is particularly striking. This piece portrays episodes of the life of Christ. Due to its building and aesthetic features, the Cathedral of Guarda is without any doubt one of the most important monuments in Portugal.
The view over the city from the rooftop of Guarda Cathedral (upon request) cannot be missed. Absolutely unique!
The Jewish quarter of Guarda is one of the most genuine corners of the medieval city.
Located within the city walls, the Old Jewish quarter still exists nowadays, very close to Porta D’El Rei. The Jewish community in Guarda was for a long period one of the country’s most important Jewish communities, and also one of the oldest. There is evidence that it dates back to the 13th century, when King D. Dinis gave the Royal charter (“foro”) to the Jewish communities of S. Vicente parish. One of those families was housed in the synagogue. The Jewish quarter started near Porta d’El Rei, covering the churchyard of S. Vicente Church, in the border with the city wall and Rua Direita, which led to that entry. This was the new Jewish quarter, which was a continuation of the older, mentioned in the charter of 1199.
The historical centre of the city of Guarda retains even today traces of the old Jewish Quarter. The houses in the early days were low and single-storey. From the 14th century onwards the merchants’ houses had two doors: the door opened wider to the store and the closest to the upper deck where the residence stood. The Synagogue had initially worked in a rented building, but later it was housed in a building built from scratch.
The dynamic Jewish community of the Guarda offered a whole range of services to the population: tailors, shoemakers, tanners, blacksmiths, weavers, groomers, physicists, surgeons, goldsmiths and carpenters.
The main entrance was located in Quatro Quinas (4 corners), the point where three streets converge to intersect and form four street corners. The longest of the three leads to Porta D’El Rei, one of the entries of the city. In the ancient Rua Nova da Judiaria, today Rua do Amparo, we still find the door – nowadays a confined door – of the guard’s house, where the night watchman controlled the access to the city by opening or closing the door. The Jewish quarter was thus isolated from the rest of the city, a fact that explains the protection of privacy demanded by the Jewish people itself.
The Inquisition and religious persecution misrepresented the traditional tolerance that Guarda, like other cities, lived in since the settlement. However, in the urban area that comprised the old Jewish Quarter and attached areas, inhabited by Jews, and later by New Christians, there are still marks of crosses in the doors – usually on the right side, the crosses were a symbol of the Christianization of the houses, but they are also the testimonies of the “mezuzah” that every Jew must touch with the right hand, while murmuring a prayer before entering the house.