Currently, the municipality’s 47,817 inhabitants are spread over 216.72 Km2 and spread over 36 parishes: Aboim, Agrela, Antime, Ardegão, Armil, Arnozela, Cepães, Estorãos, Fafe, Fareja, Felgueiras, Fornelos, Freitas, Golães, Gontim , Medelo, Monte, Moreira do Rei, Passos, Pedraído, Queimadela, Quinchães, Regadas, Revelhe, Ribeiros, Arões (São Romão), Arões (Santa Cristina), São Gens, Silvares (São Clemente), Silvares (Santa Cristina), Seidões, Serafão, Travassós, Várzea Cova, Vila Cova, Vinhós.

Taking into account the geographical characteristics of the municipality, we can suggest its division into two distinct parts, taking into account the identities of the dominant relief and the forms of organization of the housing clusters: the parishes of the North and those of the Center/South of the Municipality.

The North – plateau – is the place where the small villages of a concentrated type are found, and, at the same time, where the highest altitude points of the local territory are inscribed: Monte do Santinho (Quinchães) 706 m; Pousa Foles (São Gens), 718 m; Serra do Marco (Povoação, São Gens), 851 m; Maroiço (São Miguel do Monte), 834 m; Morgair (Gontim), 893 m; Monte de Penas Aldas (Freitas), 543; Santa Marinha (Freitas/Travassós), 597 m; Listoso (São Vicente de Passos), 584 m; Santo Antonino (Santa Cristina de Arões), 526 m; São Sabagudo (Armil), 542 m; Calvelo (Seidões), 724 m.

The rural architectural structures, taking into account the function, are composed of housing, animal shelter equipment and structures dedicated to agricultural products (storage and drying of cereals, hay and herbs).

These structures gain different dimensions and shapes according to the natural characteristics of the place and the size of the property to which they are connected. The plateau morphology, altitude, climate and the nature of the soil shaped the type of settlement, the organization of the property and the modes of exploitation of local resources.

Thus, if the natural environment conditioned and typified each of the micro-regions, we do not ignore the social and technological factors associated with humanizing processes, as well as the social acts that distinguish them.

The relief features existing in the landscape still hide small and old villages, some more sheltered from the north winds and others whose occupation was determined by the abundance of the springs.

From the observation of the distribution of population agglomerations in the North, it can be concluded that the plateau and the slopes of the North are made up of a high number of small inhabited places and dispersed agglomerates in the mountain and, at the same time, a small number of villages: Vilela ( Quinchães); Casadela (Quinchães); São Lourenço (Quinchães); Montim (Quinchães); Burgers (São Gens); Povoação (São Gens); Vila Pouca (Moreira do Rei); Barbosa (Moreira do Rei); Vilela (Moreira do Rei); Bastelo (Várzea Cova); Lagoon (Várzea – ​​Cova); Gontín; Millstones (Aboim); Argande (São Miguel do Monte); Luilhas (São Miguel do Monte); Casal de Estime (São Miguel do Monte); Chestnut tree (Travassós); Listoso (São Vicente de Passos) and other small places like: Vilardoufe, Fontela, Barbeita, Santa Cruz, Cheda, Calcões.

Small in size, there are also the agglomerates of Aboim, Gontim, Pedraído, Várzea – ​​Cova, Felgueiras, São Miguel do Monte and Queimadela, these with parish status.

These are some of the inhabited places on the Montelongo plateau that extend across that vast geographic area, whose inhabitants still maintain an agriculture with poor, predominantly sandy soils.

About these places Maria Palmira (1952), it was said that one walked through hills and mountains where no one was seen, but only, from far to far, herds of goats and sheep guarded by a little boy, feeling, whoever dared this walk, isolated and in a desert or uninhabited region.

The plateau and the intermediate platforms of the slopes presented the natural conditions suitable for the application of the first agricultural techniques and the first agrarian experiences of the Neolithic: existence of water on the surface throughout the year, where water lines are formed and a sandy soil of easy incision. .

It can be said that the Northman was always more a shepherd than a farmer, without ever having achieved economic relief; rather, assuming a precarious and isolated existence, where the technical solutions found to solve problems of community adaptation to climatic adversities, namely architectural models and spatial organization, are closely related to the characteristics of the community’s social system.

The houses are adjusted to the slopes of small hills, with the housing complex being developed on the slopes that present, throughout the day, better sun exposure, facing south and west, reserving the foot of the hill for agriculture. Some of the parishes that have developed on the steepest slopes facing north do not respect that orientation, with a large amount of running water from the springs of the slopes, throughout the year.

All of them organized a landscape of settlement concentrated in the northern plateau, where animals and people are sheltered, gaining some constructions in breadth and constructive dimension, not being strange the action of increased income resulting from the expansion of the property and also from the export of capital from the nineteenth-century emigration.

«In the northern parishes, the houses are all close to each other, forming true population clusters that, ordinarily, constitute the different places. […] Luilhas is located on the hillside, half-disappeared by the dark gray color of its hedges, almost all made of stone, some still thatched, completely darkened by the time and lack of cleanliness of their owners. It looks like a dead village between oaks and rare pines that monotonously frame it.

  1. Miguel do Monte has joy and life in the varied vegetation, in the whitening of its houses, all whitewashed, even the poorest, which can be seen from very distant regions.

Northern houses were the object of my particular attention. They are, generally, ground floor, and with a floored dependence. The kitchen is located on the ground floor, which I was most interested in, while the second floor is destined for the bedroom or bedrooms.

I also found houses with one floor, served by an external stone staircase, reserving the ground floor – the court – for the animals’ shelter.

The poorest houses are not very clean. Not so in the southern parishes where, even in single-story houses, care and solicitude sometimes rival and exceed, at times, those of wealthy and noble people.” [ 1]

If the rural architectural complex was expanded, at the end of the 18th and 19th century, with the juxtaposition of new elements (granary, threshing floors and porches), mainly in the Center/South, which was made possible by the existence of more labor and the existence of increased income for their owners, small agricultural equipment appears beyond the limits of the traditional set.

If these mountain places in the north of the county mark the first places of human occupation, the next moment of the process of humanization of the landscape is characterized by the progressive approach to the valleys, where, at the dawn of history, the Castros located on the hills of the Center / South of the Municipality, located in open spaces and close to valleys with abundant water.

Technological reasons linked to the use of new materials, namely iron, and new technologies, give rise, from this time on, to two distinct environments: the plateau and the valley.

Thus, the conditions of integration and interdependence of Man, nature and technology, determined, over the centuries, the process of humanization of territories, which began in the North plateau and which lasted over time with the settlement of populations in the riverside areas of the south, mainly during Romanization and during the Middle Ages.

The interpretative division of the territory into two distinct parts, arises in this humanizing process, through the construction of particular social ecosystems, with a progressive demographic and population expansion in the Center and South of the county, more open, since the Middle Ages, by the existence of old routes of communication linking the coast to the interior, the movement of people, as well as the ease of reception of new technologies and new social behaviors.

The social system of interdependence is expressed by the traditional practice of grazing by a single person who leads the mountains to Vezeira, made up of the sheep and goats of all those who have this type of livestock. In winter, at eleven o’clock, at the sound of a horn, the herds leave in search of pastures, returning at the end of the night. Each animal is marked by a colored ribbon indicating the owner’s family.

The use of mountain pastures is managed by the entire community as if it is a good for all, with the “bezeira” still being maintained as a way of grazing small animals, and those who have a machete are not required to take the herd. (goat), a practice still observed in the place of Lagoa, divided by the parishes of Aboim and Várzea Cova. Every day the shepherd was different, who changes as many times as there are families that have cattle in the “bezeira”.

These inhabitants maintained a precarious economic existence with social implications, such as the emergence of a mythical vision, in the forties and fifties of this century, of bands of robbers, whose effects were manifested during periods of lower migration and emigration:

«Thieves, only those from Luilhas and the famous gang of the lucky ones, who are close to a hundred, all from the same family, living in Felgueiras, on the slopes of a hill, almost in a community, from the robberies they carry out. The authorities want nothing with them because they are rebellious and vengeful.” [7]

Here, the low profitability of agricultural land and the inability to promote its expansion contributed to the maintenance and valorization of activities related to grazing and determined a social system of cooperation through the distribution of tasks and inter-aid in pastoral activities.

Individual property has a strong social mark, whether in terms of the house, the animals, or even the management of time as property, especially if this is linked to the use of collective facilities.

Here, time had the dimension of ownership, measured by the duration of use of the mills and irrigation water, which had long been marked and faithfully fulfilled without the existence of written contracts having been observed.

Thus, as if it were a ritual, everyone witnessed and controlled the rules and the times of its use, which did not fail to produce conflicts and, at times, deaths.

The mills are small, serving several owners, who are collectively responsible for their maintenance and operation. The property of milling time is here a symbol and reference of the size of the property and the social importance of its owner.

Concerning the Center/South of the municipality, José Augusto Vieira uses the expressions: “wide basin”, “an extensive valley”, correctly defining the morphology and orography of the center and south, as being , in fact, the relief elements that best characterize it.

Here, the agricultural area with the most fertile soils corresponds to the installation sites of the main population clusters, based on an open landscape. There are old river channels and irrigation systems specific to individual farms, in which the productive autonomy of the agrarian units allows the cultivation of corn, potatoes, beans, hanged vines, the production of hay and herbs.

«At the bottom of a hill, on which the house of Vieira de Castro stands, a stream of clear waters meanders, which will join the Ave. The craggy banks of this stream were our walk of forced predilection, which we had no other.

With us was Neptune, the Newfoundland dog, which I had given to my friend, as if to give one of the rare beings of creation for whom I have felt the most feelings of affection. Neptune played in the stream of the brook, and thus gave us hours of leisure, which the human race could not have given us more fun than numb regrets.

There is in that stream a waterfall in which the torrent boils, thunders, and breaks with great noise in a basin bristling with rocks.

The marginal trees entwine themselves in a dark pavilion over the basin, leaving small margins of grass on granite flakes on which we would sit, me at least, while Vieira de Castro chatted in Fafe style with the miller at the neighboring watermill. The picturesque place is called: Ponte do Barroco.” [8]

The center/south of the county, having a low altitude relief, facilitated contacts between neighboring parishes and with the headquarters of other counties, facilitating the modification of behavior.

« Quinta do Ermo is located in the most despotic and sad spot on the world map. The house is magnificent; but the paths that lead to it are caves, baroques, goat trails, crooked alleys and rough gorges.

The pine forests and groves that border part of the farm are stunted and unattractive.

The wide viewpoints, even though monotonous, have to be gained with great effort on the way up. The neighborhood of Ermo are small houses of newsboys, who came there looking for the shadow of the noble building.” [ 9]

The vines, planted in these areas of high humidity, are raised in height, adjusted to the trees that flanked the fields and reached spectacular heights, seeking the winds and thus moving away from the soil moisture that prevented its maturation and the its development.

Here are located the largest agricultural units indicated by 26 coats of arms from the 18th and 19th century, implanted in the facades of the houses or incorporated in exuberant gates or walls of the residential property of landlords, existing in the parishes of Medelo, Golães, Fafe, Fornelos, Quinchães, Armil, São Romão and Santa Cristina de Arões, Moreira, Ribeiros, emerging as symbols of prosperity and manorial powers. [10]

The property is called a farm here and the hills are extensively wooded with maritime pine, eucalyptus and some cork oaks, so grazing is not observed. The cattle graze in the fields or are fed in the corrals. Corn is more intensively produced here and the ramada wine is of better quality.

The main factor of development and the economic and social success that the inhabitants experienced was based on the rural property, where they affirmed their technical knowledge and defined social and cultural behaviors that lasted locally until the 1960s.

But the great transformation of the landscape takes place with the introduction of Amerindian cultures, of which maize and potatoes stand out.

The habitat is semi – dispersed and «the houses are spread throughout the parish» [11] and it is still recognized today the existence of groups of traditional dwellings integrated in the agricultural space, organized in nuclei still relatively homogeneous and distinct from the current constructions, more marked by the road axes.

At the top of small hills you can see the parish churches, strategically located on short elevations, from whose towers you can easily see and watch over the parish territory, functioning as the main reference for the villages and their inhabitants.

The valley, where most of the most populated and rich places in the county were developed and in which the socio/cultural references of the parish were installed, namely the parish church, constitutes the main element of affirmation and reference of this territorial area.

In this area, with water that is periodically abundant or intensively used and divided by consorts, the climate is milder, the soil richer, the fields more extensive and irrigated, which, together, enabled the emergence of more profitable production units, generators of more wealth and houses of greater prosperity and size.

« In the parishes in the center and south of the municipality, the living conditions are different, greatly influencing the way of being of men.

In these, especially in those closest to the village, agriculture is less appreciated, there is more spirit of independence, more autonomy.

Each one is concerned with what concerns him/her and is disinterested in the life of others. I was amazed at the depopulation of some villages which, as they were located on the outskirts of the town, easily fell in love with city life, quickly exchanging the sedentary and equally laborious life of the countryside for the daily hustle and bustle of factory life» [12 ]

The oil mills, water mills, hydraulic sawmills, hydroelectric power stations and a paper mill are the many forms of application of water energy that can still be identified in the beds of the rivers of Fafe, without forgetting that they were responsible for the installation of 19th century textile industries.

This serpentine valley, always guarded by churches, strategically located on small hills and, from whose towers it is easy to see and watch the extension of the populated territory, without the songs of the happy girls among cornfields that once challenged hidden meetings or guarded courtships in the fields.

« In the village and neighboring and southern parishes, people are much more sociable, talking to strangers as if they had known them for a long time.

In general, the people are generous, disinterested and recognized. I got all the information and clarifications I wanted, without having to pay large amounts of money. If I offered them my lunch, after some excuses, they accepted; not so when it came to money.”


If in the north the agglomerates stand out, in the Center/South what stands out in the landscape are the wide fields, the flat green and the dispersed character of the dwellings, although less and less visible or perceptible, being, in 1952, the old town of Fafe, a pole of demographic attraction: « I was amazed at the depopulation of some villages which, as they were located on the outskirts of the town, easily fell in love with city life, quickly exchanging the sedentary and equally laborious life of the countryside for the daily hustle and bustle of factory life. » [14]

The parish of Fafe as the only “urban” space in the municipality, where the administration of the municipality is located, appears already in the 19th century, as a place of new symbolic representations and other forms of daily life, where those who do not love agricultural work live.

As an indicator of living in the local territory, at the end of the 19th century, the means of transport was on foot and through the mountains.

«I went from Santo António das Taipas to the outskirts of Fafe, Quinta do Ermo, where José Cardoso Vieira de Castro was waiting for me with open arms and a smile […].

I won’t forget an impression that I brought with me for a long time through those mountains, where I spent three months. It was the image of a woman who had carried my trunk from Guimarães to Ermo over her head, across a league and a half of steep mountains. […] Don’t remind me of my life, sir.

Pretend I’m a wretch, who’ll get sixpence with this trunk on her head. […].” [15]

The agrarian properties of the Center/South assumed greater autonomy, generating a more autonomous exploration process dependent only on the household or resorting to wage labor.

«In the center and south, the houses are spread throughout the parish. I still saw some thatched in the north, but few. They are almost all made of stone and tile, without lime. But, alongside these, there are good buildings, whitewashed houses, with iron balconies and stone stairs, to the first floor.

The town and neighboring parishes have good modern buildings, most of them electrified. In the North, this is only exceptionally true.”

Only now, both of them show some dimension, reflecting the colorful effects of an accentuated European emigration, where new images and symbols of new “prosperities” of still absent landowners can be seen, and hidden signs of other migrations of peoples, who have known for a long time the migratory experience.

Only the European emigration of the 20th century caused changes in the landscape with new constructions subordinated to new architectural models and new materials, and in some places the aspects of the old landscape were unrecognizable.

Today, the new constructions indicate the transformation of an inter-aid or cooperating community into individualizing societies, determined by the success and product of emigrants from Europe.

This attitude was already common in the Center/South part of the county, either because of the autonomous nature of the property, where the quinta predominated, or because of the presence of industries, which had settled in this part of the county in the second half of the 19th century, or because of the emergence of of new symbols such as the house of the “Brazilian”.

Miguel Monteiro (1996),

Brazilian Migrants and Emigrants ,

Territories, itineraries and trajectories ,

Braga, University of Minho ,

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[1] Pereira, Maria Palmira da Silva, Fafe- Contribution to the Study of Language, Ethnography and Folklore of the Municipality, Coimbra, Casa do Castelo, 1952, p. 28-38

[7] Pereira, Maria Palmira da Silva, Fafe- Contribution to the Study of Language, Ethnography and Folklore of the Municipality, Coimbra, Casa do Castelo, 1952, p.27

[8] Castelo Branco, Camilo, As Memórias do Cárcere, Lisbon, 1st ed. Partnership AM Pereira, Lda, 1862

[9] Ditto, ibid.

[10] Fafe county coat of arms, Fafe, Fafe City Council, 1986

[11] Pereira, Maria Palmira da Silva, Fafe- Contribution to the Study of Language, Ethnography and Folklore of the Municipality, Coimbra, Ed. Castle House, 1952, p.38

[12] Ditto, ibid.

[13] Idem, Ibid.

[14] Ditto, ibid.

[15] Castelo Branco, Camilo, As Memórias do Cárcere, Lisbon, 1st Ed., Partnership AM Pereira, Lda,