Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias is an emblematic Portuguese property, located in Távora’s Valley and an integral part of Douro’s history. Its roots go back to the 12th century, when monks of the Order of Cister established themselves there, thus contributing to the introduction of the vineyard’s culture.
As one of the oldest estates associated with wine production in the Douro, in addition to its history, Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias stands out for its terroir of excellence, thus becoming a reference name associated with port wine and DOC Douro.
Since 2018, Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias is part of Kranemann Wine Estates, presenting itself as the crown jewel in a new wine and wine tourism project, in such a peculiar part of the Douro: the Távora Valley.
With an olive grove and forest as background, the sturdy granite walls of Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias overlook endless ribbons of grapevines that lace the slopes down to the Távora Valley below. An ancient Roman bridge, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, spans the river and appears as an unmistakable sign of the property’s long history.
Upon entering the gates to the ancient walled complex, birdsong and the soothing sound of water trickling into stone water tanks fills the ornamental gardens. Enter the cloistered courtyard of the ancient monastery that gives our quinta its name, these gentle sounds are replaced by the echoes of cool mountain water splattering from the central stone fountain. Although the monks are long gone, this peaceful space invites reflection and contemplation, with a glass of wine in hand.
The history of our convent (or monastery - as it is also described in historical documents) is rich in legends and dates back to the days when Christian knights fought furiously against the then dominant Muslims with the intention of expelling them and conquering territory that would later become Portugal. After conquering the rugged lands of the Eagles, which encompassed this area of the Tavora Valley, a first Monastery of Saint Peter of the Eagles was erected, a short distance from our Quinta, founded by Dom Rausendo and Don Tedon, two noble warriors from Guimarães.
A small but well preserved Romanesque chapel marks the location of the first Monastery of São Pedro das Águias. According to legend, a Muslim hermit had already built a primitive mosque in this same place. Upon seizing the Águias territory, Dom Rausendo and Don Tedon converted the place of worship to the Christian faith, dedicating it to São Pedro das Águias and establishing a first group of Christians — according to records, Benedictine monks — among them an abbot named Gelásio.
Abbot or hermit, Gelásio plays a key role in the legend of Ardinga, daughter of the Muslim Emir of Lamego. Whether she had actually exchanged glances with Dom Tedon or simply become infatuated through the tales of his daring exploits is unclear. Either way, her love for him grew so strong that she escaped her father’s castle in the dead of night, accompanied by a trusted servant, determined to marry her beloved, who happened to be away battling infidels at the time.
On their way across the treacherous landscape to Cabriz Castle, the two women came upon the hermitage of São Pedro das Águias, less than a league away from Dom Tedon’s home. Having explained her quest to Gelásio, he persuaded her to convert to Christianity.
Despite Ardinga’s baptism, the anticipated marriage never took place. Her enraged father, Al-Boazan, was in hot pursuit and upon finding her, he strangled her and tossed her body into the River Távora. A lone, pale rock in the middle of the river marks the spot where she landed. Locals say that when this “Penedo or Cova da Moira” stone is covered by water, it will be a particularly rainy year.
Dom Tedon’s reaction to Ardinga’s death varies in the telling of the tale. One version claims that the heartbroken warrior had her mutilated body buried on the spot where the chapel of São Pedro das Águias now stands and elevated the hermitage to monastery status.
Another version claims that he turned his inconsolable grief into anger and perished heroically in combat against his sworn enemies in Paredes. According to the Cister Chronicle of Frei Bernardo de Brito, the principle source of information about the early years of the São Pedro das Águias Monastery, the hermitage became a monastery upon Dom Tedon’s death.
Restored in the 1950s, the old monastery’s chapel is a gem of Romanesque architecture, yet it emphasises the restrictive nature of the location. As is typical for Christian churches, the main entrance faces west while the nave points east. Perched on a narrow ledge overlooking a steep drop to the Távora River, the beautifully carved doorway to the chapel is a mere metre away from the rugged rockface and only accessible via a narrow archway. Despite this single file access and therefore limited exposure, the tympanum and capitals of the doorway are rich with decorative symbolism including some satirical figures.
The limited space and unsuitability of the surrounding landscape for agricultural purposes meant that site was far from ideal to support a growing and fully functioning monastery. Two of Dom Rausendo’s great grandsons founded the ‘new’ monastery, known as São Pedro de Távora or São Pedro-o-Novo, at the end of the 12th century. At a later time, their sister donated land and the monks moved from the original monastery to their improved facilities where they could be self-sufficient, thus establishing themselves in what is now known as São Pedro das Águias Convent.
The first monks of São Pedro das Águias belonged to the Benedictine Order and it’s not clear at exactly which point they swapped their black robes for the white habits and austere religious practices of the Cistercian Order. The change may have occurred when they moved to the new site or possibly right beforehand. Strongly bonded to the land, among other activities, monks were responsible for introducing vine culture, just as they did in other regions.
Over the centuries, the new monastery at São Pedro das Águias fell into serious decline to the point where, in the 16th century, visiting pilgrims wrote about the shocking conditions they encountered. Due to a shake-up following the Council of Trent, the monastery was completely rebuilt in the 17 th century in the newly fashionable Baroque style. Under the subsequent patronage of Queen Maria the Pious, the religious complex flourished until the 1834 state edict that abolished and confiscated all Portuguese monasteries.
By 1836, the monastery had been looted by the local population and partially destroyed in a fire. Stones from the ruins were used to build some of the structures you see today. The few remaining documents and contents were sold off a few years later.
One thing that the raiders were not able to take is the statue of São Pedro, which, to this day, remains in the church's niche. Legend has it that when the mob attempted to remove it, the ground began to shake. This terrifying event lent weight to the notion that if the saint’s image were removed, nothing would escape intact and so he has been left in peace ever since.