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 says that he turned his inconsolable grief into angerand perished heroically in combat against his sworn enemies in Paredes. According to the Cister Chronicle of Frei Bernado 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.
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 beforehand.
Over the centuries, the new monastery at São Pedro das Águias fell into serious decline to the point where visiting pilgrims wrote about the shocking conditions they encountered in the 16th century. Due to a shake-up following the Council of Trent, the monastery was completely rebuilt in the 17th 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 St. Peter, which remains in the niche of the church to this day. 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.