Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias is an emblematic Portuguese property, located in the Vale de Távora and has been integral to the Douro’s history. It dates back to the 12th century, when monks from the Order of Cistercians settled there and contributed to the start of winegrowing in the region.
In addition to its history, and as one of the oldest producers in the Douro, the extraordinary terroir of Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias sets it apart from other estates, and it has become a reference for port wines and DOC Douro.
Since 2018, Quinta do Convento de São Pedro das Águias has been part of Kranemann Wine Estates and is the crown jewel in a new wine and wine tourism project in a unique part of the Douro: Vale de Távora.
Against the backdrop of an olive grove and forest, 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 Vale de Távora below. An ancient Roman bridge, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, spans the river; an indication of the long history behind this property.
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 estate 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 location invites reflection and contemplation, along with a glass of wine.
The history of our monastery (or convent as it is also described in historical documents) is steeped in legend and dates back to the days when Christian knights were furiously driving the ruling Muslims from their lands and claiming territory for what would become the country of Portugal as we know it. Having conquered the rugged lands of Águias, which included this area of the Vale de Távora, the first Monastery of São Pedro das Águias was founded a short distance from our estate by Dom Rausendo and Dom Tedon, two noble warriors from Guimarães.
A small but finely preserved Romanesque chapel marks the location of the first Monastery of São Pedro das Águias. According to the legend, a Muslim hermit had already built a primitive mosque on this site. Upon seizing the Águias territory, Dom Rausendo and Dom Tedon set about converting the religious site to a Christian one, dedicating it to São Pedro das Águias and installing the first group of Christians, according to records, Benedictine monks, one of whom was Abbot 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 became 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 them 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 Rio 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 Rio Távora 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 date, their sister donated land and the monks moved from the original monastery to their improved facilities where they could be self-sufficient, and established what is now known as the Monastery of São Pedro das Águias.
The first monks of São Pedro das Águias belonged to the Benedictine Order and it is 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. With strong links to the land, the monks were responsible for introducing winemaking in the area, 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 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 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.