One example of this perfect marriage is the University, with its fantastic buildings and its library, whose history blends with the city itself and the joy of the students.
University of Coimbra
The institution was founded in 1290, being the oldest and one of the most distinguished of the country. It all begins when D. Dinis signed the “Scientiae thesaurus mirabilis”, the document originating the General Study, recognized that year by Pope Nicholas IV. Only a century after the beginning of the portuguese nation, the University of Coimbra was born and began to train young minds. The institution will then move to Lisbon in 1308 and is again transferred to Coimbra. However, many years pass until the University is finally based on what would become the city of students. Always changing from Lisbon to Coimbra and vice versa, the institution only fixed near the Mondego River in 1537.
First located in the Royal Palace, the University begins to spread through Coimbra, changes that alter and build the city’s history, where some of the most important figures of art, science or policy studied.
Today, thousands of young people living in Coimbra during the school year lend vitality and academic rituals to the city that you cannot find elsewhere in the country. More than seven centuries after, the University has a great heritage and a rich history and impossible to ignore. So important that, today, the University expects to be considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A Cabra (The Goat)
This is the name given to the bell that is in the tower of the University of Coimbra, built between 1728 and 1733. The tower, which can now be visited, is in baroque style, is 34 meters high and has no lift. So if you want to visit it, get ready to climb almost two hundreds of claustrophobic steps (more precisely 180). The reward for the more adventurous is a breathtaking view over the city. An experience not recommended to fearful persons or cardiac patients.
It’s one of the obligatory stop in the visit to the upper part of the city and to the university. The Baroque Library (Biblioteca Joanina), with its rococo and magnanimous style, owes its name to D. João V, king of Portugal, who had it built in the year 1717.
Today is one of the most beautiful and unique libraries in Europe, gathering around 70000 volumes, most of them on the main floor. This is really the only one of the three floors of the building that is open to the public. And it’s here that inhabit the unusual residents of the library: the bats that protect the books of insects at night.
And because Coimbra is tradition that begins with the story of a beautiful princess in love with a knight who kills a giant snake as a token of love, fate is always present. The traditional and refined music of Coimbra, sung only by men, becomes a universal language when it echoes through the walls of historic buildings.
The word fado comes from the latin word fatum, or destiny, reflecting the traditional portuguese fatalistic sense. In Coimbra, the song is inextricably linked to the academic traditions of the University. Students still sing it wearing the academic dress, wearing black pants and robe, covered by the black cape. Fado is sung mainly at night, almost in darkness, in the streets of the city or in front of the symbolic monuments. And the lovers use it to serenade their ladies.