Organizer:  Municipality of Amarante.

Amarante is a Portuguese city and municipality belonging to the Porto district, North Region and intermunicipal community of Támega and Sousa, with about 12,000 in the city and 61,029 inhabitants in the municipality.

Amarante’s origin dates to the primitive peoples that hunted and gathered in the Serra da Aboboreira, sometime during the Stone Age, and extended during the Bronze Age and later the Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula.

The first prominent building erected during the area of Amarante was likely the Albergaria do Covelo do Tâmega sometime in the 12th century, by order of Queen D. Mafalda, wife of D. Afonso Henriques. These types of shelter were constructed in small settlements and were used by travellers, especially the poor, who transited the territory. Permanent settles fixed themselves around the local churches, such as the Church of São Veríssimo and Church of Lufrei, resulting in growth during the intervening years.

The urban agglomeration of Amarante became important and gained visibility with the arrival of Gonçalo (1187-1259) a Dominican friar who was born in Tagilde (Guimarães), who settled in the area following a pilgrimage to Rome and Jerusalém. He was instrumental in the development of the region, with many local structures attributed to his efforts, including the construction of the stone bridge across the Tâmega River. Following his death, Amarante became the destination of pilgrimages and grew substantially.

In the 16th century, King D. John III expanded the local church and, resulting in its conversion into a large Dominican monastery. The bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1763 and was rebuilt.

In the second French invasion, during the Peninsular War, French forces commanded by Marshall Soult, found themselves at the bridge over the Tâmega, and needed to secure their connection to Spain, while advancing from Porto to Marco de Canaveses through Amarante.  Soult, realizing that Beresford’s Portuguese and English forces were advancing on him, sent a column to the Tâmega valley, in order to prepare the way for a new column. Under the column, commanded by Loison, through looting, skirmishes and unsuccessful attempts to cross the river, entered in Amarante on 18 April 1809, having looted and burned down the villages of Vila Meã, Manhufe and Pidre.[5] In the village they continue to loot and burn down buildings, except for larger family residences, which were left intact and destined to function as the French headquarters and field hospitals. There are still vestiges of these events, including those in the Estate of Magalhães, the facade of the Church of São Gonçalo, the perforated tiles in the sacristy and the damaged pyramids on the bridge.

The bridge was also significant to the resistance in the northern campaign. Loison did not count on the entrenched conflict between his forces and the Anglo-Portuguese forces, commanded by Brigadier Silveira. These forces, which included badly-equipped, inexperienced citizens and clergy, were able to resist for the next 14 days, impeding the passage of Napoleonic forces, later known as the heroic defense of the bridge of Amarante. The circlement of the bridge ended on 2 May, around 3:00, following a diversionary manoeuvre by French forces that diverted a small pocket of Portuguese stationed at Eira do Paço, who believed the French would attempt to across by Morleiros. Taking advantage of the fog, the French placed gunpowder near the Portuguese trenches along the bridge, then detonated the explosives. These created confusion and panic among the defenders and caused death and injury in their ranks. Loison then continued his journey, until he was forced to withdraw in the upper Douro by Brigadier Silveira’s forces, who he had reorganized, during Napoleon’s northern march to the city of Lisbon. For his efforts, Silveira was given a cavalry command, owing to his defense of the bridge, and attributed the title of Count of Amarante and elevated to the status of General. The town was also awarded the Order of the Tower and Sword, which it displays on its coats-of-arms.

The municipality of Amarante, administratively, was part of the Minho Province, and abutted the municipalities of Celorico de Basto (to the north), Gestaço (in the east), Gouveia (in the south) and Santa Cruz de Riba Tâmega (in the west). With administrative reforms during the 19th century, the municipalities of Gouveia, Gestaço and Santa Cruz de Ribatâmega were extinguished, and many of the local parishes were absorbed into the Amarante.