January 25, 2020
We love visiting historical and educational sites, but sometime it’s nice to throw in a bit of “mystery and intrigue”. Sometimes this is just a nice way of saying that we aren’t really sure why we marked a point on the map, but we’ll check it out because we are driving that way anyway. This was the case when we decided to visit Serra de Aire, our first stop of the day.
Natural Monument Dinosaurs Footprints of Serra de Aire
Prepare to step back 175 million years to see the footprints of some of the largest living dino’s on the planet – the Sauropod. Sauropods had small heads and long bodies and left their footprints in a muddy limestone lagoon so we could see their travel pattern millions of years later.
On a former quarry in the Serra de Aire of a Portugal, just outside of Tomar, is the oldest and longest set of sauropod footprints found anywhere on earth. These are some of the best preserved prints and are easy to identify as you walk around and through the print field.
It’s about a 2 mile walk around the limestone quarry and it is partially shaded at the beginning and full sun when you get down to the print field. There are many informational signs, but it’s really easy to identify the patterns and the direction they were traveling. We were fortunate it had rained the night before as the footprints in the morning were filled with water and the sun reflected off of them nicely! A very interesting stop and it was just a few euro admission.
Beginning in 1386, it took over a century to build and spanned the life of seven kings and 15 architects During that time. The name actually means Monastery of the Battle and this building has been battling all of its life.
It took tremendous effort, money and manpower to get the building completed. The outside design is mostly gothic and the amount of complex stone work is just overwhelming. The inside chapel is made up of large columns that are highlighted by beautiful colors coming from the stained glass. For such a vast open interior, the color from the windows dance about the stone. Even Henry the Explorer of Knights Templar fame is buried in the chapel.
This structure has endured earthquakes, Napoleonic troops, who sacked and burned the place in 1810 and 1811. Finally, in 1834 the church and convent were abandoned and soon fell into ruin. The King of Portugal began a restoration project that took many years to complete. The monestery is now a museum and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Directions: It is 15 miles from Tomar to Serra de Aire. Staying on the same road, it’s just another 21 miles to Batalha. This route will also take you past Fátima.