Very frequently, with my work, I have the need to travel through the northern part of Portugal and when driving through towns and villages, it never ceases to amaze me to see just how many old manor houses (called Solares) have splendidly carved granite coats of arms protuding from the front of the them. Many of these ‘Solares’ are in a sad state of disrepair but I marvel at the work that went into the building of them and wonder at the stories of the families that inhabited them.
My recent travels took me through the parish of Carrazeda de Ansiães where the small village of Selores is located and close by to it, Alganhafres. Both of these villages have two Solares which are in a total state of disrepair but their magnificence still remains as they stand through the centuries.
I had the good fortune this week to meet, the owner of a part of the Solar at Selores as it is divided into two parts, one built in the XVII century and the other in the XVIII century. She was just coming out of her modern family home (right next door to these Solares) when she saw me on the street taking photos of these houses. I couldn’t help but ask her some questions about these magnificent buildings and she quickly filled me on what she knew. Her family own the XVII century side and the local mayor at Carrazeda de Ansiães owns the XVIII century side. She had been bought up as a child and teenager in this beautiful home and had very fond memories of her past life there. Her family had hoped to repair the home but it involved a large investment and although funding was requested, certain restrictions are enforced by the authorities here to keep these types of manor houses to their originality which means walls and wooden floors could only be repaired with similar materials to the ones that were used when it was built. The family were keen to make a larger investment but this was all put on standby.
Until quite recently the local priest lived in the XVIII side and had access through a doorway to her family’s Solar. This was later sealed up when the XVIII side of the house was sold. There is also a beautiful chapel attached to the XVIII house and each of these three buildings carry their own different coats of arms with their intricate symbols all having a meaning. I have yet to discover the actual meaning of these symbols in Portuguese coats of arms and I am looking into this.
Whilst talking to the owner, she pointed out the village of Alganhafres right next door to Selores which also has a beautiful Solar in disrepair. I quickly made my way over to check it out and after parking the car and wanding through narrow cobbled streets I couldn’t believe my eyes when there before me in the small town square, which was totally empty, stood old abandoned stone houses with beautiful old stairways leading up to small verandas and facing all of this stood the Solar de Alganhafres in its magnificence. A sight to see with one of the largest coats of arms for a manor house of this style that I had ever seen!