As most people now know, on the 7th July 2007 (7/7/7), the New 7 Wonders of the World were announced in a spectacular ceremony at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.
However, what some people perhaps don't know is that during the previous 7 months the people of Portugal also voted for the 7 Wonders of Portugal, which were announced on the same date, in the same location, at a ceremony held just before the internationally broadcast show hosted by Ben Kingsley.
From an initial list of 793 national monuments, a group of academics narrowed the choice down to 77, from which a further group of experts from all fields of life chose the 21 finalists. After 7 months of voting by the general public, via Internet, SMS and phone, the "7 Maravilhas de Portugal" were finally decided. And the winners are:
CASTELO DE GUIMARAES
The imposing medieval castle with eight crenellated towers 28m (92ft) high, was built in the 10th century to protect the population from attacks by the Moors and the Normans. It was then extended to its present size in the 12th century by Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, who was baptized in the small Romanesque chapel next to the castle.
CASTELO DE OBIDOS
It is one of Europe's most romantic medieval villages are its incredibly picturesque cobblestone streets lined with colorful houses filled with geraniums and bougainvillea, Gothic doorways and windows, whitewashed churches, flowerpots and dazzling tiles, all encircled by the walls of a 12th century castle. Scaling its 13m (45ft) high medieval walls is the best way to admire this picture postcard-perfect place.
MOSTEIRO DE ALCOBACA
It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and its excellent state of preservation makes it the finest example of Cistercian architecture in Europe (it is also the continent's largest building of the Cistercian order). Basically Gothic in structure, it contains five cloisters, seven dormitories, a library, and a huge kitchen.
MOSTEIRO DE BATALHA
Batalha's abbey is one of Europe's greatest Gothic masterpieces and is protected as a World Heritage monument. It was built in 1388 after King João I made a vow to the Virgin that he would build a magnificent monastery if she granted him a victory over the Castillians in the Battle of Aljubarrota. An equestrian statue of Nuno Alvares Pereira, the king's commander at the battle, stands before the southern façade.
MOSTEIRO DE JERONIMOS
The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a hermitage founded by Prince Henry the Navigator, where Vasco da Gama and his crew spent their last night in Portugal in prayer before leaving for India. It was built to commemorate Vasco Da Gama's voyage and to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for its success. Vasco da Gama's tomb was placed inside by the entrance, as was the tomb of poet Luis de Camões. Other great figures in Portuguese history are also entombed here, like King Manuel and King Sebastião, and poets Fernando Pessoa and Alexandre Herculano.
PALACIO NACIONAL DE PENA
Built in the 1840s, it is one of Europe's most fantastic palaces, often compared to Neuschwanstein and the other mock-medieval castles of Ludwig of Bavaria in Germany, although it was actually built more than two decades before those. It includes a drawbridge, a conglomeration of turrets, ramparts, and domes, and a gargoyle above a Neo-Manueline arch, all washed in an array of pastel shades. The extravagant interior is decorated in late Victorian and Edwardian furnishings, rich ornaments, paintings, and priceless porcelain preserved just as the royal family left them. Other highlights include the spacious ballroom, the marvelous "Arab Room", and an impressive 16th-century chapel altarpiece.
TORRE DE BELEM
Built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor, the Belem Tower was the starting point for many of the voyages of discovery, and for the sailors it was the last sight of their homeland. It is a monument to Portugal's Age of Discovery, often serving as a symbol of the country, and UNESCO has listed it as a World Heritage monument. Built in the Manueline style, it incorporates many stonework motifs of the Discoveries, sculptures depicting historical figures such as St. Vincent and an exotic rhinoceros that inspired Dürer's drawing of the beast.