Cerejais (Alfândega da Fé)

Coordinates: 41°17′38″N 6°55′19″W / 41.294°N 6.922°W / 41.294; -6.922Coordinates: 41°17′38″N 6°55′19″W / 41.294°N 6.922°W / 41.294; -6.922
Country Portugal
Region Norte
Subregion Alto Trás-os-Montes
Intermunic. comm. Terras de Trás-os-Montes
District Bragança
Municipality Alfândega da Fé
  Total 17.00 km2 (6.56 sq mi)
Population (2011)
  Total 202
  Density 12/km2 (31/sq mi)
Postal code 5350
Area code 279
Patron São Paulo
Website http://www.cerejais.com/

Cerejais is a civil parish in the municipality of Alfândega da Fé, in continental Portugal. The population in 2011 was 202,[1] in an area of 17.00 km².[2]


A settlement in the area of Cerejais dates back to the 9th century. The origin of its name is also remotely associated with the Ceresales, Cersares and Cersales, a zone historically known for the cultivation of cherries and cherry orchards.[3]

In 1706, from the writings of Father Carvalho da Costa, the settlement had about 70 homes.[4] Later (1758), in the Memórias Paroquiais, the clergy in the settlement are represented by the rector of Alfândega da Fé, receiving annual 8$000 reís stipend.[4] By 1759, the lands of Cerejais were owned by the estate of the Marquis of Távora; that year, the Marquess' lands and property were confiscated by the state, stemming from the events of the Távora affair.[3][4]

In 1855, until that year, the parish pertained to the municipality of Chacim, passing to Torre de Moncorvo and shortly later to Alfândega da Fé.[4]

Even with these changes, by 1926, the settlement had no less than 79 homes and 311 inhabitants.[4]


The parish of Cerejais is situated on a plateau/bluff, with many of the homes and buildings disperesed around the Sabor River. As from 2013, the construction of Sabor dam ("Barragem do Baixo Sabor") terminated, resulting in a dramatic change in the landscape around the village, which can best be observed from the top of the Inculcas rocks ("Fragas das Inculcas"). The unusually high levels of precipitation throughout 2014 speeded up the filling up process, and a good part of the village's lands are now underwater, including the historical hamlets of Quinta Branca ("White Hamlet") and Quinta de Sao Goncalo ("St Goncalo's Hamlet"). The latter is often referred to as the "Quinta do Abreu" by the local's, in memory of one of its last inhabitants, who lived there until the late nineties. However, the association with Sao Goncalo de Amarante was evident in the ruins of an old chapel in the settlement. A statue of Sao Goncalo was taken from the chapel to Cerejais Sanctuary's buildings where it is kept until today, although not exhibited to the public.

Cerejais is located 8 kilometres from the municipal seat, south of the parish of Alfândega da Fé between the neighbouring parishes of Ferredosa and Sendim da Serra, to the west, and Sendim da Ribeira and Parada, in the east.[3]

The primary buildings in the parish include the pre-school and the primary school (Portuguese: Escola Primária do 1º Ciclo do Ensino Básico), and the seniors centre (Portuguese: Lar da Terceira Idade).[3]


Its rich and fertile soils, have made Cerejais principally an agricultural community, with the cultivation of cherries, rye, almonds and olives (in addition to the production of olive oil).[3] Nowadays, only the production of almonds and olives (and olive oil) subsists.

The village has a team of shoemakers that has subsisted to date, despite the national economic crisis and desertification of the countryside. It also used to have a bellows maker ("Foleiro") and a farrier ("Ferrador") that took care of horse's hooves of the village during many decades, but both activities are now extinct in Cerejais.



Both the Calvário and the Loca are duplicates of the chapels with the same names in the Sanctuary of Fatima. Other local architectonic landmarks are small miniatures of chapels or altars known as "alminhas" (little souls), in an allusion to the souls of the Purgatory. Usually white topped with a cross, they contain religious statues or images, often in "azulejo" (Portuguese tile) representing saints, the Virgin Mary, God or an allegory to Purgatory souls. There are about half-dozen distributed across the village and surrounding lands, most from remote times. Although common in most Portugal, cultural practices associated to the "alminhas" differ across regions; in Cerejais, they were strategically built on the footpath side giving access to surrounding lands, to remind the walkers to pray for the soul of their dead beloved ones. An old prayer, still heard nowadays, is:

"O almas que estais em penas, o almas que em penas estais La vos vai um Padre-Nosso para que delas saiais..."

(Oh souls that are in trouble, oh sould that in trouble are Here goes a Our Father (prayer) to get you out of them...)


Cerejais celebrates several religious festivals throughout the year, including: the Festival of the Imaculado Coração de Maria (Immaculate Heart of Mary) (on the last Sunday of May, with a formal procession, images and mass); on the 25 January, the celebrations of Saint Paul (in Cerejais); and the Festival of São Sebastião at the end of July.[3]

Typical of the local rural landscape are the Portuguese pavement stoneworks, locally simply called "paralelos" due to their parallelepipedic shape. Gastronomically, the village offers a number of culinary specialties for all tastes: Folar da Páscoa - a sort of bread, mainly made out of flour, eggs and pork meat, baked for Easter; "Folar doce" - similar to the above but sweet and without meat. Traditionally, godchildren would keep their blessed olive or rosemary bouquet from Palm Sunday ("Domingo de Ramos") to offer it to their godmother on Easter Day, one week later. In exchange, the godmother would offer them a "Folar Doce", ensuring that enough units were baked to satisfy the demand; Note: the "folar da Pascoa" is an Easter dish of different regions across the country however wide variations exist in the way they are prepared. The most common is the Folar containing a whole boiled egg on the top, which is uncommon in this part of the country; "Fumeiro" (smoked sausages) - namely "alheiras" (bread, chicken and pork), "chouriço" (pork), salpicão (pork) and "chouriço doce" (pork's blood, bread, almond and honey). Once stuffed, the spicy sausages are hung on long bars above the fireplace to be smoked over the next days; "Doces de leite" (milk sweets) or "económicos" (economic ones) - stone baked sweets made out of flour, yeast, milk, eggs, sugar, some brandy and some orange juice; "Salada de azeda" (sour salad) - are a type of wild herbs that grow in the region, particularly during the months of Spring. They are recognised for they nutritional value and are best appreciated mixed with mashed potato.

Like many other places across the country, Christmas is an important occasion for the people of Cerejais, who see at this time of the year many of their beloved ones who have left in pursuit of a better life returning to visit their families. A few villages in the county have fires at Christmas, but few are so grandiose as in Cerejais. Traditionally, single men would spend the afternoon picking up wooden branches and tree trunks from the lands, sometimes from areas of difficult access and with few means available. In recent years, the task became easier with the help of tractors and vans, and with the extra hands of married or grown up men. Whereas others are mainly concerned with extending the fire over a period of one week (until New Year) or more, necessarily keeping it smaller in size, what has always mattered to Cerejais was to make the biggest fire for the biggest night of the year. After the Rooster Mass ("Missa do Galo") in Christmas eve (24th December), people gather in the main square - "o Olmo" ("The Elm") - named after a tree (an elm) that used to lie at its heart in the past. To an extent unseen in neighbour villages, Cerejais has a number of amateur musicians ranging from guitar (Spanish guitar) and Portuguese guitar (characteristic of Fado) to accordion player ("concertina"), who entertain their audience with cheerful songs in this festive occasion, attracting visitors from all the county ("concelho").


  1. Instituto Nacional de Estatística
  2. Direção-Geral do Território
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Junta Freguesia, ed. (2010). "Freguiesia de Cerejais" (in Portuguese). Cerejais, Portugal: Junta de Freguesia das Cerejais. Archived from the original on 12 September 2011. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 João Baptista Vilares (1926)
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