In Madeira there is a place called “Curral das Freiras”, known in English as the Nuns’ Valley. It is a village located, as the name says, in a valley, that is actual a very old crater of a volcano. Nested in what seems like a big hole surrounded by mountains, it is one of the only places in the island where you can’t see the ocean or even feel its presence.
In medieval times, the island was often invaded by pirates. Knowing about its arrival, the nuns of Santa Clara, living in Funchal, were forced to fled to the secluded valley, transporting with them the bravery of simple woman, wanting to preserve their honor, their beliefs, and mostly their lives. So, back then, in 1566, there were no cars, or roads. The nuns had to flee by foot – while they were avoiding the attacks from the pirates, they were also facing the ruthlessness of Nature itself. Nun’s valley is completed isolated from the rest of the island, located in its interior, surrounded by majestic, high mountains. Not easy to access now, can you imagine back then? How many days it took them to get there, how many were forced to be left behind? How did they get their food, how did they face the often calamitous weather? How did their bodies handled so much soreness and tiredness?
As I admired the amazing views from Eira do Serrado viewpoint, I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. It’s admirable. I wish I had known those women, or could travel in time to meet them. Even to join their effort. I want to understand their willingness to keep on living. Where did they find the strength, the faith, the motivation. How they didn’t let the unknown stopping them from fighting for something. How they never lost faith.
If they had, there wouldn’t be a Nun’s Valley. Just a valley.
For more posts about the island of Madeira: