The Palace of the Enchanted Moors
Overlooking the river Douro, close to Freixo, are some huge rocks, situated on the brink of an almost perpendicular eminence. To this spot do congregate, so it is reported, the souls of unbaptized children, who make the midnight hour hideous with their shrieks when the tempest is hurrying down through the valley and over the snow-capped hills. When the wind is at its highest do these souls of the lost utter their weird shrieks, so nigh akin unto the howling of the wind that only the neighbouring villagers pretend to be able to distinguish between the clamouring voices of the unbaptized and the howling caused by the fitful gusts of the wintry blast as it rushes impetuously among the rocks and down the precipices.
On such nights will the farmer’s wife light the tapers around the image of good St. Laurence, patron of the winds, and calling her household around her, the following verses are intoned—
“Good St. Laurence, keep us free
From the sin of heresy;
Lull the angry winds to rest,
Still be thou our honoured guest,
By our fathers prized.
“Drive all goblins from our door,
Those whom Heaven doth ignore—
Witches, demons, bogeys all,
May they sink and may they fall
With the unbaptized.”
At times it takes longer to appease the wrath of St. Laurence than at others; but with daylight the courage of the worshippers revives, and the souls of the unbaptized seek rest, although the winds may continue to howl.
Many centuries ago the palace of the now enchanted Moors at Freixo was the glory of the place. Although considerably smaller, it was after the style of the Alhambra, at Granada; but it was held in almost greater esteem than the principal residence of the Moorish kings, for in a magnificent stable was lodged the ass on which the prophet Mohamed was supposed to have ascended to Paradise. It seems that the chosen quadruped, unaccustomed to the pastures of the Mohamedan Paradise, had escaped, and descended on earth close to the palace, or alcazar, at Freixo, where he was found one morning by the dwellers when they were on their way to the mosque.