The people of Leiria, the Castle and the Tales

If you walk around Leiria, we can guarantee that any local knows the city’s 3 secrets: Direita Street is crooked, the bells aren’t in the Cathedral and the river runs backwards. It is also known for being a city with a guaranteed quality of life, a good cultural offer, and a city of churches. These reasons make its 128,640 inhabitants proud (2021 census data).

Leiria district is located in the coastal centre of Portugal, with a territorial area of around 565 km2. It’s bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, giving it plenty of great sandy beaches, and in the city there are two rivers ‘in love’, the Lis and the Lena.

According to the tale, the Lis river and its tributary, the Lena river, fell out of love and one day, just outside the city, where the two meet, they got married to unite their love… in a single river.

To eternalize this love of the city’s best-known and most popular legend, Leiria inaugurated its Luminous Fountain on 22 May 1973.

Tale of the Lis and Lena Rivers

Did you know Leiria is 1.5 hours from Lisbon and 2 hours from Porto? This is one of the reasons why Leiria is becoming an increasingly famous tourist spot in Portugal. Here you can escape the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan areas and find a city in full growth.

Leiria Castle is one of the city’s most important monuments and was built in 1135 by the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, for military purposes, to secure the territory he had conquered from the Moors.

Almost 200 years later, in July 1300, it was transformed into a royal palace. King D. Dinis ordered this palace to be built for his wife, Queen Santa Isabel, and the crown prince to live in.

This couple occupied the Castle of Leiria for the longest period, starring in one of Portugal’s most famous legends, the Miracle of the Roses.

The Roses Miracle

This tale dates back to the reign of King Dinis. His wife, Queen Elizabeth of Aragon, was very generous and used to go out to distribute bread and alms to the poor.

One day, King Dinis found out and wasn’t happy, as such expenditure had implications for the royal treasury, so he decided to surprise the Queen on one of her usual walks to distribute alms and bread.

When he found her, he asked her if she was giving food to the poor, to which she replied, “They’re roses, my lord”. Suspicious, the King accused her of lying, since there could be no roses in January. He then forced her to reveal what she was hiding.

In front of everyone’s astonished eyes, Queen Elizabeth showed the beautiful roses she was keeping in her lap. By some miracle, the bread she was hiding had turned into roses. The King was speechless and ended up asking the Queen for forgiveness.

The miracle spread through the city of Leiria and the people proclaimed her a Saint. She is still known today as Queen Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.

Later, due to the French occupation, both the castle and the town in general were devastated. The Swiss architect Ernesto Korrodi, a key figure in the city, was largely responsible for its reconstruction. Finally, in 2021, the castle restoration was completed, increasing accessibility by adding two free mechanical elevators with fantastic city views.

The city of crows and its municipal holiday

Leiria was elevated to a city on June 13, 1545, the year in which the Cathedral was built and the Church of S. Martinho was demolished, where the iconic Rodrigues Lobo Square is located today.

According to the tale, during a battle against the Crown of Castile, when the Portuguese soldiers were at a disadvantage, a black crow appeared and landed on top of them, flapping its wings wildly. This served as an omen for the soldiers, who were filled with courage and ended up victorious.

Tale of the Crows

As a result of this tale, the city’s coat of arms is today engraved with two black crows in its memory.

Leiria’s municipal holiday is celebrated on May 22, the day its diocese was created, in 1545.

Why is MD3 based in Leiria?

Philippe Mendes, CEO of MD3, is Portuguese-French and his family is from Leiria. He’s also the French group Mediatree director, which owns MD3. In 2012, he chose Leiria to be MD3’s home.

However, this decision became very advantageous over time, due to its central location and the region’s strong entrepreneurial culture.

Nowadays, because it works with a hybrid work system, MD3 has employees from different parts of the country.

Does Leiria exist after all?

In the last few years, the city has become known for a joke made in several countries, where there is always a city that “doesn’t exist”, for example in Germany it is Bielefeld and in Portugal the city chosen was Leiria.

It all intensified with the launch of a new Iberian map for the game Euro Truck Simulator 2, where players using the A1 Lisbon-Porto never found an exit for Leiria, as it didn’t exist on the map.

The joke gained such a wide reach on social media that it became common to hear that Leiria doesn’t exist, even among locals.

Leiria and Marketing

As a result of the popularity of non-existence, the Municipality of Leiria exploited this concept to do incredible marketing in the city.

The “City that doesn’t exist” campaign was created by the Municipality, which took it to BTL Travel Market to make the city one of the most popular tourist spots.

This campaign focuses on publicizing and promoting the region’s events, gastronomy and art.

Just as the Municipality of Leiria used this disruptive idea to promote the city’s tourism, at MD3 we’re looking forward to creating new, equally creative content for your brand!

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