The Sete Cidades lake is a captivating landscape which consists of two environmentally different lakes connected by a narrow strait, which today has a bridge you can cross, with one lake being green and the other being blue, with a total perimeter of 12km. São Miguel’s Tourism Office kindly gave me an insight into the Legends of the Seven Cities by Dr Carreiro da Costa.
The lake of the Seven Cities is one of the most picturesque places on the Island of São Miguel and somewhere I found myself being drawn to. A picturesque place is nothing without a legend and the Lagoa das Sete Cidades has many to share. There are six legends of literary creation that are known of as this remarkably beautiful place lends itself perfectly to the imagination of fantastic tales whereby, I will include three of those legends in this article. Firstly, the number seven has strong connotations with Religion, History and Mythology on account of its special virtues and traditions that are linked with it, even the very name Sete Cidades was talked of through the Middle Ages and in the early Modern Ages, it was closely linked to the island of Antília.
“The first legend is linked to the last detail whereby when Tarik and Musa invaded the Iberian Peninsula, seven Christian bishops took refuge on the remote island of Antília or otherwise known as the Seven Cities Island. The desire to reach this island would soon become one of man's greatest concerns. For the East was the kingdom of Preste-John; to the West, the Antília, until a Portuguese ship called "Our Lady of Penha of France ", after a great storm, docked onto the wonderful island, where it was anchored for three days. Two friars went ashore, contacting the monarch, visiting palaces, coming up with traditions, customs and a language very similar to Portuguese. At the end of the three days, as soon as the two friars returned aboard, the island disappeared as if by magic. Many years later, the same island would eventually reveal itself conclusively to the Portuguese people. Today, the enchanting view of the Valley of the Seven Cities appears and disappears depending on the light and mist, which draws parallels to the mysterious tale.”
Another legend about the famous region is one that recounts “a kingdom of old Atlantis that had as monarchs the White Brown King and the White Rose Queen. They both lived in the heartbreak of not having children. One night, the king had a vision that promised him that he would soon have a daughter but with the condition that they would only see her when she was 20. Until then, the princess would live in Seven Cities that the King, her father, would have built. The White King fulfilled the prophesy: he had the cities built, sent the princess there, without even having seen her and waited for twenty years. They found waiting to see their daughter too difficult, the poor couple were in despair and their patience was wearing thin, their anxiety building up to the point where their hearts would burst so the King decided to defy the Gods and walk to the Seven Cities. The Gods would not allow him to open the portals of the wall and their wrath greeted him as the Gods unleashed a tremendous volcanic eruption which subverted the entire kingdom. The Seven Cities where the princess lived were located precisely in the place where the shell of the wonderful Valley opens. At the bottom of the Green Lagoon the legend has it that there will still be the green shoes that the princess had on her feet, and at the bottom of the Blue Lagoon there will be the little blue hat she wore on her head.”
“The legend of Princess Antília is one full of romance and poetry, set in the ancient kingdom of the Seven Cities. There was once an ancient King of the Seven Cities who was a widower and had a beautiful daughter called Antília who had sapphire blue eyes. The princess was not allowed to mix with anyone and only had their nurse for company and would spend a lot of her time in the countryside, walking through fields contemplating the villages customs. As she grew older, she attracted the attention of many handsome young men and her father banned her entirely from leaving the confines of the castle grounds but she still wanted to be to explore the world and make friends so she would often disobey her father and sneak out of the house and go and explore the surrounding of the castle.”
“One day, whilst walking the countryside, she heard beautiful music playing and discovered it was a young shepherd playing the flute. Antília was shy and hid from him and would come every day to listen at the same spot for many weeks. The shepherd found her and they conversed becoming the best of friends and falling in love and after some time he proposed to the princess. She talked to him long, and from this conversation love was born. Sadly, the princess’ fate was sealed because the prince, heir to another kingdom, was intended for her hand in marriage. The king forbade them to meet and after pleading with her father was Antília granted to meet the pastor one last time to say her goodbyes. The princess and the Shepherd wept so much that at their feet two lakes were created: one blue, made from the princess’ blue eyes and another green, which were the tears shed from the green-eyed shepherd. The lovers parted ways forever but the lakes remained made of the tears from both of them, who to this very day have not separated and it acts as a reminder to the world of their love.”