Medieval Portugal V: Evora

K. Lau

old-palace-evora

As the largest city of Alentejo in the south of Portugal, Evora, with its medieval characters, is the best preserved city visited during our study tour. Evora has been a walled city since Roman times. Traces of the 1st century Roman wall, reinforced by the Visigoths in the 7th century, can still be seen in the city center, leading to the old Aqueduct. The 14th century medieval wall now marks the city limits to the north and west, while the 17th century fortifications form the boundary of the public gardens to the south. It is a most attractive Moorish style town, with alleys cut by arches, brilliant whitewashed houses, flower-decked terraces, openwork balconies and tiled patios, cobbled streets, shady squares, fountains, and Renaissance mansions.

At the summit of the town, the ruins of the Templo Romano stand impressively. Erected in the 2nd century, this Corinthian-style Roman temple owes its relatively well preservation to its conversion into a fortress in the Middles Ages and its excavation only a century ago.

More places to see:

 

The Porta de Moura Gateway

The Porta de Moura gateway with its two towers form part of the medieval town fortifications. It overlooks the picturesque Largo Da Porta de Moura Square, where buildings of Moorish, Manueline, and Renaissance architecture mingle in harmony.

The Praca do Giraldo

The Praca do Giraldo is a vast square in the bustling town center, partly bordered by stylish arcades now occupied by trendy shops.  It is hard to imagine that in 1484 King Joao II executed the Duke of Braganza by beheading him right here in the square, as part of his campaign to wrestle power away from the nobles.

Palacio de Dom Manuel, Evora

In the public garden close to the Hotel Dom Fernando where the tour group stayed was the remains of a 16th century Moorish style palace built for Dom Manuel 1, at the time when Evora was the favoured residence of the Portuguese kings. As it is tugged into the fringe of the city, the site is easily overlooked by the casual visitor.

mainchurchevora

Se de Evora

The cathedral was built in the late 12th century in the Transitional Gothic style, completed in 1250. The Gothic cloisters were added between 1322 and 1344.  It has a fortress-like Romanesque appearance similar to the Se’s at Coimbra and Lisbon.

Igreja dos Loios and Convento dos Loios

These were built in the 15th century. Inside the church one can see through a grille the cistern of the medieval Moorish castle. The Convento next door is converted from a monastery into a smart pousada.

Igreja de Sao Francisco

This San Franciscan church built in the 16th century is more modest compared with its extravagant Oporto counterpart. The “attraction” of the church is the adjacent chapel called Capela dos Ossos. It is a macabre chamber whose walls and columns are covered with skulls and bones of some 5000 monks, apparently to induce meditation in its inhabitants. The creepy atmosphere certainly induces one with a few more thoughts than usual.