MAJESTIC SANTA MARIA CATHEDRAL
Do not miss the best views of the capital of Alto Alentejo, ÉVORA, formerly known as Liberalitas Lulia, from the roof of its Cathedral.
Known as the Sé de Évora, it protects the city from its highest part. It is the largest medieval Cathedral in Portugal. We can reach it by going up Calle 5 de Octubre from the Plaza de Giraldo, the city´s nerve centre.
An imposing monument, granite made, built at the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th, transitioning from the Romanesque style to the Gothic style. It is consecrated to Santa María, so it is also known as the Cathedral of Santa María.
Its spectacular dome, where the lantern tower appears crowned by a stone scale needle, stands out above all, thus becoming the jewel of this monument. To access it, you have to pay a ticket that varies from 1.50 euros to 3.50 euros, depending on what you want to visit, since there are combined tickets that include the cloister and the museum of sacred art.
GIRALDO AWAITS US
Giraldo Square: if all roads reach Rome, in Évora, all roads reach Giraldo, the main square of the city whose name is due to the great Christian hero of the Reconquest Geraldo Geraldes Sem Pavor (without fear), who conquered the city in 1,167 to the Moors.
All of it is made of pink marble typical of the region extracted from the nearby quarries of Estremoz. It is the nerve centre of the historic centre, a beautiful porticoed space surrounded by buildings of typical Alentejo architecture on three sides. The 16th-century church of Santo Antão occupies the fourth, and in front of it, the eight pipes fountain representing the eight streets leading to this cosy square, declared a national monument in 1910, stands out. Its beautiful arcaded galleries offer us the rich Alentejo gastronomy, regional handicraft shops and above all, they offer us shade on hot summer afternoons.
Giraldo is a perfect space to sit on one of its many terraces. Have a "verde "wine as an aperitif or eat some migas from the Alentejo or açorda à alentejana, a very popular soup of humble origins made with hard bread poached egg and coriander.
COCKS AND CORK
We cannot leave Évora without taking some of its typical handicraft products. The best place for it is the Municipal Market, located in front of the famous Church of San Francisco, where you can visit its macabre Chapel of Bones.
In this Municipal Market, you can admire cork, ceramic and leather products, among others. To buy products of all kinds, I also recommend the pedestrian street 5 de Octubre, which starts from the famous Plaza de Giraldo, the city´s nerve centre.
Going up this street, you will find countless shops full of charm, which will lead you to the highest part of the city, the Plaza de la Catedral and the Temple of Diana.
Remember, you should not leave Portugal without taking the famous Rooster of Barcelos, which symbolizes luck, faith and hope. They will find it represented in all kinds of souvenirs, from a curious cork postcard, magnets, tablecloths, kitchen towels or clothing items.
It is the best gift to take to your mother-in-law :)
Before continuing, let´s make a small paragraph about this curious legend:
Legend has it that at some point in medieval times, a crime took place in the city of Barcelos that no one could discover.
It turns out that a young Galician who was passing through the region while he was making the way to Santiago de Compostela to fulfil a promise was accused by the inhabitants of the city as a suspect in the crime and ended up hanged for it.
The young man declared his innocence to be brought before the judge, and this was done. At the meeting, reaffirming that he had committed no crime and facing the laughter of the judge and others present, the young man pointed a roast chicken on the banquet table, saying: " Surely I am innocent, as this cock will crow when you hang me".
Of course, no one took the young boy´s words seriously, but at the moment of hanging, the Barcelos rooster got up and crowed!
The desperate judge went to the gallows to try to avoid injustice and arrived in time to see the young man survive due to a bad knot in the rope.
Loose and innocent, the Galician returned years later and built the famous Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo in praise of the Virgin Mary and Santiago
The moral of this curious legend, this friendly, colourful and cheerful rooster so typical of Portugal, symboliziyng luck, faith and hope, which is, as you know, the last thing you lose.
Temple of Diana:
Above the Cathedral at the highest point of a hill stand the ruins of a Roman temple, probably dating from the 1st century AD.
This temple is not dedicated to the hunting goddess Diana, as its name indicates, but to the Emperor. At the highest point in the city, the ancient acropolis has always been the nerve centre of Évora. It is a hexastyle temple, with six columns on its front, of which today we only have the ashlar plinth, the staircase and 14 elements with Corinthian capitals.
The Roman Temple of Évora is one of the largest and best-preserved Roman temples in the entire Iberian Peninsula, having been considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Admiring this Roman temple is like going back in time. It is one of the most important historical landmarks of Évora, being also one of the most visible symbols of the Roman occupation of the city.
Corinthian in style, the Roman temple was built in the early 1st century AD. It is located in the historic centre of the city, specifically in the Largo Conde de Vila Flor, near the Cathedral of Évora, the Public Library of Évora, the Centre of Art and Culture Eugénio de Almeida, the Museum of Évora and the beautiful Pousada dos Lóios.
I suggest a walk through the Jardin de Diana to relax, have a drink and enjoy the magnificent view over the city and the Alentejo plain that surrounds it.
CROMLECH OF THE ALMOND TREES
Just 12 km from Évora, we find the small town of Cromlech de Los Almendros. It is the most significant megalithic monument in the Iberian Peninsula, consisting of almost a hundred granite menhirs. Its beginnings date back to about 7,000 years, corresponding to the Neolithic period.
This megalithic complex was discovered in 1964 at the time of the cartography of the Geological Map of Portugal. From the excavations carried out, objects were recovered that helped date the monument and prove, without a doubt, that the Évora region is one of the oldest populated regions of the Iberian Peninsula.
Although its function and meaning are unknown, recent studies advance the possibility that the arrangement of the monoliths in oval shape responds to a solar orientation key, coinciding with the basic movements of the sun and the moon, and may have been used as an observation post.
Some menhirs also appear with decorations in relief or engravings of anthropomorphic figures, coloured in brown tones and solar discs.
But there is another secret not far from here, just about 3 km from the Neolithic monument, along a dirt road, are the Menhir dos Almendros. This lonely and colossal monolith probably has some association with chromium. The upper part of the menhir also has some decorations similar to those of the chromatic monoliths.
Don´t miss out on this unique experience that will not leave you indifferent!
A SPECIAL ROUTE...
Discover the ancient Alentejo wine culture!
The Alentejo is the leading producer of Portuguese wines of excellent quality in the country.
In the past, this region was known throughout Portugal for its cork production, but this changed starting in the 1980s when the European Union provided funding to Alentejo wine cooperatives to produce high-quality wines. Thanks to this, in 2020, this region will deliver the highest quantity of quality Portuguese wines in the country.
Talha Wine: Pure Tradition
The Wine of Talha is a living tradition that has more than 2000 years. This unique tradition has been passed down from generation to generation, and Talha wines are still produced in the same way in clay amphorae as in ancient Roman times.
The Vinho de Talha provides natural aromas, minerality and deep golden colour with an orange hue for white wines. The red wines have an intense purple colour and expressive aromas of blackberries and raspberries.
What are Alentejo wines like?
Alentejo white wines have a firm structure and are full-bodied. These wines are also very aromatic, with hints of orange, lime, lemongrass, lemon, rose, basil and mandarin predominate. They are wines with a low level of acidity.
The Alentejo wine region produces a range of white, rosé and red wines.
The red wines produced in the Alentejo wine region are made mainly by blending various grapes. They are full-bodied wines, rich in colour and have a perfect level of acidity, and they are wines with an excellent balance between tannin and alcohol levels.
Alentejo rosé wines are unique as they have a solid aromatic character. On the palate, these rosé wines are smooth and well rounded. What makes Alentejo rosé wines even more remarkable is that they can be enjoyed while still young. Despite this, they age very well.
Among its most distinct varieties, we will find:
Reds: Abundante, Alfrocheiro Preto, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Baga.
White: Antao Vaz, Arinto, Chardonnay, Fernao Pires, Palomino, Rabo de Ovelha.
A sparkling wine known as Sparkling is also produced.
Here we recommend some places to taste the excellent Alentejo wines:
· Dom Joaquim (Rua Penedos 6, Évora). The foot of the Évora wall proposes pairing Alentejo specialities with Invisível wine from the Ervideira winery, a 100% Aragonez white, a red grape variety. A must try their red wine ice cream.
· Adega Cartuxa and Dona Dorinda are on the outskirts of the city. Here, you can book your guided tour, which includes tasting three wines for only 20 euros. What are you waiting for to discover all the secrets of Alentejo wine?
Dare to taste Alentejo wines in Évora, the capital of Upper Alentejo!
CHIN CHIN, SALUT, KAMPAI!
THE MACABRE BONE CHAPEL
This chapel was built during the seventeenth century by three Franciscan religious who had the idea of carrying a message about the impermanence and weakness of human life. At the entrance of the place, there is a poster reflecting the baroque style proposed by the Franciscans. The announcement says:
"THE BONES THAT ARE HERE, FOR YOURS WE WAIT".
The Chapel of Bones is about 18.7 m high and 11 m wide. On the left side of the structure, there are small slits that allow light to enter. It has eight columns that are adorned with extensive bones and skulls delicately placed and fixed with cement. Its ceiling is made of brick and decorated with a different theme.
To create a work similar to this, you need 5,000 skeletons, all taken from the cemeteries in nearby churches.
During the 16th century, there were about 42 cemeteries all over the city. As they covered many lands and to find a solution, the pilgrims decided to remove the bones and create a Bones Chapel with this theme.
The Franciscan solution, creative and sinister, was to extract the bones from the ground and use them to erect and "decorate" a chapel. The use of the bones of more than five thousand monks is calculated, including skulls, tibias, vertebrae and femurs, arranged on the walls, columns and ceiling, in a macabre architecture, drawing ornaments. The chapel comprises three naves, with the lights that dimly illuminate, through three holes that open on the left side.
The walls and the eight pillars are lined with bones joined by brown cement. The vaults are painted with symbolic motifs of death. We find the words "The bones that we are here we wait for yours" at the entrance. It is a reference to one of the monks´ aims in building this unique chapel: "to serve as a consolation to some and as news to the curiosity of others".
Finally, the transience of life is evident.
This chapel is a building made in honour of the Lord of the Steps (Senhor dos Passos), whose image is well recognized by the people who live in Évora, symbolizing the suffering that Christ experienced during the walk Calvary while carrying the cross on his shoulders.
FROM GIRALDO TO THE BEYOND
We will start our walk from Évora by the Plaza de Giraldo, the current nerve centre of the capital of Alto Alentejo. Here we will take the opportunity to acquire a map at the tourist office.
In this beautiful square, there are emblematic buildings. The Church of Santo Antao, a Renaissance church from the 16th century, and the monumental Renaissance marble fountain, known as the eight pipes fountain, and the beautiful Arabic-style arches that give access to the twisted irregular alleys, are some of them. If we take Calle 5 de Octubre, we will reach the highest part of the city. There we can visit the majestic Cathedral, where Romanesque and Gothic styles are mixed, and very close to the Sé de Évora, is the temple of Diana, a witness of the city´s Roman times, when it was called Ebora Liberalitas Lulia. I recommend you admire this Roman acropolis while enjoying a cafezinho (coffee) or a delicious chá (tea) on the terrace of this cosy square. Relax! Because after the cafezinho, we will go down Calle 5 de Octubre again to continue our itinerary. Once we reach Giraldo Square, we will turn left, following the beautiful arcaded galleries. Take Calle da República we will arrive at the San Francisco´s Church where you can visit the famous Bones Chapel, paying an entrance fee of 5 euros. The chapel also has an interesting museum of sacred art and an exhibition of Nativity scenes from all over the world, don´t miss it, it will surprise you.
Experience the spooky emotion of seeing the macabre Bones Chapel, with its more than 5,000 skulls, tibias and coccyx. We will walk then through the romantic Public Garden, surrounded by beautiful vegetation and accompanied by friendly peacocks and ducks that roam freely through this romantic garden that served as a Royal Residence from the 15th century. Here is the old Royal Palace, also known as the Don Manuel Palace, scene of the inauguration of the great Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama, who discovered the trade route to India in 1498. Here, next to the sculpture of the brave navigator, the numerous students of the University of Évora gather, dressed in their elegant uniforms where the black capes remind us of the Harry Potter movie. Enjoy this magical corner accompanied by a snack in your friendly cafe.
Walk back up Calle República. In one of the narrow streets that open up on your right, you can admire the Church of the Convent of Grace. Built in the 16th century, with classical Renaissance lines, it has an atrium with Doric columns. You can also see rose windows on the first level and two figures of seated Atlanteans on the edges of the pediment.
In classical European architecture, an atlas (also known as an Atlantean) is sculpted support in the shape of a man, which can take the place of a column, pier, or pilaster. Although it is hidden, do not stop taking your photo in this fantastic corner of the city.
Continuing our course towards the Plaza de Giraldo, we will cross its monumental eight pipes fountain. Following the beautiful arcaded galleries, we will reach the impressive Aqueduct of La Plata, where we will end our walk.
It was rebuilt on the old Roman aqueduct, made by one of the great Renaissance masters, Francisco de Arruda, in the 16th century. With more than 15 km, it is crowned by towers of variable shapes: square, octagonal, domed or conical.
DOM MANUEL PALACE
I invite you to relax while enjoying the flora and fauna of this cosy public garden, where you can admire peacocks and other wild birds that run around this beautiful space that invites you to calm down. The Palace of Don Manuel is located from the 15th century, where its brick arches in Mudejar style stand out. In the halls of this palace, he was declared Admiral Vasco da Gama on his expedition to discover the new trade routes to India. It also served as a royal residence from the 15th century, when Évora became the second most important city in the Kingdom of Portugal.
D. Manuel´s Palace was what remains of the splendid San Francisco Palace. From the Convent of San Francisco, the new and grandiose Royal Palace of Évora was built, which housed the court and where the marriage of the Infante D. Afonso, son of D. Juan II, with the Infanta Isabel of Castile was celebrated in 1490.
It was up to King Manuel I, the Venturer, who ascended to the throne in 1495, to enjoy the monumental complex where the grandeur and architectural beauty emanated that it exhibited.
In 1865, the Palacio de D. Manuel was used as an Archaeological Museum, theatre, and exhibition space until 1881, when the roof of the building collapsed.
After the disaster, it functioned as a public entertainment centre, known as the Eborense Theater, after the works, directed by the engineer Adriano de Sousa Monteiro, who changed its original model, adding a second floor with a metal frame, to the taste of the epoch.
In March 1916, it was destroyed by fire. It remained so until 1943 when it was recovered by the association of National Monuments, which restored the property and saved essential parts of the old pavilion.
Today, it serves as the city´s "visiting room", where receptions and official ceremonies of a cultural nature, exhibitions and other initiatives in keeping with its dignity occur.
Let yourself be seduced by this magical corner and enjoy the moment enjoying a delicious Bethlehem cake in its charming cafe, where young university students meet to chat.
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