Evora Tourist Attractions
Évora (altitude: 300m/985ft000), built on a low hill surrounded by rolling plains, was the old capital of the upland region of Alentejo and is now the chief town of its own district, the see of an archbishop and, since 1979, a University once more.
In economic terms, it is the trading center for the agricultural produce of Alentejo (wool, cloth, cork) and has its own important electrical goods industry.In 1986 UNESCO declared Évora a world cultural inheritance site there is no question that the chief town of the Alentejo, with its many important buildings in the old town center, is well worth a visit. To see it properly will take at least two days or more to include the places of interest in the countryside around. In the last few years some sizable modern hotels have sprung up around the old town; the pousada in the town center is particularly stylish.HistoryÉvora is one of the oldest trading posts on the Iberian peninsula. In Roman times it was a very important town, first called Ebora, under the praetorship of Sertorius, then renamed Liberalitas Iulia under Julius Caesar.In 715 the town fell into the hands of the Moors and became known as Yebora. It was reconquered by Giraldo Sempavor (Gerald the Fearless) in 1165 and reunited with the kingdom of Afonso Henriques. From the 14th to the 16th C. it was intermittently the residence of the Portuguese kings and hence the focus of political and cultural life; however, with the permanent transfer of the seat of government to Lisbon and the eventual closing of its university, Évora's splendor and influence declined. and it is only in recent decades that this has partially been recovered, owing to some extent to its importance as a tourist center.TownscapeWith its walls of the Roman, Moorish and later periods, still largely preserved, and its narrow lanes, sometimes lined with arcades, Évora's townscape still has a Moorish and medieval appearance, hence its entitlement to the term "cidade museu" museum city.A good starting point for a tour of the town is the square by the cathedral. In the central area of the town there is only short term parking available for non residents. The best thing is to leave the car on one of the large parking lots on the ring road which runs along the town wall. From there it is only a few minutes' walk to the center.
The Early Gothic Cathedral in Évora, dating to the 12th C, in some way resembles a fortress from the outside. The interior is impressively decorated, and the Cathedral Treasury features some fine pieces.
Museu de Évora
The former Archbishop's Palace, on the north side of the Cathedral, now houses the well stocked Museu de Évora, the regional museum, displaying Roman archeological finds, Romanesque and Gothic architectural fragments, Portuguese and Flemish pictures of the 16th-18th C., applied and decorative art, and two cenotaphs by Nicolas Chanterène for Dom Álvares de Costa (1535) and Dom Afonso de Portugal (1537).The Museum is closed for redecoration and building works.
Opposite the Museu de Évora entrance is what has become the symbol of Évora, its Roman temple. Dating from the A.D. second or third century, it is one of the best preserved Roman structures in Portugal and is popularly known as the Temple of Diana, although it is not clear to which deity it was actually dedicated. On the 3m/10ft high base, which is almost completely preserved, there still stand 14 of the original 18 Corinthian columns, with part of the architrave. During the Middle Ages the temple was converted into a fortress, and later served for many years as a slaughterhouse, a use which ultimately saved it from demolition.Since 1986 fresh archeological digs and investigations have been undertaken, and these have concentrated mainly on the position of the temple inside the Roman town center. It was discovered that the open square in front of the temple was covered with large slabs of marble (they lie about one meter below the present ground level) and in 1992 the south border and the west entrance gate of what is presumed to have been the forum came to light. The gardens behind the temple overlook a terrace with good views over the northern part of Évora.
Convento dos Lóios
Opposite the Roman temple, to the east, is the church of the Convent dos Lóios, which was built between 1485 and 1491 and much altered in the following centuries. The Manueline porch was part of the original building, and bears the arms of the de Melos who founded the church and chose to be buried there.Parts of the former convent have been converted into a pousada, and the beautiful cloister now serves as a charming garden for its guests, with the restaurant located in the galleries. The former chapterhouse, through the cloister, has Manueline stellar vaulting.The Biblioteca Pública, the public library, is in another part of the building and contains about 2,000 incunabula and manuscripts.
Paço dos Duques de Cadaval
There used to be direct access from the north front of the Convento dos Lóios to the Paço dos Duques de Cadaval, the palace that King Joao I presented to the de Melos, ancestors of the Cadavals, at the end of the 14th C. Because of its pentagonal north tower originally part of the medieval town fortifications it is also known as the pentagonal palace, the "Palácio das Cinco Quinas".
Paço dos Condes de Basto
The Paço dos Condes de Basto is several hundred yards to the right beyond the Paço dos Duques de Cadaval. This Gothic Manueline palace of the Counts of Basto which was intermittently the residence of various kings contains part of the Romanesque cum Visigothic town walls.
On the other side of the street from the Paço dos Condes de Basto is the extensive University complex. The Universidade, in Italian Renaissance style, was founded in 1551 as a Jesuit college, raised to the status of a university in 1558 and closed in 1759, after the dissolution of the Jesuit order in Portugal. After Évora acquired its university status again in 1979 lecture rooms were reinstated around the cloister, many of them embellished with azulejos and marble. The university church (Nossa Senhora da Conceiçao) was consecrated in 1574, and also boasts marble and talha in its single nave interior.
Address: Largo dos Colegiais, Portugal
Opening hours: Closed: Sun
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), Anniversity of the Revolution - Portugal (Apr 25), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), National Day - Portugal (Jun 10), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), Republic Day - Portugal (Oct 5), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), Independence Day - Portugal (Dec 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian, Corpus Christi - Christian
Largo das Portas de Moura
A route down the alleys leading southward from the university then westward along the Rua de Machede brings the visitor to the Largo das Portas de Moura, which owes much of its picturesque, quaint character to the Renaissance fountain (1556) in its center, with a globe looming over its marble basin as the symbol of the dawn of a new age.On the south side of the square stands the Casa Cordovil, an elegant 16th century palace in Moorish and Manueline style, catching the eye with its loggia and four graceful pillars.Opposite the Casa Cordovil a double flight of steps leads down into the forecourt of the early 17th century church of the former Carmo convent and bearing over its portal the bold motto of the Dukes of Bragança "depois de vós nós", after You (i.e. the King), us!
Igreja da Graça
The Igreja da Graça, west of the Largo das Portas de Moura, was founded by Joao I in the 16th c, and its facade is reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. The interior is extemely plain and likewise in Renaissance style.
Igreja Real de Sao Francisco
Quite close by to the Igreja da Graça stands the church of Sao Francisco, a former convent church dating from the second half of the 15th C. and perhaps the finest example of Manueline architecture in southern Portugal. The severe white interior, with the same white mortar joints as in the Cathedral, creates an effect of greater spaciousness than the latter.
Regional Handicrafts Museum
Opposite the side of the Igreja Real de Sao Francisco is what purports to be a regional handicrafts museum, the Museu de Artesanato Regional, but is in fact more of a sales outlet.
Farther south from the Igreja Real de Sao Francisco lies the town park, the Jardim Público, with its inviting shady walks and lovely flowers.
Jardim Público - Galeria das Damas
The Galeria das Damas inside the Jardim Público was part of the 15th/16th C. royal palace and its Moorish arcades today serve as exhibition areas. Together with the rest of the now demolished palace buildings it once enjoyed the glittering life of Manuel I's court, and was where the King received Vasco da Gama.
Ermida de Sao Brás
Further south from the Jardim Público along the Rua da República there is a monument, topped by an angel, commemorating the soldiers of Évora who fell in the First World War. This is within sight of the Ermida de Sao Bras, the hermitage of St Blaise, a fortress like building in a Late Gothic style showing Moorish influence which was erected in 1485 in thanksgiving for survival from the plague. The flat roof is crenellated and flanked by six conical pinnacles along each side, and the interior is unusually plain.
Igreja das Mercês
The tour of Évora continues by returning to the walls around the Jardim Público, built in the 17th century according to the Vauban system, then turning west along the fortifications as far as the Rua do Raimundo, and the Igreja das Mercês, the church of the Mercês, which now houses the museum of decorative arts, the Museu das Artes Decorativas, containing arts and crafts as well as religious art.
Praça do Giraldo
A couple of hundred yards to the northeast of the Igreja das Mercês, in the center of Évora, is the elongated Praça do Giraldo, the picturesque square that was once a place of execution where many victims of the Inquisition went to the stake. Its street cafés provide a good opportunity to appreciate the scenic effect of the beautiful houses and arcades surrounding the square. The Renaissance fountain in Estremoz marble (by Afonso Avares, 1581) stands on the site of a Roman triumphal arch demolished in 1570. On the north side of the square is the collegiate church of Santo Antao, built in 1557 by the archbishop who later became King Henrique II; it has a clearly defined Renaissance façade.The Rua 5 de Outubro, full of souvenir shops and the favorite precinct for promenading, soon brings the walk round the city back to its starting point.
Convent of Santa Clara
The former convent of Santa Clara, west of the Praça do Giraldo, founded in 1452, was substantially altered in the 16th C. Its church, with its elegant belfry, is worth seeing.
Convento do Calvário
An interesting convent, further north from the convent of Santa Clara, is the Convento do Calvário, its church and 16th C. cloister open to the public.
Casa dos Ossos
Adjoining the south aisle of the Igreja Real de Sao Francisco is the Casa dos Ossos, a 17th C. charnel house. Those of a more sensitive disposition should think twice before venturing inside, since the walls are formed by carefully arranged layers of human bones. The macabre effect is heightened by the skeletons of a man and a child hanging from this gruesome wall, and to top it all the motto over the door reads "our bones that lie within are waiting for yours to join them".
Northeast of the Convento do Calvário, nearby, are the remains of an aqueduct, built in the 16th C. probably toreplace a Roman equivalent.
Map of Evora Attractions