Wednesday, July 17: I wander the streets a lot during my one full day in Evora, and here are some of the street scenes. I’m fascinated by the Portuguese doors, windows, and balconies, the peeling paint on the building facades. the patterned pebble sidewalks, and the strange-shaped roofs.
Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slideshow.
In my wanderings, I come across the huge arches of the Água de Prata Aqueduct(Aqueduct of Silver Water). This 9km-long aqueduct was built in 1531–1537 by King João III to supply the city with water. The end part of the aqueduct is remarkable with houses, shops and cafés built between the arches.
Água de Prata Aqueduct
Buildings built into the arches of the Água de Prata Aqueduct
Água de Prata Aqueduct
Água de Prata Aqueduct
Água de Prata Aqueduct
I also pass by the Temple Romano another time.
For my last night in Evora, I have a wonderful meal at Restaurante S. Luis, which the receptionist at Pensão Policarpo has recommended. I love the warm atmosphere and the fact that it’s off the beaten tourist track and frequented by the Portuguese.
I have a glass of wine, bread and olives. These olives may be the best I have ever tasted!
And then I order Balcalhau a Nuno Neves(a posta assado no forno), which is a wonderful codfish with potatoes and broth served in a hot steaming dish. It’s delicious. 🙂
I relax for my last evening on the patio of Pensão Policarpo. Tomorrow morning, I head for Sintra, about a half-hour west of Lisbon.
Wednesday, July 17: After visiting the Cathedral, I take a long walk to the far side of town and I discover (Voila!) this is where all the tourists are! I have been on the quiet side of town and wondered why I seemed to have Évora all to myself.
I finally come across Giraldo Square (Praça do Giraldo), which is considered the center of the city. The Renaissance fountain (fonte Henriquina) dates from 1570. Its eight jets symbolize the eight streets leading into the square.
At the northern end of the square lies St. Anton’s church (Igreja de Santo Antão), also from the 16th century. In 1483 Fernando II, Duke of Braganza, was decapitated on this square, in the presence of his brother-in-law King John II. This square also witnessed thousands of autos-da-fé (rituals of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Portuguese Inquistion had decided their punishment, followed by the execution by the civil authorities of the sentences imposed) during the period of the Inquisition; 22,000 condemnations, it seems, in about 200 years (Wikipedia: Évora).
I stop at a cafe in the square for a little bowl of bean soup for lunch.
I’m in search of the St. Francis Church, known in Portuguese as the Igreja de São Francisco. I find it, but when I arrive it is after 1:00 and it’s closed for siesta time. It opens again at 2:30, so I have some time to kill. I don’t want to walk all the way back to the other side of town, so instead I visit the Jardim Público de Évora, just south of the Church.
It’s quite hot at this time of day. Sometimes I wonder why on earth I’m out here in the heat while everyone else is taking a siesta! I sit down next to a fountain just to hear the sound of the flowing water and imagine being cool.
On the way out, I encounter these pretty peacocks and I keep waiting and hoping they will spread out their feathers for a turquoise and green color extravaganza. They never oblige me with a show. 😦
I find this little Moorish inspired pavilion, where I take shelter in the shade for a few moments.
And I find this pretty little garden as I make my way out.
When I leave the gardens, the Church of St. Francis is still not open, so I wander up the street a bit, where I make a brief stop to admire the Largo da Graça, a church nearby that’s designated as a national monument. It too is closed for siesta.
Since all the sights seem to be closed for siesta, I find a little bakery where I stop for a cold drink and a pastel de nata. I think I’m developing an addiction to these sweet delectable treats.
Finally, when I return to St. Francis Church, I head straight for one of the chapels decorated in Baroque style, the Capela dos Ossos, or the Chapel of Bones, totally covered with human bones. First I enter through the Chapter House, which was transformed at the end of the 19th century into the Capela dos Passos. The space was decorated with tile paneling alluding to the Passion of Christ.
Built in the first half of the 17th century, as an extension of the Chapter House of the Convent of São Francisco, the Chapel of Bones is an invitation to reflect on the transitory nature of the human condition, summarized in the words above its entrance: WE BONES HERE, FOR YOURS AWAIT (Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos).
The walls and columns are lined with the carefully arranged bones and skulls of some 5,000 people, held together by cement. Most of the bones came from the cemeteries that were situated inside several dozen churches. Some of these skulls have been scribbled with graffiti. Two desiccated corpses, one of which is a child, dangle from a chain (Wikipedia: Capela dos Ossos). According to Lonely Planet Portugal, 17th century Franciscan monks constructed this as a memento mori (reminder of death).
The ceiling’s decoration, dating from 1810 and full of symbols, allegories and quotations from the Holy Scriptures, affirms another life in the glory of God.
I then go next door to St. Francis Church, or the Igreja de São Francisco, which was built between the end of the 15th and the early 16th centuries in mixed Gothic-Manueline styles. It was dedicated to St. Francis. The wide nave is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. Legend has it that the Portuguese navigator Gil Vicente is buried here (Lonely Planet Portugal).
After exploring this area of town, I simply enjoy walking through the streets of Evora in search of the Água de Prata Aqueduct (Aqueduct of Silver Water).
Wednesday, July 17: After visiting the Universidade de Évora, I climb to the top of the hill to visit the Cathedral of Évora. When I first enter the Cathedral, I pay a mandatory entrance fee to visit the museum and cathedral and am sent up the stairs to the choir stalls, the museum and the roof. From the choir stalls above, I’m able to get this picture of the central nave. The baroque main chapel is in the background. The large nave has a pointed barrel vault. The interior space is accentuated by the use of white mortar on the bare high walls, pillars and vaults.
It was Gerald the Fearless (Geraldo Sem Pavor) who definitively reconquered Evora from the Arabs in 1166. Soon afterwards, the new Christian rulers of the city began to build a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This first building, built between 1184 and 1204, was very modest and was enlarged circa 1280-1340, this time in early Gothic style. The cathedral received several valuable additions through time, such as the 14th century Gothic cloisters, the 16th century Manueline chapel of the Esporão and a new main chapel in baroque style (first half of the 18th century). It is the largest of the medieval cathedrals in Portugal and one of the best examples of Gothic architecture (Wikipedia: Cathedral of Évora).
My favorite thing about visiting this Cathedral is getting to clamber about on the roof. I think it’s fun to take pictures up here, with its great views of Évora below and its fascinating architectural features.
I even find a flat surface on the roof where I can set my camera with the 12-second timer to take a picture of myself. Everyone wants pictures of themselves in the places they visit and I’m no exception, but I can’t take many because I’m by myself. So it’s always great when I can find a ledge somewhere to place my camera. Especially when the ledge is at a decent height so the picture isn’t too unflattering. 🙂
Walking back down the steep circular stairs, I find myself in the Gothic-style cloisters, built between 1317 and 1340. The use of granite in the cloisters’ Late-Gothic tracery gives it a heavy-looking overall impression. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful cloisters on this trip, but this set is not one of my favorites because of its bulkiness. I prefer the more delicate cloisters I’ve found, especially at the Alcazar in Seville and the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes in Toledo.
Each corner of the cloister gallery has a marble Gothic statue of one of the Four Evangelists. The Capela do Fundador, the funerary chapel of bishop D. Pedro, builder of the cloisters, features his tomb with recumbent figure, a statue of the Archangel Gabriel and a polychromed statue of Mary.
Finally, I’m deposited into the inside of the Cathedral where I can walk around the nave and the main chapel, which was totally rebuilt between 1718 and 1746, a work sponsored by King John V. The style favoured by the King and his architect was Roman baroque, with polychrome marble decoration (green marble from Italy, white marble from Montes Claros, red and black marble from Sintra) and painted altars. Although its style does not really fit into the medieval interior of the cathedral, the main chapel is nevertheless an elegant baroque masterpiece.
In the middle of the central nave there is a large 15th century Baroque altar with a polychrome Gothic statue of a pregnant Virgin Mary.
The Cathedral of Évora was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
Here are some late afternoon pictures of the exterior of the cathedral, with its pretty rose granite facade.
Wednesday, July 17: This morning, I meander out in the town knowing there’s a lot to see and hoping throughout the day to hit most of it. I don’t even have much of a plan; I just start walking and soon I run into the Universidade de Evora, unmarked, with its door open to the world. I have heard from my friend Jo that there are some nice cloisters here, so I go in search of them.
The current university, which was reopened in 1973, descends from the original Jesuit institution founded in 1559. Two hundred years after its founding, in 1759, due to the Jesuit expulsion promoted by the Minister of the Kingdom, Marquis of Pombal, it was closed.
I love the painted entryway.
The doorway is flanked by azulejos (hand-painted tiles) for which Portugal is famous.
Azulejo is a form of Portuguese painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tilework. It has been produced without interruption for five centuries. The azulejos are found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses and even railway stations. They are applied on walls, floors and even ceilings. They are not only used as an ornamental art form, but also have a specific function of temperature control. Many azulejos chronicle major historical and cultural aspects of Portuguese history. (Wikipedia: Azulejo)
It’s only as I wander through the halls of higher learning that I figure out it is, in fact, the university. Here’s one clue!
Inside are the beautiful arched, Italian Renaissance-style cloisters that Jo told me about.
And here’s me, resting with the azulejos, before venturing back into the town.