the Cathedral of Évora

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.

Cathedral of Évora
Cathedral of Évora
Cathedral of Évora
Cathedral of Évora

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.

the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
view of Évora from the roof of the Cathedral
view of Évora from the roof of the Cathedral

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. 🙂

me on the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
me on the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
the roof of the Cathedral of Évora
roof of the Cathedral of Évora
roof of the Cathedral of Évora

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.

cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora
cloisters of the Cathedral of Évora

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.

the Virgin Mary
the Virgin 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.

the main chapel of the Cathedral of Evora
the main chapel of the Cathedral of Evora
close up of the main chapel
close up of the main chapel

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 Virgin Mary
the 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.

Cathedral of Évora
Cathedral of Évora
Cathedral of Évora
Cathedral of Évora

The Alentejo: first afternoon in Évora

Tuesday, July 16:  I arrive this afternoon in Evora with no real idea of what I’m supposed to do or see here.  I know that my hotel is near the Cathedral of Evora, as the happy sing-song receptionist (“Holaaaaaa!”) has pointed out the way on the map of the town’s spiderweb-configured streets.  I skim through the guidebook and find many of the same things that many Spanish and Portuguese villages have: a medieval cathedral, a smattering of Roman ruins, and picturesque town squares.

Before I came to Evora, I thought it sounded in the guidebook like it was going to be similar to Toledo, Spain.  It turns out I’m right in some ways, wrong in others.  The similarity is a hilltop location with a warren of winding and convoluted narrow streets. The difference is in the feel of the town, especially as I first experience it.  It doesn’t seem quite as touristy as Toledo, but I find out later it’s only because I’m in the wrong part of town!  I’m in the part of town where the Portuguese actually live and work.  I like that!

balcony in Evora
balcony in Evora
today's newspapers in Evora
today’s newspapers in Evora

Due to its well-preserved old town center, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to UNESCO, this museum-city, whose roots go back to Roman times, reached its golden age in the 15th century, when it became the Portuguese kings’ residence. Its unique quality stems from the whitewashed houses decorated with azulejos and wrought-iron balconies dating from the 16th to the 18th century. Its monuments had a profound influence on Portuguese architecture in Brazil. (UNESCO: Historic Centre of Évora)

a church in Evora
a church in Evora

Evora’s history goes back two millennia; it was known as Ebora by the Celtics.  The Romans made it a military outpost and an important center of Roman Iberia in 59 BC.  In 584, it was taken over by the Visigoths in the barbarian invasions and went into general decline.  In 715, it was conquered by the Moors and slowly began to prosper again.

Under Moorish domination, which came to an end in 1165, further improvements were made to the original defensive system as shown by a fortified gate and the remains of the ancient Kasbah.

Évora was wrested from the Moors through a surprise attack by Gerald the Fearless (Geraldo Sem Pavor) in September 1165. The town came under the rule of the Portuguese king Alfonso I in 1166. It then flourished as one of the most dynamic cities in the Kingdom of Portugal during the Middle Ages, especially in the 15th century. The court of the first and second dynasties resided here for long periods, constructing palaces, monuments and religious buildings. Évora became the scene for many royal weddings and a site where many important decisions were made (Wikipedia: Évora).

Interesting roofs and towers
Interesting roofs and towers

I have my first glimpse of the Cathedral of Évora.  Tomorrow I’ll explore it more thoroughly as it’s closed this afternoon, but here are a few outside views.  Mainly built between 1280 and 1340, it is one of the most important Gothic monuments of Portugal.

part of the Cathedral of Evora
part of the Cathedral of Evora
Cathedral of Evora
Cathedral of Evora
Cathedral of Evora
Cathedral of Evora

The entrance to the Cathedral is through a portal flanked by 14th century stone apostles.

portal to the Cathedral of Evora
portal to the Cathedral of Evora

I come across the Temple Romano, the remains of a Roman temple dating from the 2nd or early 3rd century.  According to Lonely Planet Portugal, it’s one of the best-preserved Roman monuments in Portugal, and probably on the Iberian peninsula.  Though it’s commonly called the Temple of Diana, there is no consensus about the deity to whom it’s dedicated.  Some archeologists believe it may have been dedicated to Julius Caesar.

Temple Romano
Temple Romano

It turns out the temple may be so well-preserved because it was walled up in the Middle Ages to form a small fortress, and then used as the town slaughterhouse.  It was uncovered late in the 19th century (Lonely Planet Portugal).

Temple Romano
Temple Romano

Across from the temple is a little park with sculptures and a great view over Evora, the Jardim de Diana.

Jardim de Diana
Jardim de Diana
rooftops of Evora
rooftops of Evora
Jardim de Diana
Jardim de Diana
rooftops in Evora
rooftops in Evora

It’s quite hot this afternoon, so I stop at a little cafe in the park to have a cold beer and rest.  Then I head back to my room to relax for a bit before heading out for dinner.  I pass this pretty church along the way.  I love the architecture of Portuguese churches.

buidling in Evora
church in Evora

When I go back out again in search of dinner, it doesn’t seem there are many options.  For a UNESCO World Heritage Site, I think it’s not very crowded or touristy.  I can hardly find any cafes where I can eat.  I finally come across this little cafe, O Cantinho da Beatriz, and see a photo for this 6 euro bowl of Sopa de Beldroegas.  It’s known as purslane, or watercress, soup in English.  I have no idea what’s in it, but I decide to be bold and try it.

Sopa de Beldroegas
Sopa de Beldroegas

I’m surprised by how wonderful it is!  It’s a simple soup, but very tasty, with potatoes, watercress, onions, and big cubes of cheese (I’m not sure what kind).  The large ball at the 4:00 position in the bowl is a HUGE head of garlic!  I think it’s a hunk of meat of some kind, but it’s not.  I eat the entire thing, cleaning out my bowl, even though it’s rich and very filling.  It’s one of those dishes that you can’t stop eating once you start because every bite is so delectable!

me at O Cantinho da Beatriz
me at O Cantinho da Beatriz

It’s so lovely sitting at this cafe and watching the local Portuguese congregating and drinking wine around a table, with people stopping along the street to join in or simply greet their neighbors at the table.  The waiter speaks good English and is a real gentleman, making me feel perfectly welcome.  This is one of the loveliest dinners I have alone during my trip.  It’s nice to be sitting amongst the Portuguese instead of among tourists for a change.

Buildings in Evora
Buildings in Evora

After eating that huge dinner with an accompanying Sagres beer, I decide I better walk a bit through the town.  It feels good to walk after a big and satisfying meal.  I enjoy taking pictures of the buildings with their walls of peeling paint and their scruffy doors.

Doors in Evora
Doors in Evora

I even stop and put my camera on someone’s windowsill to take a picture of myself against a shabby-chic wall.

me on the streets of Evora
me on the streets of Evora
shabby chic windows in Evora
shabby chic windows in Evora
An archway with shabby window overhead
An archway with shabby window overhead

I’m tired tonight from a day of travel, so I head back to Pensão Policarpo, where, because there is no internet connection in my room, I sit on the patio and do some blogging.  I’m still in Spain in my blog, and am getting further behind every day.  I now know the futility of trying to blog while traveling.  Next time, I will just take pictures and keep a journal and take along only an iPad to check emails.   I’m going to learn to pack light if it kills me! 🙂

the worn sign for Pensão Policarpo
the worn sign for Pensão Policarpo
me and the walls of Evora
me and the walls of Evora

 

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