The Alentejo is Portugal’s largest region, covering a third of the country, from south of the River Tagus (Lisbon) to the northern mountains of the Algarve. The region has vineyards, wheat fields and cork plantations. Wine production was already established here when the Romans arrived and cork has been produced here for over 700 years. Today the huge cork groves of the Alentejo provide about fifty percent of the worlds entire supply of cork. I’m on a short, two day, visit to the city of Évora, which sits in the northern half of the Alentejo.
Évora is a walled city, the original walls were built by the Romans when they occupied the city. In the 14th century new walls were built to protect the expanding city. Parts of the old wall in the city centre has houses built into it
Praça do Giraldo is the largest and main, square in Évora, lined with examples of gothic and Romanesque architecture, cafes, restaurants and the Igreja de Santo Antão. The rather large Henriquina fountain dates from 1570 and has eight spouts, which represent the eight streets which lead from the square.
Today the square is a meeting place, where one can relax over a coffee, pose for photos or eat hot roasted chestnuts. In the 16th century it was the site of the public burning of people by the Inquisition, over 22,000 people in a 200 year period. One of the most notorious events happened in 1573 when ‘convicts’ of the court were burnt alive on giant pyres, constructed in the centre of the square. It was also where the Duke of Braganza was beheaded.
The remains of this Roman Forum, Templo Romano, are among the best preserved Roman monuments in Portugal. Dating from the 2nd or early 3rdcentury, the temple was, over time, incorporated into various buildings, including a butcher’s shop/slaughter house. The Forum was re-discovered and restored in the late 19th century, 14 of the original 18 granite columns remain.
Évora’s Roman-Gothic Cathedral was built from 1280 to 1350 and is sited on the highest point of the city.
The Aqueduto da Água de Prata (Aqueduct of Silver Water) was completed in 1537, 18 kilometres long, it provided freshwater to the residents of Évora until 1979. Although no longer used to carry water, the structure is still in use, as houses have been built into its arches.