Vila Viçosa is a traditional Portuguese town on a site which has been inhabited for over 2,000 years (like London), but remains very modest in size (c.9,000 people), and which nowadays earns a living from marble and tourism.
We stayed in the 16C Convento das Chagas de Cristo, the Pousada Dom João IV, adjacent to the Ducal Palace. The Dukes of Braganza lived in the Palace, and built the Convent which includes the Pantheon of the Duchesses of Braganza. Opposite the Palace is the Augustinian Monastery, the Pantheon of the Dukes of Braganza. The Monastery was founded in the 13C, the period of the Mediaeval walled village and Castle. Sadly this building is not open to the public. (There were apparently seven convents/monasteries in the town at one time – to be found next time!)
Quiet streets lead from the Square of the Ducal Palace to the more modest Republic Square, with open views from the Castle to the Church of St Bartholomew. The buildings in these streets had mainly yellow borders to the windows and doors and I believe this was associated with bringing wealth to the building. (Another site says yellow wards off ghosts; and blue wards off evil…) And everywhere on the breeze was the scent of orange blossoms.
The 17C Church of São João Evangelista (St John the Evangelist) or São Bartolomeu is always open. It is a curious building of the 16C, with three doors and square towers.
The Town Hall dates from 1757 and over the years has been used for many different purposes – a butchery, fishmonger, judiciary, senate, prison and strongroom!
And behind the Town Hall there are elegant streets paved with marble.
There is so much more: the Casa do Colégio Velha, a manor house of the 16C; the Church of the Misericordia; shrines; the House of the Arches, and many other sights.
I must return!
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Vila Vicosa – history & sights