The weather forecast suggested a chilly day with showers and so we decided on a day in Castelo Branco. We had visited before, in 2013, and had enjoyed the gardens. Portugal is changing and from searches on the internet it seemed as though there were considerable developments in Castelo Branco.
The Bishop’s Palace Gardens are formal, extravagant, and surprising, created by the Bishop of Guarda, Dom João de Mendonça (1711-36), and filled with ponds and fountains, statues, box hedges, and terraces. The five fountains represent the five wounds of Christ; the statues depict Kings of Portugal, Virtues, Bishops, Saints, and parts of the world; and the orange trees add scent to the gardens.
The adjacent Bishop’s Palace was built by an earlier Bishop of Guarda, Nuno de Noronha, between the years 1596 and 1598 and since 1971 houses the Francisco Tavares Proença Junior Museum. We visited because I wanted to see the embroidery particular to Castelo Branco. I believe there is also an interpretation centre in Castelo Branco where the creation of the embroideries can be investigated further – next time! The embroidery was inspired by that found in China and India through trade. The Palace itself is undergoing a planned restoration so may be closed – check before visiting. And do take change with you – the reception desk ummed and ahed about giving us change and it took about ten minutes to get in; then we were grudgingly herded through rooms by an attendant who forced the pace and wouldn’t allow deviations from his route – not encouraging to tourism!
Cultural visits are hard work and it was time for a coffee on the new square in the centre of the town. The new Cultural Centre looked amazing but did not invite visits – so we sat and looked at it from the warm and friend lunch cafe.
I had read about a new Art Gallery and we eventually found this through persistence rather than the inaccurate map! The Manuel Cargaleiro Museum houses his own paintings, collages, and pottery, as well the works of other artists. The new building is very beautiful and you should visit if you are in the town; the museum itself is also in the adjacent old palace. Here you will find a wonderful collection of ceramic plates.
There has been a settlement in this area since at least Roman times, but it was only in the 13C that the Templars built the Castle and the Walls. We didn’t explore historical Castelo Branco on this occasion, just catching a glimpse of ‘old’ town as we walked.
Do visit if you go to Portugal!