Before I take you to Beja in 2018 we are going to hop back to 2017 when we were based at Vila Viçosa and spent four wonderful days exploring the area. On this day rain was forecast so we planned a little car tour and activities and walks which offered shelter! We had visited the Marble Museum in Vila Viçosa and the Fortress of Juromenha and now we headed for Borba.
Borba is a surprisingly attractive small town close to Vila Viçosa. It has a Castle and Walls built by King Alfonso II (1185-1223) and is surrounded by marble quarries in the usual Alentejo countryside of cork oaks, vineyards, and olive trees. We started with a visit to The Olive ‘Museum’ attached to the Tourist Office. The Tourist Office official was interesting and helpful – do try!
The Castle was built in the 13C and its Mediaeval walls, with two old gateways, are clearly visible as you walk into the centre of the town. Sometimes you need to look up because houses are built against the walls and only when you look up do you see the crenellations. Inside the Castle there is a Clock Tower and old Prison, but we did not visit on this occasion. At the Gate of Estremoz an old inscription confirms the Mediaeval building works.
Like all these Mediaeval towns religion was important and there are many churches, but you have to be lucky to find them open. The Church of St Bartholomew dates from the 16C, probably replacing an earlier building on the same site. Sadly it was firmly closed when we visited. It stands on a quiet square with a statue of St Bartholomew, and adjacent to it is the Church of Nossa Senhora da Soledade, with a curious cross on the wall outside.
The Chapel of the Stations of the Cross, the Via Crucis, was created in the 18C from white marble. But there are others around the town and they all look very similar.
The streets are fascinating and the street named after Antonio de Melo de Castro, a Portuguese Colonial Administrator in the 17C reminds us of the extent of the Portuguese Empire. We were watching the approaching clouds quite carefully as we walked round!
Palacete dos Melos is now the Library and it was closing as we walked in – one of those days! The palace was built in the first half of the 18C and judging by the name it must have belonged to one of the artistocratic families of Portugal. Oddly, I can’t find any further information. And opposite the Palace is another of the Chapels of the Station of the Cross.
The Fountain of Bicas is in the Republic Square and was built in 1781 – it is an extraordinary sight! It was dedicated to Queen Maria I and King Pedro III
The Cemetery is next to the Fountain and unlike the War Graves Cemeteries those killed in World Wars were commemorated with a cross and buried in family vaults.
Of course we didn’t find all the interesting buildings, churches, or nooks and crannies in our few hours but I would certainly return and can recommend this unlikely town to you for a visit.