A Day in Setubal

posted in: Home, Portugal | 2

Although we had stayed in the Pousada of Palmela several times in the past we had never visited Setubal, the port on the Sado Estuary below the hotel. We decided to spend a day in Setubal and particularly wanted to visit the Monastery of Jesus in Setubal.

The road through the valley

As you look out of the Pousada, over the Arrabida Mountains, you can see a road winding through the valley below. This is not the main road to Setubal but the quiet and pretty alternative route which we took down into Setubal.

Pousada of Palmela on the hilltop
Pousada of Palmela on the hilltop
In the valley below Palmela
In the valley
Cork oaks along the valley road in Palmela
Cork oaks along the valley road

A brief history

Setubal has a long history, dating back to the Romans, and even pre-Roman people. It is situated at the mouth of the Sado River, on an estuary which looks like an inland sea and which has a narrow outlet into the Atlantic. At the beginning of the 20th century the port was the centre of Portugal’s fishing industry, specialising in processing and canning sardines. None of these factories remain today.

Roman fish-salting tanks in the town
Roman fish-salting tanks in the town

Monastery of Jesus in Setubal

The Monastery of Jesus dates from c.1490-95 and, oddly, it was built outside the walls of the city. The architect was Diogo de Boitaco who also worked on the Monastery of San Geronimos in Lisbon. This is one of the main cultural attractions in the town.

The nuns of the Poor Clares moved into the Monastery. Saint Clare dedicated her order to the principles of Saint Francis of Assisi and insisted on vows of extreme poverty – the nuns should not own property and should live on alms. I can’t find out when the Monastery closed – perhaps in the 1830s when the State expropriated church property. The Monastery was converted to the Hospital da Misericorda which closed in 1959.

The Church of Jesus in Setubal
The Church of Jesus facing Jesus Square

As we walked through the door we were astounded by the interior, and particularly by the twisted, Manueline columns. The blue tiles along the walls also showed some extraordinary scenes and figures!

Marble pulpit and wall tiles in Setubal
Marble pulpit and wall tiles
Tiles in the church of Jesus in Setubal
‘Interesting’ tiles in the church

The adjacent Monastery is a museum but it was closed for ‘work’ when we visited.

Municipal Museum of Setubal

The former Bank of Portugal building in the town now houses the Municipal Museum which opened here in 2013. And here we were lucky because paintings which used to form the altarpiece of the Church of Jesus were on display.

Municipal Museum in Setubal
Municipal Museum in Setubal
Altarpiece paintings of the Church of Jesus
Altarpiece paintings of the Church of Jesus
Details from one of the paintings
Details from one of the paintings
Apparition of the angel to Saints Clara, Ines and Colette, c.1517-30

Mercado do Livramento – The Covered Market

And then we visited the covered market which was established in 1930 and completely renovated c.2010. The most typical dish here is fried cuttlefish, a little like calamari but with more character, and the strawberries and oranges are wonderful! I think I will let the pictures say it all!

Exploring is hard work and at this point a restorative drink was needed!

The weather was good, the skies were blue and it had been easy to spend a day in Setubal, so we planned to return for a second day!

2 Responses

  1. restlessjo

    We stayed in Setubal last November, and I really enjoyed the place. Such a combination of ruin and grandeur in the historic centre and the Church of Jesus was simply astonishing. Did you manage a visit to Portinho da Arrabida just around the coast? The nicest small museum there in the little fort above the bay!

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