Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Evora And The Algarve

This morning my parents ended their four-day stay in Estoril and proceeded to The Algarve via Evora.

Evora is one of Portugal’s most interesting cities—it is the only city in Portugal that survived the horrific 1755 earthquake more or less intact—and my parents had several hours at their disposal, in the middle of the day, to enjoy the city.

Evora has a long and distinguished history. Evora was an important city as far back as The Roman Era. Evora was seat of The Portuguese Court until the end of the 16th Century. For centuries the city was home to Portugal’s finest university. An anti-clerical epoch forced the university’s closure in the 18th Century; the university was not to reopen until 1973.

Evora is most famous for its so-called Temple Of Diana, the most important Roman-Era temple on The Iberian Peninsula. The temple was actually erected to Caesar Augustus, not the Roman goddess Diana. Fourteen of its twenty original columns still stand.

Evora has many historic churches. My parents visited Evora Cathedral and they visited the most important of the many churches in the center of town.

Evora Cathedral, the largest cathedral in Portugal, is a giant Romanesque structure erected in the 12th and 13th Centuries. It was restored in the 15th Century, and the restoration imposed a Gothic overlay upon the original Romanesque structure, consistent with the practice then prevalent throughout Europe.

Among the finest features of the Cathedral are the 12 Apostles that line the main portal. The statues of the Apostles are considered to be the finest Portuguese sculptures from The Gothic Period.

One of the Cathedral’s towers contains the Cathedral treasury. The treasury’s most valuable relic is a piece of The True Cross. My parents did not have an opportunity to visit the treasury.

A Gothic cloister is attached to the Cathedral.

The church my parents visited was The Royal Church Of San Francisco (“Igreja Real Do Sao Francisco”).

A large Gothic church from the 15th and 16th Centuries, the church is most famous for its fifteen chapels, including the Chapel Of Bones (“Capela Dos Ossos”), the walls and pillars of which are lined with human bones and skulls embedded in cement. Over the chapel door is painted “The bones here await yours”, a very cheery sentiment indeed. In addition to the bones, two complete corpses hang from the chapel walls.

The center of Evora is very compact. My parents had plenty of time to see the essential sights as well as have a nice lunch.

My parents explored the main square.

They also walked around the old university and visited its beautiful central courtyard.

All of these sights were within a ten-minute walk of Evora Cathedral.

From Evora, the tour group proceeded to The Algarve.

The tour group will stay in the small town of Alvor for the next three nights. The hotel, a gated private resort with its own beach, golf course and full amenities, is right on the Atlantic Ocean.

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