Exploring Portugal: Alentejo and Beja

Beja is the administrative centre for Southern Alentejo and it was administration that took us there today. Mr P had to renew one of his residence permits — there are several — so he could renew his driving licence.

Beja has been a strategically valuable population centre since Celtic times. It was named Pax Julia by Julius Caesar in 48 BC. Emperor Augustus renamed the thriving town “Pax Augusta”. Next to take over the region were the Visigoths, the town then fell to the invading Umayyad army in 713. This was the start of approximately 1000 years of warring between Christians, Muslims and the Moors. The inhabitants of the city have been massacred and the buildings razed to the ground more than once in it violent history. In spite of all this destruction and reconstruction it retains a certain historic charm.

The Castle that stands today was rebuilt on roman foundations in 1310 under King Denis. You can if you have the time climb to the top of the tower — over 200 steps — the reward is said to be one of the best views in Alentejo.

Next to the Castle is one of the oldest churches in Beja – Igreja de Santa Maria. This building has been a Visigoth Temple and a Moorish Mosque before reconstruction in the fifteenth century. It functions both as a church and a museum. Inside it retains the richly decorated Visigoth capitals used in the initial construction, making this church a unique example of this period’s architecture.

Another beautiful building, Beja cathedral is a hall-church with three naves covered by vaults in Baroque and eclectic style, created by Jorge Rodrigues. Inside the cathedral, there is a set of 17th century altars.

This beautiful former convent now houses the regional museum of Beja. The museum presents sacral art, Azulejos and other items of archaeological interest.

In the old town the narrow streets are lined by Azulejos – or tiled houses. Tiled houses are part of the Portuguese architectural heritage. Each area has its own definitive style.  In Beja green and white is favoured, in our area Southern Alentejo the colours are blue and white.

We came home the long way — it was a beautiful day — summer is coming and the yellow of spring is giving way to the purple of summer.

15 comments

  • Such a spectacular article, Nicola! I love the images. I can feel the hot sun right on my back. What a wonderment! The sense of rustic history is so rich. The landscapes are expansive and incredibly lovely!

  • Beja is one of the hottest spots in Portugal – center of the country and a long way from any sea breezes. It was up to about 24/25 degrees C today in the town. Driving in the car was fine as we had the windows down. I was glad we had water!

    I had no idea until today just how rich the history of Beja was – next time we go I am going make sure we have time to visit the inside of the buildings.

    Will do a future post on the landscapes !

    • Yes, I could feel the radiant heat — quite a magnificent talent for you as a photographer to capture that sensation. I’ve been a little cold today, and editing the images in their massive, native size, was such a thrill to see and feel a warm sun and blue sky again.

      Yes, the insides the buildings would be grand to see as well. I wonder what sort of lighting you might find inside?

      Mmmm… landscapes! A big favorite of mine! SMILE!

      • We have what Mr P calls luminosity – it makes my job easy. The interiors could well be a much harder challenge – a lot will depend on any high windows and what sunlight gets through – and what colour the walls inside are – if they are bright white it could be a problem. We shall see ………. GRIN

        Alcacer again tomorrow – good weather forecast too – we will go for landscapes !

        • Luminosity is exactly the right word. It’s a magic light that that is very special and it translates really well into beautiful blog images! SMILE!

          Internal shots are always a problem because light sources are set and do not change.

          Sounds like a wonderful plan for tomorrow! I love good weather!

  • Gordon Davidescu

    It’s so exciting that a mundane task like renewing a license took you to such beautiful places today! :)

  • I have found that there is nothing mundane about Portugal – it is a constant surprise and delight to me – so much so my camera ALWAYS goes with me !

  • @David – just been outside – with the warm weather our wonderful night sky is now back too . Now I have to learn how to photograph the moon.

  • Have tripod and I am experimenting !

  • I love that in Europe, so many beautiful and historic (REALLY historic) buildings are still used regularly for modern tasks! Our contemporary buildings and skyscrapers have their own beauty, of course, but I sometimes wish we had more of that here.

    • I have seen some wonderful building in the USA – The Mission Inn in Riverside California is amazing – as is the small flyers club at one of the small airfields near there – still as it was in WW2. There were also some pretty amazing historical buildings in the back woods of Philly when I went exploring there.

  • Pingback: Alentejo Landscapes in Portrait « Boles Blogs

  • Pingback: The Modern World of Ancient Sines, Portugal « Boles Blogs

Share Your Thoughts:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s