Historic Centre of Évora *
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Evora-RomanTemple edit.jpg
Country Portugal
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv
Reference 361
Region ** Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1986 (10th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List
** Region as classified by UNESCO

Évora is a Portuguese city in the municipality of Évora. As of 2004, it had 41,159[1] inhabitants.

Due to its well-preserved old town centre, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network.[2]

Évora is ranked number two in the Portuguese most livable cities survey of living conditions published yearly by Expresso.[3] It was ranked first in a study concerning competitiveness of the 18 Portuguese district capitals, according to a 2006 study made by Minho University economic researchers.[4]



Évora is located in the Alentejo, a large region of wide plains on the south of Portugal, borderd on the North by the Tagus River and on the South by the region of Algarve. The city is relatively close from the capital city Lisbon, 140 km and other 80 km to the Spanish border with Badajoz. Évora is the largest city in the Alentejo region and the capital of the Central Alentejo province.

The city is composed of the parishes of Santo Antão, São Mamede, and Sé e São Pedro in the historical centre and the urban parishes of Bacelo, Horta das Figueiras, Malagueira, and Senhora da Saúde outside the ancient city walls


The Graca Church in Évora.
Giraldo Square, in the centre of Évora.

Évora has a history dating back more than two millennia. It was known as Ebora by the Celtics, a tribal confederacy, south of the Lusitanians (and of Tagus river), who made the town their regional capital. The etymological origin of the name Ebora is from the ancient celtic word ebora/ebura, plural genitive of the word eburos (yew), name of a species of tree, so its name means "of yew tree." The city of York, in northern England, at the time of the Roman Empire, was called Eboracum/Eburacum, named after the ancient celtic place name Ebora Kon (Place of Yew Trees), so the old name of York is etymologically related to the city of Évora.[5] Other two hypothesis of the origin of the name Évora is that the Romans had extensive gold mining in Portugal, and the name may be derived from that oro, aurum, (gold) [6] and also may be named after ivory workers, but these two hypothesis are much less likely than the first one, because the name Évora has no relation with gold or with ivory in ancient celtic, latin or Portuguese languages or other languages, there is no etymological ground for these two hypothesis. It may have been capital of the kingdom of Astolpas.[7] The Romans conquered the town in 57 BC and expanded it into a walled town. Vestiges from this period (city walls and ruins of Roman baths) still remain. Julius Caesar called it Liberalitas Julia (Julian generosity). The city grew in importance because it lay at the junction of several important routes. During his travels through Gaul and Lusitania, Pliny the Elder also visited this town and mentioned it in his book Naturalis Historia as Ebora Cerealis, because of its many surrounding wheat fields. In those days, Évora became a flourishing city. Its high rank among municipalities in Roman Hispania is clearly shown by many inscriptions and coins. The monumental Corinthian temple in the centre of the town dates from the first century and was probably erected in honour of emperor Augustus. In the fourth century, the town had already a bishop, named Quintianus.

During the barbarian invasions, Évora came under the rule of the Visigothic king Leovirgild in 584. The town was later raised to the status of a cathedral city. Nevertheless, this was a time of decline and very few artifacts from this period remain.

In 715, the city was conquered by the Moors under Tariq ibn-Ziyad who called it Yaburah يابرة. During their rule (715–1165), the town slowly began to prosper again and developed into an agricultural center with a fortress and a mosque. The present character of the city is evidence of the Moorish influence. During that time, several notables hailed from Evora, including Abdul Majid ibn 'Abdun Al-Yaburi عبد المجيد بن عبدون اليابري, a poet whose diwan still survives to this day.[8]

Évora was wrested from the Moors through a surprise attack by Gerald the Fearless (Geraldo Sem Pavor) in September 1165. The town came under the rule of the Portuguese king Afonso I in 1166. It then flourished as one of the most dynamic cities in the Kingdom of Portugal during the Middle Ages, especially in the 15th century. The court of the first and second dynasties resided here for long periods, constructing palaces, monuments and religious buildings. Évora became the scene for many royal weddings and a site where many important decisions were made.

Particularly thriving during the Avis Dynasty (1385–1580), especially under the reign of Manuel I and John III, Évora became a major centre for the humanities (André de Resende - buried in the cathedral) and artists, such as the sculptor Nicolau Chanterene; the painters Cristóvão de Figueiredo and Gregório Lopes; the composers Manuel Cardoso and Duarte Lobo; the chronicler Duarte Galvão; and the father of Portuguese drama, Gil Vicente.

Évora also held a large part of the slave population of Portugal. Nicolas Clenard, a Flemish tutor at the Portuguese court, exclaimed in 1535 that "In Evora, it was as if i had been carried off to a city in hell:everywhere I only meet blacks." Records show that in 1562, D. Maria de Vilhena, a Portuguese woman in Évora, owned a Chinese male slave.[9][10]

The city became the seat of an archbishopric in 1540. The university was founded by the Jesuits in 1559, and it was here that great European Masters such as the Flemish humanists Nicolaus Clenardus (Nicolaas Cleynaerts) (1493–1542), Johannes Vasaeus (Jan Was) (1511–1561) and the theologian Luis de Molina passed on their knowledge. In the 18th century, the Jesuits, who had spread intellectual and religious enlightenment since the 16th century, were expelled from Portugal, the university was closed in 1759 by the Marquis of Pombal, and Évora went into decline. The university was only reopened in 1973.

In 1834, Évora was the site of the surrender of the forces of King Miguel I, which marked the end of the Liberal Wars.

The many monuments erected by major artists of each period now testify to Évora's lively cultural and rich artistic and historical heritage. The variety of architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Baroque), the palaces and the picturesque labyrinth of squares and narrow streets of the city centre are all part of the rich heritage of this museum-city.

Today, the historical centre has about 4,000 buildings and an area of 1.05 km².

Main sights

  • Água de Prata Aqueduct (Aqueduct of Silver Water): With its huge arches stretching for 9 km, this aqueduct was built in 1531–1537 by King João III to supply the city with water. Designed by the military architect Francisco de Arruda (who had previously built the Belém Tower), the aqueduct ended originally in the Praça do Giraldo. This impressive construction has even been mentioned in the epic poem Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões. The end part of the aqueduct is remarkable with houses, shops and cafés built between the arches, e.g. in Rua da Cano street, Travessa das Nunes lane, Rua do Salvador street. In Travessa Alcárcova de Cima, a narrow lane in the historic center, a well-preserved part of a roman wall and foundations of a roman building in a cellar visible through a window are worth a visit.
  • Cathedral of Évora: Mainly built between 1280 and 1340, it is one of the most important gothic monuments of Portugal. The cathedral has a notable main portal with statues of the Apostles (around 1335) and a beautiful nave and cloister. One transept chapel is Manueline and the outstanding main chapel is Baroque. The pipeorgan and choir stalls are renaissance (around 1566).
  • S. Brás Chapel: Built around 1480, it is a good example of Mudéjar-Gothic with cylindrical buttresses. Only open for prayer.
  • Saint Francis Church (Igreja de São Francisco): Built between the end of the 15th and the early 16th centuries in mixed Gothic-Manueline styles. The wide nave is a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. Contains many chapels decorated in Baroque style, including the Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos), totally covered with human bones.
  • Palace of Vasco da Gama: Vasco da Gama resided here in 1519 and 1524, the dates corresponding to his nomination as the Count of Vidigueira and Viceroy of India. The Manueline cloister and some of its Renaissance mural paintings are still preserved.
  • Palace of the Counts of Basto: Primitive Moorish castle and residence of the kings of the Afonsine dynasty. Its outer architecture displays features of Gothic, Manueline, Mudéjar and Renaissance styles.
  • Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval: The palace with its 17th-century façade is constituted in part by an old castle burnt in 1384; it is dominated by the architectural elements of the Manueline-Moorish period and by a tower called Tower of the Five Shields. This palace of the governor of Évora served from time to time as royal residence. The first-floor rooms houses a collection manuscripts, family portraits and religious art from the 16th century.
  • Lóios Convent and Church: Built in the 15th century, contains a number of tombs; the church and the cloister are Gothic in style, with a Manueline chapterhouse with a magnificent portal. The church interior is covered in azulejos (ceramic tiles) from the 18th century. In 1965 it has been converted into a top-end pousada
  • Ladies' Gallery of Manuel I's Palace (Galeria das Damas do Palácio de D. Manuel): Remnants of a palace built by King Manuel I in Gothic-Renaissance style. According to some chroniclers, it was in this palace, in 1497, that Vasco da Gama was given the command of the squadron he would lead on his maritime journey to India.
  • Roman Temple of Évora: Improperly called Diana Temple, this 1st century-temple was probably dedicated to the Cult of Emperor Augustus (but some texts date it to the second or even the third century). It is one of a kind in Portugal. The temple was incorporated into a mediaeval building and thus survived destruction. It has become the city's most famous landmark. The temple in Corinthian style has six columns in front (Roman hexastyle) with in total fourteen granite columns remaining. The base of the temple, the capitals and the architraves are made of marble from nearby Estremoz. The intact columns are 7.68 m (25.20 ft) high. It can be compared to the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, France.
  • Renaissance fountain at Largo das Portas de Moura: Built in 1556 in Renaissance style. This original fountain has the shape of a globe surrounded by water, a reference to the Age of Discovery.
  • Giraldo Square (Praça do Geraldo): Centre of the city; in this square King Duarte built the Estaus Palace which even today maintains its Gothic look. The Renaissance fountain (fonte Henriquina) dates from 1570. Its eight jets symbolize the eight streets leading into the square. At the northern end of the quare lies St Anton's church (Igreja de Santo Antão) built by Manuel Pires, also from the 16th century. This is a rather plump church with three aisles. The antependium of the altar displays a valuable 13th century Roman-Gothic bas relief. In 1483 Fernando II, Duke of Braganza was decapitated on this square, in the presence of his brother-in-law king John II. This square also witnessed thousands of autos-da-fé during the period of the Inquisition; 22.000 condemnations, it seems, in about 200 years.[11]

International relations

Twin towns — sister cities

Évora is twinned with:

Other relations

See also


  1. ^ New Article UMA POPULAÇÃO QUE SE URBANIZA, Uma avaliação recente - Cidades, 2004] Nuno Pires Soares, Instituto Geográfico Português (Geographic Institute of Portugal)
  2. ^ MAETN (1999 [last update]). "diktyo". classic-web.archive.org. http://classic-web.archive.org/web/20051022022345/http://www.argos.gr/diktyoe.htm. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Classificação Expresso das melhores cidades portuguesas para viver em 2007, Expresso
  4. ^ "Edição Impressa". Jornal.publico.clix.pt. http://jornal.publico.clix.pt/default.asp?a=2006&m=09&d=30&uid={456842A6-9631-4CC3-9C5F-E84A6AEEB13C}&sid=11039. Retrieved 2009-05-06. [dead link]
  5. ^ http://www.yorkshire-england.co.uk/YorkCity.html
  6. ^ "The Mineral Industry of Portugal in 2002" (PDF). http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/country/2002/pomyb02.pdf. Retrieved 2009-07-08. 
  7. ^ "Évora". Fikeonline.net. http://www.fikeonline.net/2001/en/evora.php. Retrieved 2009-05-06. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Hugh Thomas (1999). The slave trade: the story of the Atlantic slave trade, 1440-1870. Simon and Schuster. p. 119. ISBN 0684835657. http://books.google.com/books?id=lmPFnzXU7o0C&pg=PA119&dq=maria+de+vilhena+evora+chinese&hl=en&ei=wmcRTcW6GsKC8gb-xtjlDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=maria%20de%20vilhena%20evora%20chinese&f=false. Retrieved 2010-10-14. 
  10. ^ Jorge Fonseca (1997). Os escravos em Évora no século XVI. Câmara Municipal de Évora. p. 21. ISBN 9729696535. http://books.google.com/books?ei=baZdTNepMYL78AbJzMW6DQ&ct=result&id=JrlIAAAAYAAJ&dq=maria+de+vilhena+Chin%C3%AAs&q=Chin%C3%AAs. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  11. ^ Guia de Portugal. Estremadura, Alentejo, Algarve. Ed. F. C. Gulbenkian, 1991. p. 54.

External links

Coordinates: 38°34′15″N 7°54′20″W / 38.57083°N 7.90556°W / 38.57083; -7.90556

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