Evora is considered world heritage by UNESCO since 1986. The main reason for this distinction is the fact that Evora is the best example of a city in the golden age of Portugal after the destruction of Lisbon in the 1755 earthquake. Evora UNESCO world heritage is a recognition of the city importance and has brought it a lot of visitors over the years. Let´s find out why.
Even people that have lived in Evora for decades still find new details when they walk around the historic centre. Pay attention to what is around you. This way, it will be easy to understand why Evora is world heritage.
Speaking of world, those who have already been to Brazil will find obvious similarities in the architecture of Evora and the ones in cities like Salvador da Bahia. A little bit of Alentejo in South America.
Évora, UNESCO world heritage city museum
Considered a city museum, Evora has maintained up until today its traditional charm in the whole historic centre inside the Vauban style ramparts built in the 17th century according to a design by the French engineer Nicolas de Langres.
But the history of Evora is much older. In fact, in prehistorical times there were already settlements in the region, as it is easily proven by following Evora Megalithic Circuit.
Only much later, twenty centuries ago, the Celts dominated the region. It is thought that one of these tribes, the Eburones (Eburos is a Celtic word for a tree species), were the origin of the name Evora.
During the important Roman domination, Evora came to be called Liberalitas Julia. The Roman Temple was built in this period in one of the highest spots in the city.
Other important peoples in the construction of Evora heritage were the Visigoths, who made alterations to the defensive walls, but also the Moors. These also improved the defences by adding fortified gates and even a kasbah. The Moors’ presence is also noted still today in the names of some streets in the Moorish neighbourhood of the historic centre. These names have even survived the Christian reconquest.
A different trace of the past making Evora a world heritage according to UNESCO is the cathedral, the most notable building from the medieval period. Its construction was started in 1186 and finished in the 13th/14th centuries.
However, despite the riches of the past described above, the real golden age of Evora only started in the 15th century, when the Portuguese kings decided to live here most of their time. It was then that a lot of convents and royal palaces were built in Evora, such as Convento de Santa Clara, Convento de São Francisco and Convento dos Loios.
These buildings, built from scratch or on top of old constructions, all have in common the Portuguese Manueline style. This same style would also be used in other 16th century edifices: Palácio dos Condes de Basto; Igreja dos Cavaleiros de Calatrava; Conventos do Carmo, da Graça, de Santo Antão, de Santa Helena do Monte Calvário,…
Actually, the 16th century was very important for Portugal and Evora. Agua da Prata Aqueduct was built in 1537 by Francisco de Arruda. Many of the fountains still existing today were also born during this period. The one in Giraldo Square is the most famous. Evora has also started to have an even greater influence in the country at intelectual and religious levels.
While in the north of Portugal the University of Coimbra played a fundamental role, in the south, that role belonged to the University of Espírito Santo de Évora, where the Jesuits started teaching in 1553. By the 18th century, in 1759, the Marquês de Pombal was determinant in the beginning of the rapid decline of Evora when he expelled the Society of Jesus of the country.
All the monuments and circumstances mentioned so far were relevant towards the distinction of Evora as world heritage by UNESCO. But we can not forget some beautiful important patrician houses like Casa Cordovil and Garcia de Resende’s house.
But what makes Evora a truly fascinating and unusual city is the set of small houses of the entire historic centre, essentially built between the 16th and 18th centuries. Painted in white (to reflect the hot Alentejo sun rays), these houses deserve a long walk through the narrow medieval streets.
Only by slowly strolling the tight irregular cobbled streets in the shadow do you get to know the real Evora, in search for iron or tile details.
It’s not only in the plains… Alentejo tranquility also lives here.