King Manuel Palace is, still today, one of the most beautiful buildings in Evora. This monument is located inside Evora Public Park, in the tranquility of a green space with terraces and benches from where you can admire the palace.
The history of King Manuel Palace is a bit turbulent, like the one of many buildings which are part of Evora’s heritage. King Afonso ordered its construction around 1468 with the name Paço Real de Evora (Evora Royal Palace). Back then, its size was very different from today…
It occupied part of Convento de São Francisco (Saint Francis Convent) and, with time, the palace spread across the convent itself, against the monks’ will. To begin, the Study Room of the convent, to set the first Library of the Kingdom of Portugal for the Court.
Starting in King Joao II reign, the growth of the building took other proportions. A temporary wooden palace was built for the wedding of his son, future king Afonso, with the princess Isabel (Castela, Spain today), in 1490.
During King Manuel’s reign, a garden was born and the already existing vegetable gardens and orange trees were improved. The same king would order the construction of the Galeria das Damas (Ladies’ Galleries), the only part of the palace still standing nowadays.
The royal family spent a lot of time in King Manuel Palace. Court reunions were held here, princes and princesses were born here. The palace also served as stage for the representation of autos (plays) including six from the great Portuguese playwright Gil Vicente.
King João II also contributed to the growth of this palace in Evora, especially in the green spaces of the orange trees, the old vegetable gardens of the convent and the gardens.
Until King Filipe II reign, King Manuel Palace continued to welcome Portuguese monarchs and their courts. But this same king would give away a few parts of the building and fields. This was the beginning of its decline.
With the extinction of the religious orders in 1834, some official services were set up in the palace and a big part was destroyed to install the Mercado Municipal de Évora (Evora Market). With time, the whole building would be sold or even destroyed. From the 15th century, we can only still see the Galeria das Damas, already restored by the institution in charge of managing the national monuments in Portugal (Direção-Geral dos Monumentos Nacionais), starting in the 1940s.
King Manuel Palace as we know it today has two elongated bodies. In the centre there is a turret with three floors. The whole building has the hybrid style of Alentejo, with strong peninsular Moorish influences and a decoration of naturalist base typical of late Gothic and Manueline style. It is equally decorated with more recent detail additions which resemble Roman architecture.
The highlight in the north part of the building is the Manueline porch, open to the north, east and west. No traces of the 14th century can be found nowadays above the porch. This gallery has arcades with glass windows, which were the result of the big changes made to King Manuel Palace from the 19th century on.
On the south part, the shortest, we can still see the loggia with 5 arches of horseshoe shape, Mudejar style. The twin Manueline doors similar to the windows in the whole top floor open to a terrace.
As for the turret, it has a little balcony with arches. It is open on the first floor and accessible through a large Manueline door. On the third floor, the light comes in through the Renaissance windows.
While you visit Evora, go down from Giraldo Square until Praça 1º de maio. King Manuel Palace is only a few metres away now. Take a walk in Evora Public Park while you admire the details of the building. Slowly. Now, all you have to do is come in and see one of the many exhibitions held here. Feel like a king or queen.