Evora, Portugal – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The city of Evora was another day trip for David and me.  Normally, it takes about 1 1/2 hours by train…that is if you get on the correct train.  When I bought the tickets, it was about 9:07 AM.  There was a 9:04 train and the next train left at 5:30 PM.  The cashier sold me two tickets for the 9:04 train and told me to go to Platform 1.  I was confused, as I thought the train had already left, which it hadn’t…it was running late but because the cashier had little English, he was unable to explain that.  

I forgot my “travel rule of ask three times”, which turned out to be a big mistake.  There were two women at the platform. I asked if it was the next train was to Evora and they said yes.  The next train arrived and we hopped on.  Had I remembered to ask three people and if two out of the three answers were the same, we just might have gotten on the right train!

We were headed in the right direction as we went over the April 25, 1974 bridge and I had read somewhere that the train took us over the bridge, which I was looking forward to.  This picture was taken from the train as we headed towards the bridge.  

This picture, from the bridge, is of the Belem Tower and the Discovery Monument.  



This picture is of an Italian tall-ship that is a training ship for the Italian navy.  It was in port for 5 days and we were treated to seeing these cute Italian sailors running through the streets of Portugal with their dress uniforms of short navy blue, double breasted jackets and white bell bottom pants.  Why I didn’t think to take a picture, I will never know…they were just too cute!  Love a man in uniform!

David and I are riding along on the train, watching the scenery, when there is an announcement in Portuguese.  At the Coina station, the train stopped and everyone got off but David and me.  The doors remained open and it didn’t appear that we were going anywhere.  So, I asked someone…again he had little English but was so trying to help me understand that particular train ended at Coina.  To get to Evora, we needed to take the next train to Pinhal Novo.  I thanked him and went in search of two more people to ask.  

The next person we saw worked for the trains and she could communicate in English…thank goodness :)!  As we are asking her about Evora, this train goes barreling through on the nearby track.  She pointed to it and said that was the train we were suppose to be on!  Hmmmmmm, what to do!  She sent us into the ticket agent to help us figure it out. 

The shorten version of a long story, we had to wait for a half-hour in Coina to get the next commuter train to Pinhal Novo.  From Pinhal Novo, we caught the train to Setubal.  In Setubal, we walked to the bus station, which was a whole other adventure but we found it.  We just kept asking for the “camioneta” and finally arrived….only to learn that we had to wait for the next bus to Evora for 2 hours!  It left at 1:00 in the afternoon. We wandered around the bus station, went and sat in the park and then, it was time for the 2 1/2 hour trip to Evora.  

What do you do but make lemonade out of lemons!  We enjoyed the bus ride, at least I did…I knew that we were finally on the correct bus and would arrive at our destination eventually.  I didn’t have to worry about making more transfers or gathering more information.  So, I could relax and enjoy the trip.  We passed cork trees.  Portugal is the number one producer of cork.  The trees grow for 25 years before they are stripped of their outside bark. 

Stripping the trees of their bark doesn’t kill them as they have a bark that grows inside the tree as well. Thestripped bark regenerates the bark and for the next 200 years, the tree is stripped every 9 to 12 years for the cork.  

At one point, I saw these large black and white birds in a field. I wondered what they were.  Then, I saw large nest on a church steeple with the same birds and it came to me that they were storks!  This picture was taken in Evora but for the rest of the trip, we kept seeing their wonderful, large nest but unfortunately, none had storks in them.  

Evora is located in the Alentejo region which is one of the major wine producing regions.  We passed vineyards.  If we had been on the train, we probably would have missed all the wonderful sights of Portugal.  

Evora is an ancient town that still has a medieval wall surrounding it.  The bus station is about a 15 minute walk from the entrance to the Evora.  On the way, we passed a graveyard that was very interesting.  

On the perimeter of the graves, were crypts.  As you can see from the picture, they had doors that were mostly of glass which allowed us to see inside.  On the side walls, there were shelves to hold caskets.  Some of the caskets were draped with rich tapestry cloths. In between the shelves was an alter.  Some held pictures of the deceased (I am assuming) along with flowers and sometimes a small statue of the Virgin Mary.  Again, I am assuming, but I think these were family crypts for the richer families in the area.

Behind the crypts was the graveyard.  I would have loved to have had more time to wander through and see the various tributes to the deceased.  However, we were on a schedule since we arrived so late.  We only had 3 1/2 hours before the return train left and we didn’t want to miss that!

We continued our walk towards the town and arrived at the gate and medieval wall.  From the 2nd century BC to the 4th century AD, Evora was under Roman rule and there are still some Roman ruins in the town center today.  From the 8th century to the 12th century, the Moors – people of the Muslim religion from northern Africa; for example, Morocco and Algeria – controlled Evora.  During the 15th and 16th century, Evora was favored by the nobility of Portugal.  There is a variety of architect that represents each style from the various cultures that once ruled in Evora. 

The eleven columns of the Roman Temple stand proud against the sky. This temple was part of the main square during the Roman rule in the first century AD.  It is a marvel that something built so long ago has withstood the test of time and weather to still be standing today.  

I love this picture as it shows the Roman columns that were once part of the walled city when the Romans ruled and in the background are the steeples of the Cathedral that was built in the late 12th century.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria de Evora was built between 1280 and 1340. This mixture of Romanesque and Gothic structure was built on top of a mosque after the Christians overtook Evora.  Interestingly, the mosque that had been there had been built over a Christian chapel.  It kind of reminds me of dogs marking their territory!

I had full intention of going in to visit this cathedral.  I especially wanted to see the Cloisters, which was extra.  There was a small women standing right at the door and she was holding a pouch that looked like something one would collect money in.  So, I thought that she was affiliated with the church and dropped the 2 1/2 Euros into the pouch saying I wanted to see the Cloisters.  She smiled and said something in Portuguese.  

I walked into the Cathedral and there was the desk to collect the fee for entrance to the church.  The little lady was begging.  Oh, I was mad…at myself for not thinking it through.  I don’t mind giving money to the elderly or the disabled and had just given money to an elderly man sitting off to the side.  They were busy at the desk, so I just turned and walked out.  Everything happens for a reason…more than seeing this Cathedral, I wanted to see the Chapel of the Bones. Had I toured the Cathedral, I probably wouldn’t have seen the chapel as it would have been closed.  Everything happens for a reason.

We walked past the Cadaval’s Palace which is across from the Roman Temple.  It was difficult to get a good picture of the front of the palace, so here it is from the back.  It was built in the 14th century over the remains of a Moorish castle.  It is still owned by the Cadaval family today.  

This walkway was behind the castle.I believe that the wall was part of the walled city during Roman times.  

The university in the town has a rich history.  It was started in 1559 as a Jesuit university.  200 years later, the Marques de Pombal, who was instrumental in rebuilding Lisbon after the 1775 earthquake, decided that the Jesuits had too much power.  He felt that they were too rich, too powerful and as the sole teachers of the society; they were a threat to the ruling King Jose I.  In 1759, he abolished the Jesuit society and confiscated all of their wealth.  The university was closed.  At some point, in the 19th century it was a high school.  In 1976, it was reopened as a public university.  

This is the Largos das Portas de Moura plaza. This was once the entrance to the town.  The fountain is from the 1500s.  In the background, the building with the tower is the Casa Cordoval and has Moorish and Portuguese Manueline style. 


This is the central square today…the Praca do Giraldo. It is named after Giraldo the Fearless who was a Christian knight and orchestrated a surprise attack on the Moors to overtake Evora in 1165.  Today, the only evidence of the Moors rule, in the square can be seen in the artistic wrought iron balconies on the buildings that surround the square.  

The square is a popular place for tourist to relax at one of the many cafes and for the locals to meet at the fountain, that was once the main water source for the town, in front of the church. 

The Chapel of the Bones (Capela dos Ossos) is next to the Church of St Francis.We visited the church but it was rather nondescript.  The Chapel of the Bones, however, is a different story.It was made by three monks who felt that values of society were becoming too worldly by all the wealth in the town.  It was built as a place for people to come to meditate on one’s mortality and not focus on the material things in life.  

At the entrance of the chapel are the words “We bones in here wait for yours to join us.”

The 5,000 bones that line the walls were taken from various Evora churchyards. I don’t quite know what to think about this…..creepy, morbid, weird. I don’t know, but I do wonder if it had the effect on the population that the monks had hoped for when they built it. 

Evora is a charming town.  The well-preserved medieval wall still protects the city center today, standing tall and proud.  The residents of Evora have made a great effort to maintain the history that is represented through the buildings.  As we were walking through the town, I noticed the white-washed buildings all trimmed in yellow. I mentioned to David if it was required by the town to have your building painted in this manner.  Later, researching for this blog, I came across that the yellow trim is traditional to Alentejo and it was once believed to repel evil spirits.  Some of the homes were trimmed in blue, which has been proven to keep flies away.  

It took awhile to get to Evora but it was well worth the effort. I am grateful that we kept asking different people how to get there, as there were several who said we would have to return to Lisbon and try another day.  You can believe that we were well on time for the return train and sure enough, an hour and a half later, we were back in Lisbon.  

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