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Churches And Chapels in Alcacer Do Sal, Alentejo, Portugal

Oct 10, 2007
Heading south of Setubal, leaving the riverbanks and fishing areas we enter into a different region: the Alentejo.

Alcacer do Sal had an important role during the Roman occupation and remains of these are still evident today. Under Roman rule, Alcacer became the economic and political seat of Alentejo.

It coined its own money and had the same rights as municipalities of ancient Licio. During the Visigoth period, Alcacer do Sal was an episcopalian city and under Arab rule it became more important.
D. Afonso Henriques conquered it but in 1158 it was reconquered by the Moors.

The Christians reconquered it again in 1217 and a Royal Charter was decreed in 1218 by King D. Afonso. D. Manuel was proclaimed king in 1495 from this place due to the death of King D. Joao II in the Algarve, who left no legitimate heirs. D. Manuel I married for the second time in Alcacer, D. Maria de Castela after becoming a widower from her sister. In 1616 the king conceded the former Royal Charter.

The present area around Alcacer was cradle to the brilliant Mathematician Pedro Nunes in the XVI century and, at the end of the XV century, to Bernardim Ribeiro the writer.

The area produces a great deal of salt and is, nowadays, famous for its agriculture and cattle breeding as well as the cork industry and rice growing.

Alcacer do Sal, Torrao and Santa Susana.
Half-way on the route to Alcacer, the Palma Parish Church is found, an interesting example of seventeenth century tiles representing scenes from the life of the Virgin and St. John the Baptist.

In the town itself, the Church and Convent of Santo Antonio is where we will start. Founded in 1524, the church is a fine example of classical taste.

The entry Renaissance porch and the Tuscan columns lead the visitor to believe that it was built by a nobleman of taste, in fact, he was Fernano Martins Mas-carenhas, in chage of the town in the reign of King D. Joao II.

The capela das onze mil virgens (chapel of the eleven thousand virgins) was added to the church by the son of the founder, D. Pedro de Mascarenhas, Viceroy of India. The alabaster dome, Renaissance in flavour is particularly beautiful for its form, colour and raw materials used in its construction.

Next to the Castle stands the Church of Santa Maria Roman-Gothic in style, it was built in the XII or XIII centuries.

Inside, the three aisles are divided by columns with Romanic decoration and by tiled friezes from the seventeenth century. In the main chapel, the Capela do Santissimo, the fine Renaissance portal is worth noting.

The Parish Church of Santiago is Baroque in outline with a severe facade reminiscent of the "estilo chao" (floor style) probably designed by Joao Antunes. The tiles and other decoration in this XVIII century relic are particularly interesting. The Baroque style of the igreja da Misericordia and the tiled interior of the church date from the same era even though the official date of the church is 1547.

The igreja do Espirito Santo (Church of the Holy Spirit) is no longer open as a place of worship. It houses the Local Museum. The building is remembered for being where a Royal wedding took place, the one of King D. Manuel I and D. Maria de Castela. The interior had been totally remodelled in Baroque taste, conserving one lateral Manueline window.

In the same town, the igreja do Senhor de Martires (Church of the Lord Martyr) may be found centrally and on the outskirts, a tiny rural temple, Santa Susana, found in the village of the same name.

This church is mentioned here not because of its architecture but because of two Flemish paintings from the XVI century at the altar. Within the same walls, frescoes from the XVII century complete the decoration.

In the same district, in a lovely village some kilometers away stands a fine example of a Manueline church: The Parish Church of Torrao. Found in harmonious surroundings of typical Alentejan houses, the Manueline facade and portal stand out. Inside are three aisles with octogonal columns.

The main altar houses a national altar-piece and is surrounded by polichrome tiles from the sixteenth cedntury. The lateral altars contain various Mannerist and Baroque paintings of great interest.

In the same town, the church of Misericordia may be seen. A typical church-room with altar piece, fifteenth century paintings and sanctuary from the same era. The church of the former convent, today belonging to the parish has a fine national altar.
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