Alentejo Art and Architecture History

Discovering Castro Verde

A rather sleepy town on the morning we visited, but full of history and azulejos

There are many reasons for tourists to visit Castro Verde in Alentejo. It could be as simple as a need to stop for lunch, a bed for the night, a place of rest when in the middle of a birding tour (Great Bustards) or an essential stop on a history tour (Battle of Ourique). Or perhaps you are one of the thousands who descend in October as Castro Verde is the home of one of the largest fairs in Alentejo – Feira de Castro.

Castro Verde is in the middle of Campo Branco, the steppe of Portugal. Last time we were here it had been extremely foggy and we had been on a birding trip. On this occasion there were glimpses of blue skies and we were en route to Mértola. Not much from the outside but insideWe had decided Castro Verde would be a great place to stop for coffee plus I had heard quite about the Royal Basilica and thought it about time we discovered the town itself. From the outside you wouldn’t think much of the Royal Basilica but this 18th century church is covered inside by azulejos. And you will recall that MrB and I rather like azulejos!

The majority of the tiles commemorate the 12th century Battle of Ourique which is believed to have taken place not far from here, and is when Prince Afonso Henriques was visited by Saint James and consequently defeated the five Moorish kings. It was following this battle that he became King of Portugal, and that Portugal became an independent state.

The panels are incredibly impressive, but I must admit it was the painted walls and individual tiles at the entrance which really caught my eye. Not only were they less gruesome than the battle scenes but there were some stunning examples of ‘figura avulsa’. These are so named because each one has a distinct figure in the centre.

You may have noticed they also have blue flower shapes in each corner, these are known as ‘little star’ since they form a type of star when four azulejos are put together. There again your eye is probably more focused on the image in the middle! Most of the central images were birds, flowers and animals, there also the odd ship. Seemed rather unusual to include ships given we were in the middle of the Alentejo steppe, but perhaps it was to reflect Portugal’s golden age of exploration.

These were not the only tiles we came across in Castro Verde there were also some lovely azulejos on the seats near the church. I took so many photographs of these though I’ll have to return another day with another post for you!

21 comments on “Discovering Castro Verde

  1. Pingback: I can’t possibly sit down here – It caught my eye in Portugal

  2. Lovely post about Castro Verde.
    I stopped for an afternoon and a night when I was cycling in Portugal and loved my stay there. The town is only small but it felt like there was a lot to see.
    Did you get to visit the little windmill too?

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  3. Absolutely gorgeous tlles.

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  4. Beautiful tiles. Already looking forward to the next post . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yikes . . .better get my skates on then! Was thinking of returning to the Algarve in my next post, but will prepare two. One specially for you on the seats and another for me on the Algarve!
      PS How hot is hot at the moment in your valley?

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  5. Love the new look of the blog, Becky. It’s the same theme that I use, and I am really pleased with it, are you?

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    • Ah that’s why it seemed so familiar when i first started to use it 🙂
      I am pleased with it now but must admit it took me a while to fully understand it and so was frustrated with it initially as it didn’t seem to look like what it should!

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  6. I knew nothing about this part of Portugal (not the battle), so thank you for bringing it to my attention. It will go into my Portuguese file for when I next visit (deep sighs, as I can’t see it coming off soon as I am committed to so many other places. The tiles are wonderful and you’ve captured the colour beautifully.

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    • Thank you so so much . . . . . so glad to have brought this tiny town to your attention. Definitely worth a visit, and wait until you see the other tiles!
      I am also sighing at the moment as we don’t know when we are going to return this year . . . . hopefully though we will organise ourselves soon.
      Enjoy your travels

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  7. These are gorgeous, Becky! Castro Verde is one of those just out of reach places that we’ve never made an effort with but, as so often in Portugal, I can see that was a mistake. 🙂 🙂
    I’ll have to hunt down the Heritage post on my reader a little later. 🙂

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    • Our tip for getting there is to take the motorways, don’t take that twisty nightmare of road (N2) to Almodôvar, but keep heading west until the A2 and then head north. It really is an easy day trip then, and you would love this place just wait until you see the seats!!!
      And no worries about the heritage post – I posted three posts yesterday across the three blogs, scheduled another two and today i hope to schedule 4! On a roll 🙂

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  8. After visiting Lisbon last month, I love all things Portuguese. Those tiles are fabulous. Love this post.

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  9. How beautiful. I do have a thing for blue and white and these tiled walls fit the bill.

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  10. The tile works are spectacular. I’ve also seen some impressive tileworks in Spain too. Must be the specialty there.

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    • Like Belgium there are many things Portugal is amazing at but you don’t discover until you are there. Azulejos are certainly one of Portugal’s hidden delights ☺ I’ll have to explore Spain next to see their tiles.

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