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Fresco Route of Alentejo

The mural painting can be found all around Portugal, particularly in the north, Trás-os-Montes, Entre o Douro e Minho and the Beiras Region and, of course, in Alentejo.
Alentejo's mural painting had its peak on the 16th and 17th centuries depicting religious and moral images. The mural painting tends to show more often in rural areas, of weak economic resources. This fact may be connected to the low production costs that this technique needed. Despite these paintings were commissioned by all social strata (nobles, confraternities / brotherhoods, religious missions, commissions) this method appealed to clients with less monetary means such as small parishes of medieval Portugal. Nevertheless, Alentejo's mural painting has endured to the present day, with a greater or lesser degree of degradation, enriching the heritage of this region and calling for a visit.
We travelled through the municipalities of Portel, Vidigueira, Cuba, Alvito and Viana do Alentejo looking for churches, hermitages and chapels that keep unique works of art. Come with us in this journey.

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The village of Alvito was conquered, in 1234, by the Portuguese and donated to D. Estêvão Anes who gave way to its resettlement. In 1387, D. João I donates Alvito to D. Diogo Lobo in exchange for his services at the battle of Aljubarrota and in the conquering of Évora. Since then, the town has been closely linked to this family.
Alvito was the headquarters of the first Barons in Portugal. In 1475, the Dr. João Fernandes da Silveira became the Baron of Alvito due to D. Afonso V. The fact of becoming the house of a Baron placed Alvito as one of Alentejo's main political and economic centres, something that can be seen in the splendour of the existing monuments.
We arrived to the main square, in which the millstones are the highlight and, on one end, the Chapel of São Sebastião. Its architectural structure is a typical gothic-mudejar, a reference in Alentejo during the reign of D. Manuel I. Its white colour stands out from the surrounding buildings.
A voice came from one of the benches and asked us if we wanted to see the chapel. We answered yes to the old lady and she smiled. She called herself. Arlinda, resident in Alvito and, for about 30 years and without getting nothing in return, she opens the doors of the temple for everyone who would like to see it.
When we stepped inside it looked like we got sucked into a painting. The ceiling is completely covered by musicians’ angels, each one playing their instruments in a silent symphony. The skirting reveals a section of painted chequered tiles that should have been all around the room. By the way, apparently, the entire room must have been covered in frescos. Later, and with the recovery interventions, it was painted white. Recent investigations revealed what was concealed beneath the paint.
At the chapel's back wall, is Saint Francis (on the left side) and St. Anthony (on the right side). The paintings were credited to the shop of José de Escovar, a painter who remained active between 1585 and 1621.
On the municipality of Alvito there's also part of the Fresco Route : the Parish Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, which holds several examples of mural painting from the 15th to the 18th centuries; the 16th century painting in the chapel of Souls at the Parish Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção of Vila Nova da Baronia; and the frescos at the ceiling and back wall at the Chapel dos Passos in Vila Nova da Baronia.

The Fresco Route at the Municipality of Alvito:
  • Chapel das Almas of the Parish Church of Nossa Senhora (Vila Nova da Baronia)
  • Chapel dos Passos (Vila Nova da Baronia)
  • S. Sebastião Chapel (Alvito)
  • Parish Church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção in Alvito (Alvito)

More information about the Fresco Route at:

Cuba do Alentejo

The municipality of Cuba holds an important set of Fresco mural painting centred at the parishes of Vila Ruiva and Vila Alva due to the influences of the forces in medieval society: Church, Nobility and Common People. We chose the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Represa, located on the road connecting Cuba to Vila Ruiva, as an example of the Frescos you can find in this region.
The chapel of Nossa Senhora da Represa or of São Caetano shows features of gothic-mudejar architecture. Inside, the room presents tiles at the sides, but what it’s most impressive is the ceiling covered in rich warm colours. There was, apparently, a horror to the void.
As we said before, Cuba is filled with great pieces of fresco painting. We must talk about some of them. The Church of Carmo has, at the south elevation, an isolated representation of Saint Christopher. Noteworthy, also, are the medallions of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint John the Baptist on the elevations of the main chapel. At the Parish Church of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação in Vila Ruiva are depicted five panels, three on the back wall and two at each side of the chapel. On the back road stand the Church of Misericórdia of Vila Ruiva. Inside are painted the scenes of "The Last Supper" and "Washing the Feet". In the end, In Faro do Alentejo, there is the church of São Luís. The Church is coated in mural painting on the main hall and on the chapel.

The Fresco Route at the Municipality of Cuba:

  • Church of Carmo (Cuba)
  • Parish Church of Nossa Senhora da Encarnação (Vila Ruiva)
  • Church of Misericórdia (Vila Ruiva)
  • Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Represa (Vila Ruiva)
  • Church of São Luís (Faro do Alentejo)

More information about the Fresco Route at:


The most outstanding monuments in Portel are, without doubt, the castle and defensive wall which surrounds the Old Town, however, this municipality is also home to, some remnants of mural painting.
We focus on the chapel of São Brás de Portel. Since 1853 this is the chapel of the village's cemetery, but it must have been build during the second half of the 16th century. It is a small temple, with a square shape much like the main chapel. The mural painting covers the entire ceiling. The motives are mainly geometric and vegetation and had decorative purposes. On the dome of the main chapel, a seraph holds a mitre and a crosier. On the back wall are the images of "Our Lady with the Christ-Child" and the "Pope Gregory the Great".
In addition to this Chapel one can find the parish church of São Bartolomeu do Outeiro, at the top of the village with the same name. This one shows traces of what would have been frescos in the barrel-vaults of the side chapels.

The Fresco Route at the Municipality of Portel:

  • Chapel of São Brás (Portel)
  • Parish Church of São Bartolomeu do Outeiro (São Bartolomeu do Outeiro)

More information about the Fresco Route at:

Viana do Alentejo

We stopped by the white with yellow accents Sanctuary, which one can see distinctively from a long distance. The current Nossa Senhora de Aires Sanctuary in Viana was built in 1743 to fit the number of pilgrims at the time. The work is all in Rococo style.
The Sanctuary is known for festivities held here annually, hence the several wooden poles in front of it. This is a place of faith and of pilgrimages coming mainly from the Alentejo region. We were able to testify that upon arrival of an exhausted, but smiley, pilgrim.
In the interior (smaller than it looks) the big windows stand out and – in the middle of all the gilt, tiles and marble – the secco paintings of the dome, with mock windows. On the centre of the dome there is a fresco of the “Apparition of Our Lady with the Christ-child to St. Francis of Assisi”.
Also in the municipality of Viana do Alentejo we highlight the Parish Church do Salvador in Alcáçovas that, in addition to the wonderful surrounding view, has fresco paintings on the Mortuary Chapel of the Henriques de Trastâmara and on the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. Still in Alcáçovas is located the Chapel of São Pedro dos Sequeiras, founded by the widow of Luís de Mira de Sequeira, an important nobleman and farmer of the village. Here one can see the remaining frescos on the ceiling of the main Chapel.

The Fresco Route at the Municipality of Viana do Alentejo:

  • Chapel of São Geraldo (Alcáçovas)
  • Nossa Senhora de Aires Sanctuary (Viana do Alentejo)
  • Parish Church do Salvador (Alcáçovas)
  • Chapel of São Pedro dos Sequeiras (Alcáçovas)

More information about the Fresco Route at:


We have to go back a few centuries to tell you about the fresco paintings in the municipality of Vidigueira. We are at the Roman ruins, near Vila de Frades, at the place later known as the Sanctuary of St. Cucufate. This is the only remnant that allows us to connect the development of mural paintings in Portugal with the paintings made during the Roman period.
The first Roman Villa It was built during the 1st century a.d. to be later demolished for the construction of the second Villa. In the middle of the 2nd century a.d. it was also destroyed to give place to the Villa from which we see the most prominent traces.
We passed by the circular Temple and we went directly to the main façade of the Villa. After the corner we entered a space that must have been the granary in the Roman period. After the desertion of the Villa , the monks, linked to São Vicente de Fora of Lisbon, turned the room into a worship place. The monastery fell into ruins during the 16th century having been recovered by the Santa Casa da Misericórdia in the following century.
All around, there are traces of mural painting on the walls. Look up. Musical angels play their instruments brightening the place. The columns show vegetal motifs and, on the walls, saints and bishops remain still for eternity.
It is now appropriate to, mention some of the other monuments in the municipality of Vidigueira and that are part of the Fresco Route. We started by nearest village: Vila de Frades. Here one can visit the Chapel of São Brás, next to the children's playground. This is a small Chapel which would be totally covered with mural painting. In Vidigueira there is the Chapel of Santa Clara, whose state of decay is advancing rapidly. Inside remain traces of mural paintings, on the nave and main chapel as well. At last, in the small village of Pedrógão do Alentejo, remains the little Chapel of Santa Luzia. The square temple from the early 17th century still holds fragments of fresco painting.

The Fresco Route at the Municipality of Vidigueira:

  • Chapel of Santa Clara (Vidigueira)
  • Chapel of Santa Luzia (Pedrógão do Alentejo)
  • Chapel of São Brás (Vila de Frades)
  • Sanctuary of São Cucufate (Vila de Frades)

More information about the Fresco Route at:

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