Visiting São Brás de Alportel
The unhurried lifestyle of the friendly local population; streets of white houses whose ranks are broken only by the lofty outline of the church and its bell tower; the ring of hills around the town that look out on the sea and the mountains: such are the simple charms of São Brás de Alportel, a typical Algarve town.
Built on the site of a church that probably dates back to the 15th century, the current structure was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. It was extended considerably in the 19th century.
Under the ornate, late Baroque pediment stands the imposing doorway with a large pedimented window. The chapel of Senhor dos Passos (Lord of the Stations of the Cross) contains gilded carvings in the style of the second half of the 18th century and there are paintings from the 17th century depicting saints. Among the statues to be seen, those of the Arcanjo São Miguel (Archangel Michael), São Libório, (St. Liborius) and Santa Eufémia (St. Euphemia) dating from the 18th century are worth mentioning. The statues in the sacristy are from the same period. In the baptistery there is a neo-classical altarpiece in marble. The churchyard is a good vantage point to admire the surrounding countryside and the sea.
Former Episcopal Palace
Built in the 16th/17th centuries for the bishops of the Algarve as a place of refuge from the summer heat, this building underwent several modifications in the 19th and 20th centuries which have altered its structure.
What remains of the original palace today is part of the main building and, almost opposite it, a Baroque vaulted fountain with eight spouts in the garden.
The “Calçadinha” cobbled street of S. Brás de Alportel is the archaeological symbol of the municipality. It is 1480 metres long and runs through a small valley to the south, above which there is a higher area where the Main Church stands today. At present, two stretches of the road have been preserved, labelled A and B, which are separated by a stretch of a few metres that was once paved.
The two stretches that have been uncovered differ from each other structurally. In stretch A, which is about 100 metres long, paving can be seen which is the result of 19th century restoration, probably ordered by the bishop D. Francisco Gomes do Avelar. From a technical point of view, the paving is geometrical in design, consisting of small and medium-sized stones and a central axis edged with vertically laid stones, from which lines extend at right angles creating squares which are divided diagonally into right-angled triangles.
In stretch B, which is about 550 metres long, paving can be seen that is probably Roman in origin. From a technical point of view, the paving consists of medium and large stones, with a slight camber in the upper layer of stones edged with vertically laid stones and a width of about 8 feet (2.5 metres), which complied with the legal norms of the time.
António Bentes Cultural Centre / Ethnographic Museum of Algarve Costume
Located in what was once the home of a former muleteer who grew wealthy from the cork industry, this building is a good example of bourgeois architecture at the end of the 19th century.
In addition to an exhibition of the typical Algarvean costume worn in the 19th/20th centuries, there is also a collection of popular religious sculpture. The old farm buildings contain about twenty old vehicles once used in the Algarve, ranging from carriages and buggies that were the favourite means of transport of the rich to mule carts and ox-drawn wagons used by farmers and farm labourers. The museum also includes an exhibition of agricultural implements and tack, and an area dedicated to cork and the cork industry.
Low, white houses in the popular architectural style stand alongside more substantial buildings, their façades decorated with tiles, ornate stonework and cast-iron verandas, whose opulence harks back to São Brás de Alportel’s prosperity in the years when the cork industry was booming. And so a walk through the streets of São Brás de Alportel thus becomes a tour through the development of the town, while such details as the Baroque mortar decoration of the Passo da Paixão (Station of the Cross) near the Episcopal Palace and the pretty flower pots in the windows add a peculiarly Algarvean flavour.