As I mentioned previously, the Town Hall is situated on Belmonte’s main street. The building is very simple, yet quite beautiful on my opinion. It is painted white and the windows and doors frames are built in granite.
This synagogue’s name is Bet Eliahou, which means House of Elias. This Hebrew temple was inaugurated in 1996 and it is situated on the Jewish Quarter. At the Tourism Office we were told that there are no visits allowed inside. However, talking to some nice local ladies on the square, they told us that sometimes, upon request, the Synagogue’s responsible shows it to visitors. Unfortunately, we visited Belmonte on a Saturday, when ceremonies were being held, so we didn’t even try to visit, as we didn’t want to disturb.
When we left the Tourism Office, we were very pleased to notice that there was a Jewish Museum highlighted on the map they gave us. After visiting the Parish church we headed to this Museum. When we reached it (it is near the church) we were so surprised to notice that the Museum is still on construction – that is, the beautiful house that will house it is under refurbishment. Hope next time we return to (or you will visit) Belmonte, this Museum is already open for visitors. This village has a long tradition with Jewish inhabitants and I believe this Museum will show a lot of interesting data about our history and culture.
The parish church is a nice simple church, inaugurated in 1940. Inside the church is kept the image of Nossa Senhora da Esperança (Our Lady of Hope), which is said to have gone with Pedro Álvares Cabral on his trip to Brazil in 1500.
When you reach the end of main street, you will come across a pleasant garden. It has several flowerbeds and also some benches to rest. As we were travelling with children, this was a nice spot to let them enjoy theirselves for a while, before continuing our way to visit the parish church and Jewish quarter. On this garden, we noticed that it was a gathering spot for elderly men (no women though) who were just observing passers-by, talking or playing some cards game.
Pedro Álvares Cabral's house
This manor house was built for the Cabral family in the 18th century, after the palace on the castle where they lived was burnt by a fire. Nowadays, this house is closed to public – actually, it is being refurbished and will be inaugurated later and will be opened for visitors. This house is situated on main street, in front of the Eco-Museum (as I mentioned it was the former warehouse of that notorious family).
This Eco-Museum shows the River Zezere, a river that starts running in Serra da Estrela and later joins Rio Tejo (River Tagus). On this Museum you may observe the several habitats of fauna and flora that inhabit the river and its margins as well as an alert to the dangers of pollution – it is an interesting Museum to visit with children. The Museum is free for everybody, and it consists of a small room, very quick to visit. The Museum stands on a building made of granite called Tulha – it used to be a former warehouse. This warehouse dates from the 18th century and the Cabral family used it.
Pedro Álvares Cabral
This statue “dominates” this main street, where it is situated the Town Hall, the Museum and the House of Pedro Álvares Cabral. Being an outstanding member of this community – see details of this personality in my General Tips – Belmonte couldn’t help erecting him a statue. The statue is situated on a tiny square on the main street, surrounded by some nice flowerpots and some benches.
Walking down from the castle, we got into the village historic centre. Soon we were in a square where is situated the pelourinho, the public library and also an art gallery, whose exhibitions we were not able to visit, because they were due to inaugurate a new one short time later. The building of the public library is an interesting old building with a watch and a bell on top. The pelourinho is a common artefact on most ancient Portuguese villages - it is a medieval symbol of the local power and most times it was used to public executions. On this square you will also some commerce, such as café and arts craft.
One detail I found interesting about the Church of Santiago: the belfry is not attached to the church, as usual. It is an “independent” tower on the church’s little square, with some iron stairs outside leading to the bell. After visiting Belmonte, I found some information about this isolated belfry: it was built in the 18th century, along with the refurbishment of the church.
Igreja de Santiago
In front of the castle you may visit the beautiful Church of Santiago that used to be the parish church (until 1940). Outside, this 12th/13th century church, built in stone, is quite simple and shows Romanesque style details. On the inside, there are some old paintings, again quite simple, but still very interesting (see photo). On the photo you may see a detail of the painting on the altarpiece, dated from the 16th century, and which depicts Our Lady, Saint Pedro and Saint Tiago. The church is opened from 11am to noon and from 3pm to 4pm; there is someone there who may help you with doubts.
In the 15th century, Fernão Cabral ordered that a pantheon was added to the Church of Santiago. Nowadays, when you visit the church you may also visit the pantheon (they are both connected on the inside, through an arch). On the pantheon lie the tombs of Fernão Cabral and D. Isabel Gouveia – parents of Pedro Álvares Cabral – together with other members of that notorious family. The tomb of the famous Portuguese sailor/discoverer is also on this pantheon. What I found most amusing there is that there is an interesting painting on top of the tomb, which seems quite modern actually, as you may see on the photo.
Inside the Church of Santiago there is a Gothic Chapel – Chapel Nª Srª da Piedade. D. Maria Gil Cabral ordered this chapel (another member of the Cabral family, which seems to be quite important in this village). On this chapel you may observe an interesting “pieta” – it is a Gothic sculpture made of local granite. On this chapel lies the tomb of D. Maria Gil Cabral.
In front of the castle can be seen 2 small chapels – Chapel Santo António and Chapel Calvário. The former was built in the 15th century and it shows the coats of arms of several families, amongst which there is the Cabral family. The later is more recent – dates from the 19th century.
Attached to the castle there is a house that was the residence of the Cabral family. King Afonso V offered this house to Pedro Álvares Cabral’s father in 1466 and the Cabral family lived there until the end of the 17th century, when a violent fire destroyed the house. Even burnt the house was used as a barn during the 18th century. Fortunately, the house was refurbished and nowadays it houses the Tourism Office.
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