Alvito History

Alvito is a peaceful village, a municipality situated in the Baixo Alentejo region of Portugal. Sometimes considered the most Portuguese of the small villages in the Beja district, its quiet mood and tranquility derives also from its characteristic white washed houses with yellow or blue trim.

Human presence in this region has been established from earlier times with artifacts dating back from Neolithic period.

In the I century A.D. Alvito was occupied by the Romans which left several marks still visible in several Roman villae like S. Romão, S. Francisco and Malk Abraão. Also the Visigoths and the moors occupied the area and the old Roman villae.

During the Iberian Peninsula Reconquista, Alvito was conquered from the moors by the Portuguese in 1234. In 1251 Alvito was donated to D. Estevão Anes, chancellor to King D. Afonso III by the king himself and by the Pestana family from Évora, lords of that part of the country. D. Estevão Anes promoted the settlement of the area before dying in 1279 and leaving the village in testament to the order of Holy Trinity (Ordem da Santíssima Trindade). The Carta de Foral (Charter Letter, a letter of feudal rights) dates from 1st August 1280 and was confirmed by the king D. Dinis in 1283. The Charter Letter was based on a previous one granted to Santarem, one of the main cities of Portugal.

In 1387, following the civil war of 1383-1385, the new king D. João I, founder of the dynasty of Avis, donated Alvito to knight D. Diogo Lobo rewarding his good services in the battle of Aljubarrota (1385) and in recovering Évora (1387) occupied by Castilian forces. The village stayed in possession of the same family until the end of the monarchy in 1910.

In 24th April 1475 the king Afonso V granted the title of Baron to João Fernandes da Silveira (married to D. Maria de Sousa Lobo) thus turning Alvito into the first Barony instituted in Portugal. Meanwhile during the XV and XVI centuries there was a demographic growth with positive economic impact turning the village into one of the main political and economic centers in Alentejo. In 1527 the census registered a population of 1700 souls and 364 houses.

Alvito was an important town in Alentejo but after the XVIII century it faced economic stagnation that prevailed until the XX century. Today it remains a beautiful village in the plains of lower Alentejo marked by its rich heritage and focused on its touristic potential.

Alvito spreads around its beautiful castle rebuilt in the XV century in the Manueline (Portuguese late gothic architecture decoration) and Mudéjar (arab influences) styles. The castle was adapted in 1993 and is now a luxury hotel of the Pousadas de Portugal brand. Known as a village marked by the Manueline style, its streets offer several interesting details like Manueline arches and portals and is recognized as the village of Baixo Alentejo with highest concentration of Manueline portals.

The religious spirit of the population throughout the centuries left fine monuments like churches and chapels, for instance the church of Nossa Senhora da Assunção, the Church of Santo António, the church of the Misericordia or the main church (matriz) of Alvito. Also worth a visit are the chapels of Nossa Senhora das Candeias, the chapel of São Bartolomeu not to mention the convents of São Francisco and Nossa Senhora dos Mártires.

One of the main attractions is situated right below the Rossio square (Praça do Rossio) and is called Alvito Caves, a set of underground galleries, the result of stone mining during the XII century.

Close to the village, it is worth mentioning also the Água dos Peixes Palace, a medieval building dating back from the XII century.

Alvito is still an enchanting place to visit due to its rich architecture and beautiful landscape.