Last week was such a dreamy post, wasn’t it? I’m moving a little nearer home, and reality, this week, to the main town of the Baixa Alentejo. It was a long haul, going north to Marváo, and we decided to break the journey at Beja, where we had a little unfinished business. Namely, the Convent of Our Lady of Conception, part of the Regional Museum of Beja since 1927. Foolishly we had tried to visit once before, on a Monday but, like most other churches and museums in Portugal, it was closed on that day.
I’ve never really hit it off with Beja. Some places speak volumes to me, others simply mutter. Beja comes in that last category. Still, everywhere deserves a second chance, and I knew that the museum was worth visiting. The day had turned sullen as we left the Algarve, and the skies hung heavy over the castle. Not an auspicious start, and the square in front of the castle was being dug up and re-tiled. Skirting around a digger, I looked in through the Cathedral doors, not feeling inclined to linger. I knew that the museum would be closing soon for lunch.
It’s a short distance through the narrow streets to the Convent square. The former Convento da Conceição was founded in 1459 by Dom Fernando, brother of Afonso V of Portugal, and his wife Dona Beatriz. Part of the Franciscan order, it was one of the richest and most important in the country.
Now part of the Rainha Dona Leonor Regional Museum, a hush descended as we entered through the Manueline portico, beneath beautifully curved arches. Immediately in front of us, the church. The lights were low and my eyes took a moment or two to adjust.
The first thing to hold my gaze was the tiled azulejo panel, dated 1741 and depicting the life, birth and death of St. John the Baptist. The church is covered in carved wood and gold leaf, dating back to the 17th century. Excessive to modern eyes, as was the array of highly polished silverware from the 18th century. I felt truly grateful not to be the lady with the polish, but I did admire the altar of inlaid marble.
Leaving the subdued atmosphere of the church, I found myself in fabulously, fully tiled cloisters. This was what I had come to see. There is always an atmosphere of soothing calm to cloisters, and the soft glow of sunlight enhanced their beauty.
Beautiful, isn’t it? Even in its unrestored state, it’s one of my favourite pieces. But there’s no doubt there is money to be spent here… one day!
Some of the detail was extraordinary, but don’t take my word for it. Becky does it so much better in Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceicáo’s Extraordinary Azulejos Speaking of the lovely lady, are you taking part in #SquareTops today? It’s a blockbuster! Here are my two.
The colours and mix of styles is captivating. I’ve seen many cloisters here in Portugal, but none quite like these.
I ventured up the stairs, hoping to be able to get out onto the roof space, but it was closed to the public. I learned instead of Mariana Alcorforado, a nun at the Convento, who fell in love with a French officer. Noel Bouton, Count de Chamilly, was in Beja with his troops in 1666. The evidence of her unrequited love lives on in five love letters. The fabric below, I included for my daughter. She loves antique embroidery!
Back in the open, we found a café in the square overlooking the museum. It was unbelievably quiet, though the virus had barely been heard of. I wasn’t really hungry but wanted to sit peacefully with a glass of wine, before continuing our journey. We ordered a toastie, but the waitress explained that they didn’t sell wine. We could, though, buy it at the store next door! Seeing our baffled faces, she must have taken pity on us. Five minutes later she reappeared from next door, bearing two very delicious glasses of wine. I think perhaps Beja looked better for it.
A wander through the streets revealed a strange mish-mash of old and new. I didn’t really warm to Beja, but it doesn’t lack for character and humour. And there’s a chance I’ll return, for I’ve realised that a substantial part of the museum is sited within the Church of Santo Amaro, beyond the castle walls. Oh, dear! But I did enjoy the street art.
They say a cat can look at a king! Or a queen, in Becky’s case. Do join her!
Let’s share some walks now, shall we? I’ve a humdinger to start with! In Portugal too, with Debbie :
While Drake takes us to that tiny island he knows so well :
And Terri shares some truly spectacular scenery :
Everybody round to Margaret’s for Drenched Lemon Cake! Well, virtually, anyway 🙂
We can no longer walk on our beaches in the Algarve, so this is very poignant from Miriam :
In the early morning mists, we find Irene :
With first hand knowledge of China, share this epic journey with Indra :
Always with a gentle, distinctive touch, there’s no mistaking Lynn’s love for nature :
While Rupali looks at her world through eyes filled with beauty :
And Cathy experiences the excesses of tourism in Italy. Certainly not any longer!
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for another cuppa. Did somebody mention cake? Please, stay safe out there!