Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa

Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa (Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa)
Palace of the Dukes of Braganza
Palace (Palácio)
The Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, in Vila Viçosa. detail of the main facade
Official name: Palácio dos Duques de Bragança
Named for: Dukes of Braganza
Country  Portugal
Region Alentejo
Subregion Alentejo Central
District Évora
Municipality Vila Viçosa Municipality
Location Nossa Senhora da Conceição
 - elevation 400 m (1,312 ft)
 - coordinates PT 38°46′56.80″N 7°25′18.97″W / 38.7824444°N 7.4219361°W / 38.7824444; -7.4219361Coordinates: PT 38°46′56.80″N 7°25′18.97″W / 38.7824444°N 7.4219361°W / 38.7824444; -7.4219361
Length 124.5 m (408 ft), Northwest-Southeast
Width 70.5 m (231 ft), Southwest-Northeast
Architects Pero de Trilho, Afonso de Pallos, Martim Lourenço, Diogo de Arruda[1], Baltazar Álvares, Nicolau de Frias, Silvestre Faria Lobo, Pêro Vaz Pereira
Styles Renaissance, Manueline, Moorish, Mannerist, Baroque, Neoclassic
Materials Masonry, Stonework, Marble, Granite
Origin c. 1496
 - Initiated 1501
Owner Portuguese Republic
For public Public
Easiest access Terreiro do Paço
Management Instituto Gestão do Patrimonio Arquitectónico e Arqueológico
Operator Fundação da Casa de Bragança
October to March Tuesday: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Wednesday to Friday: 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.; Weekends: 9:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., 2:00–5:00 p.m.
April to September Tuesday: 2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday to Friday: 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m.; Weekends: 9:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., 2:00–5:30 p.m.
July to August Tuesday: 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Wednesday to Friday: 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m.; Weekends: 9:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m., 2:30–6:00 p.m.
Status National Monument
Listing Decree 251/70; DG129, 3 June 1970
Wikimedia Commons: Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa
Website: http://www.fcbraganca.pt/

The Ducal Palace of Vila Viçosa (Portuguese: Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa) is a palace located in the civil parish of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, in the municipality of Vila Viçosa, in the Portuguese Alentejo. It was, for centuries, the seat of House of Braganza, one of the most important noble houses in Portugal: it became the ruling house of the Kingdom of Portugal after 1640, until King Manuel II, titular head of the family, was deposed in the 5 October 1910 Revolution that brought a Republican government.


Early example of the Manueline style of the original Palace before reconstruction
The statue of James, 4th Duke of Braganza, the motivator for the construction of the modern Ducal Palace
Tree-lined roadway to the palace, part of the remodelled grounds

Vila Viçosa became an ancestral feudo of the Dukes of Braganza when Fernando I of Braganza succeeded his father Afonso I, receiving the title of Count of Arraiolos from his grandfather, Nuno Alvares Pereira. With this, Fernando established his seat in the primitive Vila Viçosa Castle. However, his son, Fernando II was executed in 1483 by order of King John II on accusations of treason, and the family was exiled to the Kingdom of Castile. Returning in 1496 (after the death of King), the family regained its ancestral lands, although Duke James (Fernando's successor), declined to live in the Castle of Vila Viçosa, owing to its association with his father's betrayal and murder.

The residence of the Dukes of Braganza was begun under the stewardship of James in 1501–1502.[2][3] It was situated in the Horta do Reguengo outside the walls of the urban medieval village, in an area that was "characterized by extensive olive orchards and an abundance of water", presenting some similarities to the signeurial residences of the region, such as the Sempre Noiva or Paço de Alvito.[3][4] The House of Braganza regained much of its power and wealth over time, the fruit of the Duke's close kinship with the Royal Family and his deeds to reconcile relations between the nobles. James, who commanded the victorious expedition to Azamor in 1513, both secured a pardon and brought riches to his House (contributing to the growth of the ducal palace).

In 1535, Teodosio, was appointed Constable of the Kingdom.[2] He managed to negotiate the marriage of his sister, Isabella, with the Infante Edward, 4th Duke of Guimarães (brother of King John III), securing a closer association with the Royal Family.[2] Taking advantage of the need to expand the palace for the celebrations of the royal marriage, Teodosio began the construction of the imposing facade of the palace, lined with marble in the Italianate-style. Comparably, he began the installation of the Sala de Música (Hall of Music) in 1558.[2] As Rafael Moreira indicated, the first building was a designed and decorated in the Manueline style, and was remodelled in the classical profile, along with adjacent buildings and expansion of the square in front of the building.[3][5] At the time, it was inspired by the profile of the Ribeira Palace in Lisbon.[3][6] Extensive remodelling also occurred in 1566, during the tenure of John I, 6th Duke of Braganza.[2] On the occasion of the visit of Michele Bonelli, Cardinal Alessandrino, legate to the Pope, a mass in the redesigned Duchesses' Oratorio, attended by Infanta Catherine, Duchess of Braganza and guests, was realized.[2]

It was the 7th Duke, Theodosious II, who began the grand works of the classical facade, beginning in 1583 and finally completed in the regency of King John IV in 1635.[2] In 1602, Theodosius married Ana de Velasco y Girón on the grounds, his marriage to the Spanish noblewoman would result in children, as well as the installation of Tavera de la Reina azulejo tile, in the Sala Grande (Great Hall), attributed to Fernando Loyaza.[2][3][7][8] The whole project was executed by Nicolau de Frias, royal architect, but was later supplemented by Pedro Vaz Pereira and Manuel Pereira Alvenéo.[3][7] The monumental facade was completed in the Mannerist style, consisting of two floors, one with Tuscan capitals, while the other in Ionic capitals, but later the construction began in 1610 on the addition of a third floor.[3] Similarly, around 1611, the fireplace in the Sala de Medusa (Medusa's Hall) was designed and constructed by Pêro Vaz Pereira.[2] Within the ascension of Duke John to the throne (in 1640), the palace lost its importance as the permanent residence of the family.[2]

The first new constructions/remodelling in the Palace occurred in the 18th century, with the execution of an organ for the chapel. In 1716, King John V began minor renovations in the palace. Later, in 1762, main tower that fronted the Duchcess' Garden (or Forest Garden) and the construction of a new wing, formally designated the Quartos Novos (New Quarters) were begun under Queen Maria I.[3] This included the construction of the Sala de Jantar (Dining Hall), which, along with the other works, were finally completed under her successor, King Joseph I in 1770.

With the Napoleonic invasion of the peninsula, the Portuguese Royal Family departed for Brazil, closing the palace.[2]

Long after their return, the Royal Family and, specifically, under the authority of Prince Carlos and Amélie of Orleans began renovations of the New Quarters (by the Frenchman Negrier) in order to serve as their residence.[2][3] After a period of living in these quarters, as the semi-official residence, with his family King Carlos returned to Lisbon on 1 February 1908, where he was assassinated.[2][3]

On 5 October 1910 a revolution, instigated by Republican sympathizers caused the Royal Family to flee to England and the residences of the monarchy were closed to the public.[2][3]

In 1932, while in exile, King Manuel II died from an abnormal swelling in the throat. His will instructed the creation of a foundation to safeguard the Royal estate: the Fundação da Casa de Bragança (House of Braganza Foundation).[3] As part of this process, there was a systematic inventory and assessment of the contents of the Palace by the DGEMN Direcção Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais (General-Directorate for Buildings and National Monuments) completed in 1938.[2] Between 1945 and 1952, the DGMEN initiated public works to restore and recuperate the palace from years of neglect and isolation, supplemented by repairs to the roof in 1963.[2][3]

It was only on 18 May 1984 that the palace was open to the public, which included one of the largest and varied permanent expositions of the carriages in Europe.[2]

A re-tiling of the central wing was completed in 1985–1986, followed in 1989 by a similar project in the Ala dos Moços (Children's Wing) in 1989.[2]

The completed horizontal profile of the Ducal Palace of the Braganzas. On the right, the tower of the Royal Chapel


Located in the urban context of Vila Viçosa, the palace is situated on a stable plain at the foot of the castle hill. Rising 395 metres (1,296 ft) above this context, on a grand space, it fronts other historical buildings, including the Church of the Augustine Friars (Portuguese: Igreja dos Agostinhos), the Episcopal Palace (Portuguese: Paço do Bispo) and Convent of the Stigmata (Portuguese: Convento das Chagas).[2]

The building consists of a grand rectangular profile, extending east to west, with three floors, and an irregular trapezoid structure to the north-south, with the roofing differently tiled above each of the spaces.[2] The principal facade is fully lined with ashlar masonry and pink Estremoz marble, corresponding to the three respective floors and central pediment broken by two main doorways.[2] The rest of the facades are broken by a series of rectangular windows, that harmoniously divide the surface in a rhythmic classic pattern, some with semi-circular pediments and framed cornices. Pilasters and architraves define the horizontal and vertical frames of many of the windows, giving the whole composition great sobriety and classicism.[2]

The formal or Lady's Garden occupy a comparable space to the residence, consisting of symmetrical patterns interspersed with sculptures of ancient shells and royal cavalry.[2]


Access to the residence is made across the vestibule. From this space is the main marble staircase and marble walls, as well as a painted mural fresco representing the Tomada de Azamor (Taking of Azamor) in northern Africa in 1513 by Portuguese troops, commanded by James, Duke of Braganza. On the left-side is the disembarkation (Portuguese: Desembarque), to the centre the preparations of the encirclement (Portuguese: Preparativos do Cerco) and to the right the conquest of the fortress (Portuguese: Conquista da Praça).[2]

In the first years of the 17th century, the palace received a decorative palette, considered "one of the richest group of fresco mural paintings encountered in Portuguese art".[3][9] The rooms in the Palace extend along the horizontal plane, with a single corridor linking the spaces, including the Sala das Tapeçarias (Tapestry Hall), with sillar covered in 17th-century polychromtic blue-and-white azulejo tile, white marble fireplace, tile floor, and vaulted ceiling with phytomorphic painting.[2] Several of the main rooms include spaces with painted fresco ceilings, and 17th-century blue-and-white/yellow azulejo tile, such as the Sala do Gigante (Hall of the Giant), with 16th-century fresco depicting the biblical episode between David and Goliath, which is framed by the arms of the Dukes of Braganza; the Oratório da Duquesa (Duchess' Oratory); andSala de Medusa (Hall of Medusa), with a painted fresco representing the battle between Medusa and Perseus. These group of paintings were"largely faithful to the aesthetic canons of the Italianate Mannerists".[3] The compositions are replent in Moorish-influenced motifs executed between 1600 and 1640 by different painters: Tomás Luís, famous Lisbon painter, was attributed to the "two notable mural [ceiling] decorations" in the Hall of Medusa and the gallery of Duchess Catherine and José de Avelar Rebelo painted the ceilings of the Music Pavilion.[3][10] The remainder of these rooms extend laterally through the accessway: the Sala de D. Duarte (Edwards' Hall), with a painted ceiling, with anthropomorphic elements and tiled floor; the Sala dos Duques (Hall of the Dukes) or Sala dos Tudescos is a noble salon and largest room in the building, decorated with frames of 17 Dukes of Braganza, from Joseph I: the Sala das Virtues (Hall of Virtues) has an artesnal ceiling comprising framed paintings showing the seven theological virtues and morals, among them: (Faith), Esperança (Hope), Caridade (Charity),Prudência (Prudence), Justiça (Justice), Forteleza (Strength), Temperança (Temperance) and Sapiência (Wisdom); and theSala de Jantar (Dining Hall) there is a similarly paneled ceiling with medallions, decorated in classical and mythological motifs. The rooms five doorways give access to the Jardim das Damas (Lady's Garden).

A chapel, referred to as the Sala dos Paramento/Órgãos (Hall of the Vestments/Organ) is covered in a vaulted ceiling with comparably painted roof frames.[2]

The Pavilhão da Música (Music Pavilion) is an exceptional example: it consists of a painted wood ceiling, sillar with 17th-century azulejo tile depicting figures in panchromatic tiles in yellow, blue, green and red, representing the history of Tobit (Portuguese: Tobiãs) with the coat-of-arms of the Dukes of Braganza, and signed FIAB.[2]

In addition, there are several other "named" rooms in palace, including the Sala D. Duarte (D. Durate's Hall), Sala D. Fernando II (Ferdinand's Hall), Sala do Século 17 (17th-century Hall), Sala da Restauração (Restoration Hall), Sala de Hércules (Hall of Hercules), Sala Dourada ou da Duquesa (Golden Hall or Duchess Hall), named for Catherine wife of the 6th Duke, the Sala da Cabra Cega (Hall of the Blind Goat); Sala Indo-Portuguesa (Portuguese-India Hall); Sala das Loiças (Hall of Dishware); Sala dos Vidros (Hall of Glass); Sala dos Reis (Kings' Hall); the armory; and the famous wing of the New Quarters, named for the fact that it acted as the residence and studies for the King, with diverse antechambers, and corridors.[2] Near the kitchen are the ovens, wine cellars, avery and storage spaces.


  1. Túlio Espanca (1978), p. 813
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Nunes, Castro (1993), SIPA, ed., Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa (v.PT040714030009) (in Portuguese), Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico, retrieved 7 April 2012
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Oliveira, Catherine (2006). IGESPAR, ed. "Paço Ducal de Vila Viçosa" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: IGESPAR – Instituto de Gestão do Património Arquitectónico e Arqueológico. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  4. José Teixeira (1997), pp. 8–9
  5. Rafael Moreira (1997), p. 50
  6. Rafael Moreira (1997), p. 51
  7. 1 2 José Teixeira (1997), p. 11
  8. The Talavera de la Reinaazulejos in the Great Hall are the only ones of this type to still exist in the place that they were meant, after the destruction of the Guadalajara, during the Spanish Civil War.
  9. Vítor Serrão (1997), p. 15
  10. Vítor Serrão (1997), p. 16
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