Saturday, October 29, 2011

Portugal - Historic Centre of Guimarães

Nossa Senhora da Oliveira Church (Colegiada)

Sent by Paula, a postcrosser from Portugal.

The early history of Guimarães is closely associated with the establishment of Portuguese national identity and the Portuguese language in the 12th century. Guimarães is of considerable significance by virtue of the fact that specialized building techniques developed there in the Middle Ages were transmitted to Portuguese colonies in Africa and the New World, becoming their characteristic feature. It is an exceptionally well-preserved town illustrating the evolution of particular building types from the medieval settlement to the present-day city, and particularly in the 15th-19th centuries.

Guimarães dominates the fertile plain that extends towards the sea. It is situated on the most important medieval communication routes connecting Monçao and Braga with Viseu and Caminha, the seat of the Portuguese Counts from the 10th century. This urban settlement developed as a result of two forces, a monastery in the south valley, and a fort on the north hill, surrounded by two rivers, until they were brought together within a single enclosure.
The historic centre is formed by a large number of stone constructions (950-1498). The period from Renaissance to neoclassicism is characterized by noble houses and the development of civic facilities, city squares, etc. The eclectic and industrial periods and modern expansion (1926 until today) include some changes, although the town has maintained its medieval urban layout. The systems and building types have evolved over time. The residential buildings are characterized by the use of two construction techniques, one dating from before the 16th century (taipa de rodízio ), a half-timbered structure, which mixed granite with a structure in timber and a filling of sun-dried brick, using clay mortar. The other (taipa de fasquio ), which came into use in the 19th century and is still practised today, was entirely in timber. From here this technology was exported to other parts of the world.
The monuments include the medieval castle, built on the site of the first fort of the 10th century. The present construction was built from stone, begun at the time of Afonso I and continued with various modifications in the following centuries. The building is an austere crenellated structure with towers, designed for defence. Part of it was demolished in the 18th century and since then it has been subject to restorations. Close to the castle, there is a small Romanesque church, São Miguel do Castelo, ruined in the 19th century and restored in the 1920s. The church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira was founded in the 12th century on the site where the first monastery had existed some three centuries earlier. It was completely renovated from 1387 to 1413, with three naves and a wooden roof structure, according to the Portuguese Gothic model. The cloister was added in the 16th century and the present sanctuary to the church in the 17th.
The Palace of the Dukes of Bragança is a large complex built from stone down the hill from the castle. The first construction dates from 1420-22, most probably under French influence. The building was conceived as a symbol of the pride of the Bragança family. The building underwent various vicissitudes, serving as a military headquarters in the late 19th century. The Town Hall, in the square in front of the church of Nossa Senhora, dates mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries. The palace, primarily in stone, has one main floor with large doors opening to a balcony along the main facade. The ground floor is characterized by open arcades. In the same square, in front of the church, there is also a 14th-century Gothic arch, a monument commemorating the victory of Dom Afonso IV in the battle of Padrão do Salado.
The bourgeois houses of the 16th century have a ground floor in granite and the upper floors are built using the half-timbered structure of taipa de rodízio . The houses of noble families have often been an modification of a previous structure, and generally have their elevations built from granite as a sign of distinction. The typical houses of the 17th century continued using the same construction technique (granite in the ground floor and half-timbered structure in the upper floors - usually three). Another type of house of the same century was built with a peristyle and arcaded ground floor, and is usually found in public squares. (Source)

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