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Viana do Alentejo

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Viana do Alentejo
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It is one of the most attractive towns of the Higher Alentejo, where its natural springs have offered an abundant source of water to the region's dry plains since Roman times.

The abundance of water turns the fields around it into vegetable plots and green farmlands and fills the town's streets with fountains: one of the most interesting is the marble spring at the Praça da República square, built in one of the walls of the old Town Hall.

The castle of Viana do Alentejo, begun in 1313, has unusual cylindrical towers showing a Moorish influence and was remodelled in the 15th century.

The adjacent 16th-century Mother Church, ressembling a fortress with its crenellations and pinnacles, has a splendidly carved Manueline entrance and an imponent triple-naved interior.

Near the town, the vast Church and sanctuary of Our Lady of Aires, rising on a beautiful plain, has attracted pilgrims since 1743 and its interior walls are almost completely lined with humble ex-votos (offerings) forming a contrast with the chancel's gold canopy: this makes it a curious live «museum» of popular art and the festivities in honour of Our Lady of Aires, held in September and which include a three-days fair, are equally colourful, with dancing, singing and a typical bullfight.

At Alcáçovas, it is worth visiting the impressive Mother Church (16th and 17th centuries), surrounded by fertile fields which are crossed by three streams.

The plains of the Higher Alentejo offer a home to the abetarda (bustard), one of the most stout birds of the Portuguese fauna.

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