Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Assuncao
(Our Lady of the Assumption)
Built on the site of the old Jewish quarter on the initiative of two pious sisters born in Beja, work on the church and monastery continued from 1528 until the 1560s. The building was completed by Queen Catarina (1507 – 1578) and is a major example of early Renaissance art in the Algarve. The church door has pilasters with figurative decoration.
The cloister is on two storeys, with foursets of arcades and decorative gargoyles in the shape of animals. The decoration on the church dome is rococo (18th century).
There is an interesting lookout tower (16th century).
The museum houses a major collection, particularly from the Roman period from when the Ocean mosaic dates, as well as carved stones found in Faro bearing inscriptions that refer to Ossonoba, and busts of emperors from the ruins at Milreu – as well as a valuable collection of religious art.
History of the Municipality of Faro
The Ria Formosa lagoon attracted human occupants from the Palaeolithic age until the end of pre-history. During that time a settlement grew up – Oss�noba – which was an important town during the period of Roman occupation and, according to historians, the forerunner of present-day Faro.
From the 3rd century onwards and during the Visigothic period it was the site of an Episcopal see. With the advent of Moorish rule in the 8th century Ossonoba retained its status as the most important town in the southwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula.
In the 9th century it became the capital of a short-lived princedom and was fortified with a ring of defensive walls. At this time the name Santa Maria began to be used instead of Oss�noba. Later on the town was known as Harune, whence its current name, Faro.
After a traumatic period attributable to the political and military fragility of the town’s Moorish rulers, in 1249, Faro became part of Portuguese territory, thus completing the Christian reconquest of what is now Portugal.
In the centuries that followed Faro became a prosperous place, thanks to its geographical position, its safe harbour and growing trade – in salt and agricultural products from the interior of the Algarve -increased by the voyages of exploration known as the Discoveries. At this time the town had a large and active Jewish population: the first Portuguese book was printed locally on the Jewish community’s initiative at the end of the 15th century.
Recognising the town’s growth, in 1499 King Manuel set in motion major changes to the urban fabric, with the construction of new facilities – a hospital, the Espirito Santo (Holy Spirit) church (later rebuilt and run by the “Misericordia” (charity and welfare institution), a customs house, a slaughter house and so on, outside the city walls and along the coast.
In 1540 Faro was elevated to the status of a city and in 1577 it became the site of the Episcopal see of the Bishop of the Algarve, who had previously had his
throne in Silves. In 1596 it suffered a severe mauling at the hands of raiding soldiers led by the Earl of Essex. Essex’s men sacked the city, then set it alight, damaging its fortifications and its churches.
The 17th and 18th centuries were a period of expansion for Faro. A new series of battlements was built during the Wars of Restoration (1640-1668), enclosing the urban area and tracts of arable land in a huge semi-circle facing the Ria.
The city remained within these confines until the end of the 19th century. After years of steady but unspectacular growth, its expansion has accelerated significantly in the last few decades.
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