WELCOME TO Val's Alentejo -I write about my region of Alentejo. My art ,painting, my cottages, Family life, my animals -Travels And my love for Roses- and rural country life.

Friday, 10 August 2012

"Grutas" underground caves

I live within the triangle of three villages all between 6 to 8 kilometer apart.   Alvito- Viana do Alentejo- and my village-Vila Nova da Baronia. (2k from my quinta) - In Portugal, we have districts-   Vila nova belongs to the Municipality of Alvito  which belongs to the  District of the City of Beja.    Each having their own governing counsel within the municipalities.  Vila Nova  belongs to the municipality of Alvito.

Alvito is a village of 2.500  habitants.   Inhabited since neolithic times.  Alvito's architecture being of Manueline ,Portuguese Gothic,early Renaissance style and Mudejar (arab incluence)..

 It was under Roman rule and was conquered by the Portuguee in 1234.
The inhabitants , mainly live from working on the very large estates around the area. The estates grow cork ,rear cattle and sheep and black pig..olive and some marble. Many of the land owners live in Lisbon and have their farm managers and workers to run their estates.

..Some people have their own little property living off subsistance farming.. also growing organic greens, and other produce with small live stock, and they live a simple happy life. Of course there are many of the men who work in Beja or Evora in the commercial sector.
     Many  youths have immigrated or gone to work in the City,thus our population are elderly. However, life in the villages goes on .
I myself like Alvito.. Its a clean very unique little village. My youngest son attended school there. Before attending the University of Evora, where he studied 7 years and has his masters degree in classical music.

I dont know about yourselves, but when one lives in a place , we pass by churches and monuments and little houses and big houses and beautiful gardens every day.     It all becomes part of our daily routine.  That's me!.  I dont know how many times i have passed this little "ermida" of St. Sebastian and never been in.   When i decided to go and pay a visit last year.. that was when they closed the chapel to ensure its safety for visitors.

"Ermida" is a little chapel built in a reclusive place away from the village.
 Last year it was closed with fencing all around.  I found out a while back, why the fencing was there.
                                                           Ermida de Sao Sebastiao
                                                    Front view.  It sits in what the Portuguese call "A Rossio"- A square..Alvito holds the last annual fair of every year. and its held in the Rossio of San Sebastiao.

 There is a lady that looks after it, on behalf of the parish and its open every day.. If the lady is not there, one can go to the tourist office in Alvito and they will call the lady to open it, she might have just gone home for lunch.

The "Ermidas" were built and dedicated to saints who were considered protectors from the pest and other epidemics.   Sao Sebastian  Ermida, is Portuguese Gothic architecture.

I have always liked this little church and it is well maintained.  People come from all over to visit it.
Since its now open to the puplic .. I will be making a visit there very soon. After all, its about 10 min away from me.

I now now why the church was cordened off..
 And this is "WHY".....................Under the little chapel of Sao Sebastiao, are secret tunnels,grutas, caves and chambers leading into one another.
 History and tales of these tunnels are told that they were built to connect the other family houses of the lords of the village .. The Lobos da Silveira family.  They could come and go freely without the population knowing what the  kings or Baron's were doing, or maybe a whispering gallery.!
We can imagine possibly , that when there was a plague or pest in the area..the nobility would  also hide there.

It's written in the archieves, that  MOS was extracted from under the  Ermida.   Manano-Oligosacarideos..(i looked this up on wikipedia) ..Hence the grottos of Alvito.  MOS is a type of carbohidrate, used to kill bcteria, kill salmonela and cure diarrea. A form of antibiotic
How they used it in those days.. i can only imagine.. potions mixed with this and that. !
                                The tunnels are very wide and deep. The municipality have secured the foundations to the church..as the tunnels are so very old.
                                                 A beautiful angel - Fresco painted on the walls of the Ermida de Sao Sebastiao.Alvito .

                                                A view of the  main church in Alvito. One of the little village streets

                                                             The Pousada of Alvito. now a 5 star Hotel.

                                                    These rounded walls remind me of "whispering chambers"

                                                                one of many village fountains
                                                     Many of the doors of the village are ornate with intricate designs.
The square and band stand and the junior school in the background.
                            Entrance to the main church of Alvito

                                                      The beautiful well kept gardens at the side of the Alvito church.

Typical hand painted pottery from this region.

I came to live here permanently over 20 years ago.   I enjoy the peace and calmness of village life . Its the place I call home.

wishing all my blogging friends a happy weekend.    Val


  1. Val what you call "home" I would call "vacation"...it is beyond beautiful!...:)JP

  2. Hello Valerie

    I can see why you call this area home and in particular your village of Vila Nova da Baronia. The history is fascinating and the underground network of tunnels most interesting.
    Thank you for this in-depth account of your home. It is nice to be able to envision where you live

    Have a splendid weeekend

    Helen xx

  3. Oh, I love it all - the churches, the tunnels, the fresco, the pottery ... you live in such an amazing area. Thank you for sharing it with us, and I hope one day we can come to Portugal and see for ourselves! Happy weekend Val xxx

  4. I love the sound of your home Val. Your village sounds lovely and look forward to seeing more.
    Patricia x

  5. Thank you JP.
    No, i am not on vacation. ! just happen to live in a place that is lovely and full of history. Pleased you like the post.

  6. Thank you Helen,
    Its nice to know about the areas our blogging friends live in.. The tunnels are amazing. There are a lot of underground caves in portugal.

  7. Thank you for your kind comments Patricia.
    Portugal has so much to offer .. its a beautiful country.
    The area that i live in is wide open spaces made up of farms. I do love living here.

  8. Hello Val:
    We can see completely why you decided to make your home in this most charming of villages. It all looks to be absolutely idyllic and the pace of life is perfect. Simple pleasures enjoyed to the full is what a good life is all about in our view.

    The underground tunnels and wall paintings are truly remarkable. How intriguing all of this is. We do not care much for exploring underground but we should be fascinated to see all of this hidden treasure at close quarters.

  9. Absolutely fascinating! Yes, it's a similar story, we tend to neglect what's on our own doorstep which is why this past year we've been doing 'local' x

  10. I tto dont like going underground..probably that's why i am only going to visit now.!
    The villages are peaceful ..i must agree..i do live in a lovely part of the world.
    Thank you Jane and Lance
    wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  11. Totally agree.. sometimes its great to see what is in our own neighbourhood..
    Thank you Rustic country Cottage
    happy weekend

  12. Dear Val, You live in a most beautiful area. I love the architecture of the Ermida Chapel...it almost looks Moorish. Does Portugal still have Estalagems? I rember when we could afford staying at your beautiful and historic Pousadas. We used to travel from one to another, all throughout Portugal.

  13. Dear Gina,
    thanks always for your comments. I do appreciate them all.
    Yes, there are still some Estelagem's around.. the photo of the castle in this post is a Pousada..
    The Pousada's if you remember, used to belong to the government.. They are now privately owned.. good, but far from the fantastic service that was offered some years ago.
    Hope you decided on the paint !!! your home is spectacular.
    wishing you a very happy weekend.
    val x x x

  14. I must travel to Portugal! It's stunning and lovely, Val! These tunnels are amazing! My boys would love it! Furthermore, thank you so much for your welcoming and warm words! It means a lot to me - I was not sure whether I would still have some readers or whether I would have to start all over again. Wishing you a lovely evening and splendid Sunday tomorow! Big hugs, Christa

  15. Val, thank you for sharing photos of your village and the church. I am just like you, I prefer a simple, safe place to live. No large cities for me--too congested, too fast paced, too much crime. I imagine that in a few years, the youth that have left will become disillusioned with the city life and some may return to raise families and little gardens.

  16. Today in your post you showed me a wonderful place which you have chosen to live! I think you made ​​the best choice! It's a place with history, with famous people, with calm and simple life .. Frankly I envy you. Thank you that you giving me the opportunity to know the place you live!

  17. Thank you Joy,
    Nice to hear from you and thanks for following me.
    Yes.. i could not live in the big city.. its ok for now and again.. i am a country girl.
    I love the open spaces .. indeed..less crime.
    that is what happens.. the youths go away make their money then come home again.
    and the wheel turns.

  18. Thank you Olympia
    you always leave such kind comments..so sweet of you.. I too think I made a very good choice of place to settle down. Its slow paced and I like that.

  19. Dear Christa,
    Portugal is a wonderful country, with lots of history. well that is to be expected .
    Thank you for your comments.
    nice to see you back.
    happy sunday

  20. What a beautiful building! I love the history of the church, and all the pictures. You discribed it beautifully.
    Thanks for visiting me at agrandmasblessings and for the birthday wishes.

  21. What a wonderful post Val, so very interesting, the catacombs under the little church are facinating,
    The photos of your village streets give a real flavour of the very special place you now call home
    Thea x

  22. Thank you for your comments atagrandma's blog..
    happy sunday Silvia..

  23. Thank you Thea for your kind comments . I am waiting for september to go underground..
    It is a special place for me here.. i am at peace and happy.

  24. hiya val I've tagged you in my latest post and gave you the sunshine blog award, check it out ;)

  25. Thank you so much dear Gorkçe,
    that is so sweet of you.. i accept it with love.
    thank you for your constant lovely messages on my post.
    xx val

  26. It is very interesting to read about your history and to see your beautiful photos. Our European history is very young (from 1788), but it is a very old country inhabited by the indigenous Australians for at least 40,000! They have a rich tradition of stories, art, hand made items etc. passed on through the generations.
    We do often forget the wonderful history we have on our own doorstep. Thanks for taking us to these beautiful and historic places.


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