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Èvora Historic Alentejo Town

The city of Évora is located in Évora Municipality, Portugal It has 41,159 inhabitants. The city is composed of the parishes of Santo Antão, São Mamede and Sé e São Pedro in the historical centre and the urban parishes of Bacelo, Horta das Figueiras, Malagueira and Senhora da Saúde outside the ancient city walls Évora is ranked number 58 in the Portuguese most liveable cities survey of living conditions published yearly by Expresso. I

t was ranked first in a study concerning competitiveness of the 18 Portuguese district capitals, according to a 2006 study made by Minho University economic researchers. Due to its well-preserved old town centre, still partially enclosed by medieval walls, and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple, Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Alentejo Province is a region of wide plains to the south of the Tagus River (Rio Tejo, in Portuguese). In the heart of this region, at a distance of 130 km from Lisbon, lies the city of Évora. Évora has a history dating back more than two millennia. It may have been the kingdom of Astolpas., and may be named after ivory workers.

It was known as Ebora by the Lusitanians, who made the town their regional capital. The Romans conquered the town in 57 B.C. and expanded it into a walled town. Vestiges from this period (city walls and ruins of Roman baths) still remain. The Romans had extensive gold mining in Portugal, and the name may be derived from that oro, aurum, gold).Julius Caesar called it "Liberalitas Julia" (Julian generosity).

The city grew in importance because it lay at the junction of several important routes. During his travels through Gaul and Lusitania, Pliny the Elder also visited this town and mentioned it in his book Naturalis Historia as Ebora Cerealis, because of its many surrounding wheat fields. In those days Évora became a flourishing city. Its high rank among municipalities in Roman Hispania is clearly shown by many inscriptions and coins.

The monumental Corinthian temple in the center of the town dates from the 1st century and was probably erected in honour of emperor Augustus. In the fourth century, the town had already a bishop, named Quintianus. During the barbarian invasions, Évora came under the rule of the Visigothic king Leovirgild in 584. The town was later raised to the status of a cathedral city. Nevertheless this was a time of decline and very few artefacts from this period remain.

In 715, the city was conquered by Moors under Tariq ibn-Ziyad who called it Yeborah. During their rule (715-1165) the town slowly began to prosper again and developed into an agricultural centre with a fortress and a mosque. The present character of the city is evidence of the Moorish influence.Évora was wrested from the Moors through a surprise attack by Gerald the Fearless (Geraldo Sem Pavor) in September 1165.

The town came under the rule of the Portuguese king Afonso I in 1166. It then flourished as one of the most dynamic cities in the Kingdom of Portugal during the middle Ages, especially in the 15th century. The court of the first and second dynasties resided here for long periods, constructing palaces, monuments and religious buildings.

Évora became the scene for many royal weddings and a site where many important decisions were made. Particularly thriving during the Avis Dynasty (1385-1580), especially under the reign of Manuel I and John III, Évora became a major center for the humanities (André de Resende - buried in the cathedral) and artists, such as the sculptor Nicolau Chanterene, the painters Cristóvão de Figueiredo and Gregório Lopes, the composers Manuel Cardoso and Duarte Lobo, the chronicler Duarte Galvão and the father of Portuguese drama Gil Vicente.

The city became the seat of an archbishopric in 1540. The university was founded by the Jesuits in 1559, and it was here that great European Masters such as the Flemish humanists Nicolaus Clenardus (Nicolaas Cleynaerts) (1493-1542), Johannes Vasaeus (Jan Was) (1511-1561) and the theologian Luis de Molina passed on their knowledge.

In the 18th century the Jesuits, who had spread intellectual and religious enlightenment since the 16th century, were expelled from Portugal, the university was closed in 1759 by the Marquis of Pombal and Évora went into decline. The university was only reopened in 1973. In 1834, Évora was the site of the surrender of the forces of King Miguel I which marked the end of the Liberal Wars.

The many monuments erected by major artists of each period now testify to Évora's lively cultural and rich artistic and historical heritage. The variety of architectural styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, and Baroque), the palaces and the picturesque labyrinth of squares and narrow streets of the city center are all part of the rich heritage of this museum-city. Today, the historical center has about 4000 buildings and an area of 1.05 km².