AAA members outside Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Conceição in Loulé

Algarve Archaeological Association tour of the historic centre of Loulé

The AAA lecture which was due to be held on Tuesday, April 7 has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of our venues at the Museu do Traje in São Brás and the Convento de São José in Lagoa. We aim to resume our monthly lectures when the situation allows.

In February, AAA members were able to enjoy an excellent visit to the historic centre of Loulé, an archaeological tour arranged by our member DAVID MARION who wrote the following report:

“On Thursday, February 13, members of the AAA went on an archaeological tour of historic Loulé led by municipal archaeologist Isabel Luzia. The tour traced sections of the old city walls which once extended for 1km around the city, about the same length as the city walls of Faro. From atop one of the towers in the Castelo, the group learned that all Portuguese castles were restored in the 1940s by Salazar, giving them a rather uniform look.

The tower gave a good view of the surrounding hills and the sea, important for the defence of the old city. To the north lies the narrow Rua de Portugal, so named as it was the road to the Kingdom of Portugal, the Algarve being its own Kingdom at that time; in Muslim times, Loulé was known as Al-Ulyà.

On the slopes to the north-east extending east of the Rua de Portugal was a large Muslim cemetery.

To the south-east, the bell tower at the Mother Church (Igreja de São Clemente) was built by the Muslims about 900 years ago as a minaret and is the only such tower in Portugal.

After the re-conquest in 1249, the mosque was quickly converted into the church. There were several examples of how the Muslims anchored the foundations of their structures to bedrock, such as the foundations of the bell tower, the Arabic L-shaped city gate beneath the beautiful mural-tiled and gold-leafed chapel of Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the foundations of a building visible beneath the museum. Newer buildings were not anchored and generally only float on the surface, making them unstable.

The old city of Loulé was located above an abundant source of fresh groundwater, still used today.

The Municipal Museum in the Castelo is the main branch of a network of six local municipal museums and houses a variety of displays.

One of the newest displays chronicles the excavations of the recently discovered 227-million-year-old dinosaur beds on Rocha da Pena near Salir, where the Metoposaurus Algarvensis, a very large amphibian similar to a salamander, was discovered.

Also in the museum there are many prehistoric, megalithic, Roman and medieval artefacts and information on the numerous archaeological sites within the municipality, including Loulé Velho and the Castelo de Salir. The municipality plans to enlarge and modernise the museum in order to better display the growing collections.

Loulé is also collaborating with the municipalities of Silves and Albufeira to create a UNESCO Geopark.

The tour continued down the narrow streets along the route of the city wall and the group learned about the different types of buildings constructed at the time on both sides of the three-metre-thick stone walls and the guide explained a few of the excavations.

The Islamic Baths (Banhos Islâmicos), the only such baths in Portugal, and the adjoining tower and open space built along the city wall will soon be restored as an interpretive centre.

The group passed by the busy Municipal Market and bustling Chocolate Fair and then enjoyed a Portuguese lunch at Afonso III Restaurant.”

Thanks again go to David for organising the tour and also to Isabel Luzia for guiding us around Loulé.

For more information about the AAA, email algarvearchass@gmail.com, visit arquealgarve.weebly.com or Facebook ‘Algarve Archaeological Association’

By Jane Robertson

Interior of Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Loulé
AAA members outside Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Conceição in Loulé
Igreja de São Clemente, Loulé
Loulé Museum