In 2027, Evora will become the European Capital of Culture and as you wander around its old town you can see just how much the city is preparing for this honour with lots of restoration work going on, and a tangible feeling of excitement in the air. One venue that has already been rehabilitated is the compact Museu da Misericórdia and church in Rua da Misericórdia.
Santa Casa da Misericórdia in Portugal
For those who don’t know, the Santa Casa da Misericórdia is a Christian charity organisation that has been helping the elderly, poor, sick, disabled and disadvantaged in Portugal since 1498. Based on an Italian model, the recently widowed Queen Leonor set up the first centre in Lisbon and the Evora branch came soon after. Today, it runs hospitals, clinics, old age homes, day centres, schools, kindergartens, refuges, homeless and disability facilities across the county, and it’s funding mainly comes from the national lottery.
In Estremoz, the Santa Casa da Misericordia, which was started in 1502, offers shelter to the homeless and abused women, has a senior’s residence in the centre of town and is generally involved in all kinds of support and assistance to the townspeople.
The Evora Museu da Misericordia
Made up of only 5 rooms plus the adjacent church, this compact museum only takes a short while to visit and offers a haven of peace and tranquillity in the centre of Evora’s old town. The first rooms include a timeline of the organisation’s history, it’s mission statement and various religious artefacts, especially those paraded through the streets in the frequent religious processions that take place throughout the year. The visit culminates in a video detailing the renovation work that took place over the past couple of years that brought back the 16th century church to its full glory in 2022.
However, the highlight of the visit is the view from the choir vestry overlooking the nave of the church. Equipped with an interactive screen system in both English and Portuguese, the walls of the chapel are set with murals and azulejo tile paintings that detail the seven main areas of charity that the Misericórdia offers: giving water to the thirsty, solace to prisoners, education to children etc. Click on each painting on the screen and you are shown its full history as well as what it depicts – really user-friendly even for non-techie people like us.
We were the only people in the museum at the time (a Wednesday morning in May) and there was a temporary art exhibition of sculptures by local metalwork artist João Concha, which is the main reason we made the visit. Misericórdia translates as ‘mercy’ in English, and the pieces that make up the show depict differing acts of mercy. It is hosted at the museum to the end of July 2023.
Opening hours: Mon-Saturday from 10:00-17:30hrs, Closed Sundays
Tel: 266 748 830
Address: Museu da Misericórdia, Rua da Misericórdia, 1, Evora
More info: www.scmevora.pt