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Building History

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The Inquisition Palace


The Holy Office of the Inquisition was introduced in Portugal in 1536 and the first Inquisition was installed in Evora.

 

Over time, the Inquisition Palace was refurbished several times to adapt the building for various purposes, so its current structure is very different from the primitive one.

 

At the time of King Cardinal Henry, Archbishop of Évora and Inquisitor-General, the building was much expanded, the jails were even linked to the western wall of the Slaughterhouse - the famous Roman temple, modified in the Middle Ages for that purpose.

 

Between 1622 and 1655, great works were made once again to expand and adjust the building to its function, according to the design of Mateus do Couto, Major Architect of the Inquisitions of the Kingdom. His plan is in the Book of plants of the palaces of the Inquisitions of the Kingdom, at the National Archives of Torre do Tombo, in Lisbon.

 

Inside the building, in addition to rooms, jails and other divisions, the most prominent features are two rooms which can be seen even today, and they deserve the attention of the visitor or the investigator: the Court Room and the Inquisitor’s Cubicle.

 

The first one, from the seventeenth century, has a large rectangular floor plan and high ceilings, lit by six windows with granite frame protected with black wrought- iron railings. The walls are inlaid by a blue and white finely decorated high footer tile; but it is the coffered baroque oak ceiling that catches the eye, bearing the emblem of the Holy Office at the centre: a cross flanked by an olive tree and a dagger.

 

From the side windows of this room one can look to the garden of the Painted Houses and glimpse in the walls beyond the orange and lemon trees a unique set of frescoes of the 1st half of the sixteenth century.

 

The Inquisitor’s Cubicle, on the second floor, preserves as the most significant feature a wooden ceiling with paintings dated 1712, exhibiting the coat of arms of Francos or Cortezes.

 

With the Inquisition's demise in 1821, the building was purchased by the Dukes of Palmela in 1845; it was a hostel residence for the farmer Diogo Maldonado Pessanha in the early twentieth century and, after further refurbishment, it became the Hotel Alentejo between 1928 and 1949.

 

At the end of the fifties of the twentieth century, it was acquired by Vasco Maria Eugenio de Almeida, Founder of the Eugenio de Almeida Foundation, and completely renovated to house the Economic and Social Institute of Évora, precursor to the reopening of the University of Évora 500 years after its closure.

 

After the definitive suspension of teaching activities of ISESE in 1977 the Foundation lent the premises to the then University Institute of Évora and current University till 2005.

 

As part of a large requalification and enhancement of the monumental heritage in the Historic Centre of Évora, in 2013 the Foundation has given a new vocation to the Palace of the Inquisition, which functions today as a centre of art and culture under the name of Fórum Eugénio de Almeida.

The building is classified as Building of Public Interest since 1950.