The origins of Barreiro are linked to the Monks of the Order of Santiago. From the XVI century, the township was born and Palhais (presently a tiny suburb) was the centre of it.
The geographical position was important and contributed to the growth of the area. Ship-building and biscuit- making for the long sea-journeys were industries directly related to the Portuguese Maritime Expansion adventure.
At the same time the land was fertile, just like in Seixal, which meant that the area around Lavradio witnessed the building of several impressive agricultural farms.
In 1860 when Setubal was elevated to the status of city, the train line linking this town to Lisbon and then later on the south of the country, brought benefits to Barreiro which, in the XX century has become one of the most important Portuguese industrial centres. In the fifteen hundreds it was promoted to town and finally to city in 1984.
Palhais and Barreiro.
Palhais possesses an excellent Manueline church dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Graca which was founded following a tradition set by Paulo da Gama. Some alterations were made inside and there is no distinction between the main altar and the aisle:
Both are housed in a large room with side chapels in the transeptal tradition. The church is Manueline in style but had some Renaissance restoration done on it at the end of the XVI century.
The tiles on the walls are green and white chequered. In the aisle, two lateral chapels are Gothic in style with domes that tell us a lot about the architectural trends.
Even though it has kept its original simple Manueline portal – wooden door surmounted by plant and geometrical motifs, with a coat of arms in the centre – slight changes have been made to the facade but which have not demaged the harmony of the building, the first building seen so far which has not been tampered with in the fury of post-earthquake rebuilding.
Following through to Barreiro, we stop at the Parish Church of Nossa Senhora do Rosario. This magnificent monument of large proportions was built towards the end of the XVIII century.
The facade with its two bell towers sports interesting inscriptions about Our Lady under the various windows, framed either ovally or square and alongside the main door.
One of the most interesting engravements is the following, written in ancient Portuguese:
From the city of shelter
To the fortress tower
She rules heaven and earth
She rules all of Nature.
This temple, of huge proportions, was once a very small chapel dedicated to S. Pedro which was destroyed in 1755. Inside there is one very wide aisle, the ceiling above is painted and the lateral walls covered with blue and white tiles from the XVIII century.
The main altar possesses a fine altar piece of golden woodcarving and the walls are covered in tiles depicting the evangelists. The church has not been used as place of worship since 1910 yet paintings may still be found there, one may suppose a tiny part of the original contents.
The churches of Santa Cruz and Misericordia may also be visited, however the various remodelling that has gone on over the centuries has contributed to a decharacterization of the original building.
They are both more valuable seen from outside in the urban surroundings, turning them more picturesque, rather than exploring the inside.
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