Tavira Then and Now
A city of grandness in the past, Tavira is located on the west side of Algarve, in the middle of Cape of Santa Maria and Fozdo Rio Guadiana. Two kilometers from the sea and rooted in the Gilão Riverside, harbored by a sandbank which protects the Ria Formosa, from Faro until Cacela. Such location was the key factor for the city's development and then for its lethargy and weakness. Tavira is, essentially, an estuary city and its history is linked to its port's evolution and its related activities.


From the Origins to the Roman Raft
The known data allow us to establish the continuity of the human presence in the place where today is Tavira from the Muslim domain. It is known, however, that between the 8th A.C ad 6th A.C centuries, the Phoenicians- or their allies - colonized this place, building a tick wall in the hill, Santa Maria, of which one can find remains up to this day.

When the 6th A.C. century arrived, the strong Phoenician influence gave way to the Turdetani region, which went from Gibraltar to Cape S. Vicente. From this era there were vestiges next to the Republica Square which illustrated the Turdetani´s activities, such as fishing, fish drying, and amphora market with fish prepared products and, imagine that, the oldest known fishing net.

The Roman domination period left its marks, a few kilometers west of Tavira - between Santa Luzia and Luz de Tavira -, in the old Raft (around 10th A.C.), memorable city, of which rich archaeological possessions which are distributed to the national museums.

Tavira's VaseIslamic Tavira
The vast area, called by the Muslims "Al Garb al Andaluz (in other words, west of Andaluz) was occupied by them in the year 712. Before their arrival, Tavira was probably deserted, or best case scenario, no longer had the economic and market splendor or earlier times. The first news arrived from the 11th century and spoke about the activity in the port. The Muslims gave the city a new breath, with the city even becoming the capital of the Kingdom Taifa, and during the Almóada period, the districts' capital. During this period the city walls were rebuilt, which are now partly preserved. The most famous Muslim vestige is the unusual Tavira´s Vase, in ceramic, of popular characteristic, integrating human figures and molded animals, ingenuously profuse with details, making this one of the most significant findings of the Al Andaluz life in the 11th century.

From the Christian conquest to the Portuguese expansion period, the Saint James Order conquered Tavira from the Moors in 1242, headed by D. Paio Peres Correia. It was on the Santa Maria hill that the Christians consolidated their victory and civil, military and religious presence. There, the first churches were found, some of them using what was still left from the Arabic mosques. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the urban presence in the village was accentuated, the first convent was inaugurated - Franciscans - and from the city walls the commerce flourished with the Flamencos, English, Italians, French, Biscayne and Galician.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Portuguese expansion make out of Tavira the most prosper city centre in Algarve, the city benefiting from its strategic support, defense and maintaining importance of the North Africa conquered places. Eventually, the village became city, and in 1520 King Manuel I proved its wealth through the large number of military, civil and religious edifications, which arose in this era, highlighting the renascence works of the architect André Pilarte.

The Decline
From the second half of the 16th century, the economic and strategic city's decline is visible, worsened by the abandonment of some possessions in North of Africa, by the Spanish supremacy and the progressive shedding of the Gilão riverside, contributing to commercial decrease in the port of Tavira. Later, the effects of a devastating plague (1645 - 1647) plus a long campaign of Restoration from the war were felt, removing from the city the leading role it once had. Despite the loss of importance, new buildings such as the Capuches and Paul's convents appeared, in the austere "ground style", characterized by the lack of ornaments, which made architecture's fortune until the 18th century Baroque style emerged.

The years of stability
The years of stability of King Pedro II and King João V seemed to secure stagnation in the city. The softening of the piracy and smuggling activities as well as a recuperation of the economy contributed for a long sustained population growth between the endings of 17th century and mid 18th century. In this period the city registered the Third Order's activities, brotherhoods and fraternity's development, favoring churches and chapel's proliferation and splendor, raised and ornamented under the order of confreres. In this context, the Baroque architecture in Tavira is rich, especially because of works by the most important Algarvian Baroque architect, Diogo Tavares de Ataíde (1711 - 1765), author of, among others, the Graça (Grace) Convent and Church/Hospital Espirito Santo (Holy Ghost).

The earthquake and the 18th century essay
The 1775 earthquake reached some of the oldest buildings in town, such as the Main church of Santa Maria, which would be restored in the neoclassic spirit which characterizes the 18th end. After the quake, the city started to count with the constant presence of Algarve's Governor and Commander in Chief whom endowed support means to his policies.

At this time, the Governor in the Alto de Santa Ana place - a military hospital (1761) and the Atalaia Barrack (1795) surged, designated to lodge the regiment in the city. As for national politics aimed at the economic recuperation, the Marquise Pombal established in Tavira, 1776, a rug factory, whichSaint Francisco garden production, however was peccary and weak.

The Eight Hundreds
The instability due to French invasions, liberal riots and a severe cholera epidemic did not help the city to overcome its weakness during the first decades of the 19th century. The agriculture dominated the local economy, after significant reductions in the fishing given the almost eradication of tuna areas.

Liberalism would introduce a new social conscience, building the Riverside Market (1885) and the Public Garden (1889). However, parts of the city's old wall and old convents, such as the one of Saint Francisco disappeared.

Tavira in the 20th century  
With the beginning of the century, surged the necessity of a railroad (1905), which ended up influencing the urban space with the creation of new connection arteries to the city's centre. The Republican Party invested in new public additions, such as a prison, a slaughterhouse, a cemetery and energy installation. On the bordering areas, there were units for fish conservation. During the New State (1926 - 1947) new streets and public buildings surged, some following the official pattern: Porta Nova and Station schools, the Justice Palace, Agriculture Station and the old building: Barns of the National Federation for Wheat production, among others.

To know more about Tavira please visit the official website

text from website of Camara Municipal de Tavira





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