Monuments & Buildings

Palácio da Galeria

The history of the Palácio da Galeria dates back to the middle ages however, its present format began being developed in the 16 century as evidence of the distinctive Renaissance galley shows.
It is one of the noblest buildings in Tavira. It is implanted in the “village-to-within”, an area that has been watching the development of the city since its beginnings and where traces of the most remote times are present. In its basement were found traces attributed to the Phoenician presence in the 7th-6th centuries BC, namely, a set of wells with cylindrical shapes to which archaeologists attribute religious significance. In these “Phoenician ritual wells” were found votive materials that point to the existence of a “sanctuary” destined for ceremonies dedicated to phoenician deities, particularly Baal, god of storms. The presence of Gothic frames on some walls of the building testifies to the use of space during medieval times, however, it seems that it will only be from the second quarter of the sixteenth century that the building acquires characteristics of noble housing. The works then made introduced a loggia or gallery, ensuring the owners a wide panoramic view of part of the city and its suburbs. This architectural element eventually became distinctive, becoming the name of the building – Casas da Galaria – already in the early seventeenth century. In it dwell the Aragon de Sousa, family of the local nobility linked to the defense of the Portuguese squares of North Africa during the sixteenth century. The lack of descendants of this family leads the Hospital do Espírito Santo de Tavira to take possession of the building, at the end of the seventeenth century, by testamentary disposition. Since at this time the building needed major maintenance works, the hospital officials argue that the building should be ceded to figures of high social status and with considerable economic resources. The first to be interested is Brigadier Francisco Pereira da Silva Pacheco (nephew of the Bishop of the Algarve), who took possession of the palace in 1737 by force. A few years later, the building will be occupied by another local tycoon, Judge João Leal da Gama Ataíde, an influential magistrate who is due to promote the great baroque refurbishment of the Gallery Palace from 1746. The work was directed by Diogo Tavares and Ataíde, the most important Algarve architect of the eighteenth century, reflecting the mark of this in the baroque composition of the façade. The imposing portal surmounted by a balcony window surrounded by voluminous acantic windings stands out. Also the 16th century gallery that named the palace was restored by master Diogo Tavares, with the maintenance of the old columns and capitals to which new arches were superimposed with decorative incisions. Following this work the building gains expression in the cityscape, the result of its generous proportions, the modulation of the multiple scissor roofs and the distinct baroque features of the spans. Its monumentality and artistic care affirm the prestige and social status of the owner, thus fulfilling the designs of Dr. João Leal da Gama and Ataíde. The palace was endowed with large rooms where one can guess the occurrence of receptions related to the affairs of the judge. It should be noted that, in addition to owning vast estates in the region of Tavira, João Leal da Gama Ataíde holds an impressive number of prestigious titles and positions (Knight of the Order of Christ, Family of the Holy Office, Provider of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, Mercy of Tavira, etc.). To one of the rooms was a small chapel with palatine chapel features, whose entrance is still marked with a cross and a beading of seventeenth century tiles. For the death of the descendants of the judge, and after several years of return, the Palace of the Gallery belongs to the Chamber of Tavira in 1863 fulfilling various functions over decades: Judicial Court, Treasury of the Public Treasury, Men’s Primary School, Technical School, Technical Support Office, etc. In the last years of the 20th century the building faces serious problems of degradation, being finally recovered by the City Council and adapted for cultural purposes in 2001, according to a project by architect José Lamas. It is currently the central nucleus of the Municipal Museum of Tavira. It hosts exhibitions that address the history and diversity of the contemporary heritage, also taking into account the new artistic expressions of contemporary times.

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