2012 - May : Guided visit in Moncarapacho.
We first visited the museum under guidance of Sarah Guiomar, the curator of the museum. The museum was officially opened in 1981 to house a collection of artefacts belonging to Padre Isodore Domingos da Silva. This is very well laid out with items from a prehistoric cave near the town to Roman and Visigothic tombs found at Alfanxia just south of Moncarapacho. There is an amazing display of coins from the most ancient up to the present day, and a clock (sadly with parts missing) that was commissioned for the church, with mechanism by John Harrison of Longitude fame. It is one of only four.
Upstairs the 17th to 18th century display is largely of religious vestments and statues of the saints, some of which display Indian influence. The centrepiece though is a case with C17th figures which originated in Naples, created by Guiseppe Francino. It portrays groups of figures with the Holy family in the centre, surrounded by other groups of working people going about their daily lives. They were severely damaged, but have been beautifully restored.
Adjacent to the museum is the charming Chapel of Santo Cristo which has been, and still is, a place of pilgrimage since the C17th legend of the miracle of Noitel, a cripple who was magically restored to health. Two full size statues depict S.Francis and S.Claire and the walls are clad with C15th tiles clearly of Arabic origin.
The main church in the town is the church of Nossa Senhora de Graça with a gilded altarpiece and chapels around the nave, the most interesting being perhaps the chapel of Purgatory.
We then went to see the remains of the Roman road which originally ran from S.Bras de Alportel to Tavira, parts of which have been restored. The Moncarapacho museum has an informative web site in English and Portuguese. The museum is open daily and well worth a visit.