St Michael’s Palace

What's past is prologue

Photography: Fernando Guerra FG+SG

Versão portuguesa

English version


Although the origin of the Paço de São Miguel - St Michael’s Palace - dates back to the Middle Ages, few vestiges remain of construction during this period as a result of the destruction wrought during the conflict that occurred during the crisis of succession to the throne of 1383-85 between the followers of Dona Leonor Teles and those of Dom João, Master of Avis, and future king of Portugal.

The existence of this building as we know it today, in patrimonial and architectural terms, is linked to the history of two families who inhabited the Páteo de São Miguel about five centuries apart: the Counts of Basto (the Castros das Treze Arruelas) and the Eugénio de Almeida family.

The former, who resided here from the late 15th century to the first half of the 17th century, carried out an extensive programme of works in the 16th century, which largely gave the Paço de São Miguel its current form, and commissioned the stunning series of 15th-century frescoes by artists Francisco de Campos, Tomás Luís and Geraldo Fernandes de Prado that cover the ceilings of some of the rooms.

The Counts of Basto belonged to the Castro das Treze Arruelas family and their arms are displayed on the pediments of the portals at the entrance to the Páteo de São Miguel. The Conde de Basto was appointed military commander of the city by King Afonso V in the 15th century and established his headquarters and residence at the Paço de São Miguel, donated to him in recognition of services rendered to the crown in the North African military campaigns and the Battle of Toro in the War of the Castilian Succession.

The rebuilding of the Paço de São Miguel and the works undertaken to remodel and expand it during this period were aimed at bestowing on the building a degree of architectural beauty and grandeur that would reflect the growing wealth and political and social prestige achieved by the Castros.

This manifestation of power and economic status was particularly delicate matter in Évora, which from the 16th century, became an important cultural centre in the Iberian Peninsula and was regarded as the second most important city in the country, evidenced by the frequency of visits to the city by the king and the royal court. It should be noted, moreover, that the purpose of the extensive works carried out in 1570 by the third Capitão-Mor, or military commander, of the city, Dom Diogo de Castro, was to endow the space with the degree of status required for receiving King Sebastião, who resided here in the first half of the 1570s while attending the University of Évora, founded by his great-uncle, Cardinal Henrique.

Following the disaster of the Battle of Alcácer Quibir, in which King Sebastião was slain, a crisis of succession to the throne arose leading to the loss of independence to the Kingdom of Spain, and the Castros de Treze Arruelas pledged their allegiance to the new monarch and the Philippine Dynasty, the Conde de Basto becoming viceroy of Portugal in the name of the Spanish crown. In recognition of his loyalty to the cause of Spain, Philip II granted Dom Fernando de Castro the title of Count of Basto in 1583 on a visit to the palace. Hence the Paço de São Miguel is also known as the Palácio dos Condes de Basto - Palace of the Counts of Basto.

With the Restoration of Independence and the ascent to the throne of João IV, the first monarch of the Dynasty of Bragança, the Castro de Trezes Arruelas family were disgraced and forced to withdraw to Spain. Over the following centuries, the Paço de São Miguel was the scene of some illustrious events associated with the History of Portugal and received visits from some important figures, such as the future queen consort of England, Dona Catarina de Bragança (Catherine of Braganza); however, the building was neglected and by the 20th century was in advanced state of disrepair.



Paço de São Miguel, 1958   © Jerónimo Heitor Coelho | Paço de São Miguel, nowadays


The second family, the Eugénio de Almeidas are responsible for carrying out extensive works of conservation and restoration of the entire complex of buildings of the Páteo de São Miguel in the 20th century, lasting about 15 years, and in particular Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida. He purchased the Páteo de São Miguel in 1957 with the purpose of establishing his residence here during his stays in Évora, establishing the family archive and library here and the headquarters of the Eugénio de Almeida Foundation, which he created in 1963. Another reason for his acquiring the complex was in response to an appeal by the local authority for the restoration of the building, classified as a listed building or Monumento Nacional in 1922. It should be noted that at the time the city council did not have the means to carry out such work.

In addition to the serious structural problems presented by the poor state of the building, the long-term programme of conservation and restoration work, begun in 1958 under the direction of Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida, in close collaboration with architect Rui Couto, led to the discovery of features of great architectural worth which had been hidden during a number of interventions carried out from the 18th century. The 15th-century galleries and Manueline-Mudejar style windows on the first floor were revealed and restored, partitions compartmentalising the old halls and loggia were removed, Gothic portals were discovered, and the garden replanted, recapturing the essence of a leisure garden from the time of the powerful Counts of Basto.

The intervention also involved the rehousing of 15 families living in the different spaces of the Páteo de São Miguel, and the relocation of the Sociedade Recreativa e Dramática Eborense - Évora Recreation and Drama Society, based at the Paço de São Miguel. The purchase of the Paço de São Miguel is associated with the sale of the Palácio de São Sebastião da Pedreira to the state in 1947, the principal residence of the Eugénio de Almeida family in Lisbon, and the consequent need to find a place for the movable goods it housed.

For this reason, we have in the Paço de São Miguel some of the domestic utilitarian paraphernalia, furniture and works of decorative art used by the Eugénio de Almeida family over four generations in their various places of residence. Thus, this heritage, rather than the result of a collector's endeavours, derives from the family inheritance along with the occasional acquisition of objects in response to the functional needs of the different living spaces, in accordance with the aesthetic taste of the residents throughout the time they lived here.

Either acquired piecemeal and or part of the legacy handed down from generation to generation, these objects provide evidence of the lives and daily routine of Vasco Maria Eugénio de Almeida and his wife in this space, as well as their forebears in the 19th and 20th centuries in other places of residence of the family where they were used. Today, for this reason, the Paço de São Miguel also houses the memory of the family of the founder of the institution.




Ramalho Ortigão Room



Hall of Virtue



Capture of la Goulette Dining Room


Billiard Room








Room of Love



Diana Frieze Room






Opening times
Saturday and Sunday 3pm to 6pm
Free entry

Guided tours Tuesday to Sunday: booking in advance for a minimum of 5 visitors
Entrance fee €5,00 (half price for students and/or senior citizens over 65 years)

Tel. (+351) 266 748 300


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