Beja < > Cuba
Pure and hard plain, without shadows, some horses grazing, some olive trees lined up and a few planes taking off from the aerodrome, which aims to be an international airport. Beja serves as a starting point for another stage, which ends in Cuba, a town with several attractions. Right from the start, in the square where the Tourism Office is located, we discover the controversial statue of Cristóvão Colombo, by sculptor Alberto Trindade, which was inaugurated in 2006 and weighs one and a half tons. According to historical research, Cuba was the birthplace and baptism of Salvador Fernandes Zarco, the illegitimate son of a nobleman from Beja.
He adopted the Spanish name of Cristóvão Colon to serve, at the behest of the Portuguese king, as a spy in the Spanish court. The plot – described in an exhibition at the Tourism Office – is complex but credible, and explains, among other “coincidences”, why the famous discoverer gave the name of Cuba to the island he arrived in the Caribbean, in addition to other names of Alentejo origin that he used in other “baptisms”.Cuba has other charms, such as the fountain and public washhouse, built in the 20th century, which served those arriving in Cuba coming from Beja, even establishing itself as a social complex of great importance.
The current configuration of the fountain dates back to 1923, according to the inscription on the gable, the only more monumental part, marked by three openings, the central one wider and framing four spouts in the shape of a lion. The wash house is located behind the fountain and attached to the “mãe de água” (wellhead).
Probably founded in the 16th century, the essence of the Quinta and chapel of São Pedro (St Peter) dates back to the next century when the chapel became a local pilgrimage destination. The late baroque appearance of the main façade was conferred in a campaign of works carried out around 1804. It’s a building of remarkable scenographic impact, with a front preceded by a galilee and flanked by two slender towers.
Pilgrim houses were attached to the church. Of medieval origin, the chapel was completely reformulated from 1572, the year in which the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, in Lisbon, signed a contract with the master mason Manuel Gonçalves. The result was a majestic temple, of great dimensions, with the main façade flanked by two grandiose staggered towers. The interior has a unique vaulted nave, reinforced by buttresses, and profusely decorated with polychrome azulejo tiles dating back to 1665. The main altarpiece is from the first half of the 18th century, with rococo additions. In 2003, the sacristy was transformed into a museum space to house the church’s treasure.
Gastronomic Fair of Vila Alva − August
Festivities of N.ª Sr.ª da Rocha (Cuba) − August
Festivities of Santa Maria (Vila Ruiva) − August
Festivities of São Luís (Faro do Alentejo) − August
Cuba’s Annual Fair − September
Near the junction of the roads of Cuba / Vila Alva / Vila Ruiva, on the left of who goes to Vila Alva a few meters from the hermitage, today called Nossa Senhora da Represa (Our Lady of the Dam), appears a thick wall, in opus incertum with an east-west orientation.The popular tradition believes that it was the foundations of a large church that would have been built in honor of Nossa Senhora da Represa. Its construction was never concluded, by the preference that the image of Nossa Senhora da Represa would have shown for the church of S. Caetano, built a few meters away.
We had time to explore Beja, so we can start our journey just outside the city, crossing the railway line at the opening of the fence next to Rua da Lavoura. From there, we follow the typical stone alleys and pass through the Arco da Porta de Avis (Gate Arch). As a curiosity, the stones of the door arch were lost after its demolition, in 1893, to be found 40 years later, serving as tables at the local market fishmonger’s shop.
Guided by the azulejo tiles on the buildings walls, we go to the crossing point of the “railroad” already mentioned above. From here, we follow on the left, on an asphalted road, towards the village of São Matias, 6 km away, almost in a straight line. On the way, the tarmac gives way to the dirt track that we walk until we reach a crossroads where we choose to turn left.
We sight the first houses of São Matias village, where we enter through Rua Alferes Borges dos Reis, after crossing the national road N18. We’re about halfway through the route, so we suggest you to take a break for lunch at the only local restaurant on the roadside.
Distance 20 km
Maximum altitude 284 m
Cumulative increase 145 m
Cumulative descent -249 m
Difficulty (0-5) 2
Next to Largo da Igreja square, we can visit the church Igreja de São Matias, built in the 16th century, with two columns of gilded wood carving and a folk character altarpiece.
We leave the village on the rural road that flows off the coast, to the north, towards Cuba. We arrive there by crossing the Bairro Novo da Bica neighborhood and the large roundabout, heading to Rua 1.º de Maio. 250 m ahead, we turn right to Rua de Serpa Pinto, and rush straight ahead until we reach the Tourism Office at Largo Cristovão Colon. We came fast to arrive in time to visit the most famous artisan shoemaker in Alentejo, the charismatic Mário Grilo, and take the foot mould for our next genuine Alentejo boots!
In Cuba, we still take time to discover the unmissable Rota das Tabernas (Tavern Route), going in and out of old and traditional taverns between a good chat, regional snacks and successive “copos de três” (glasses of three)…
Always carry water, supplies, sunscreen, a hat, waterproof, comfortable shoes, and a map.
CTT Post Office
+351 284 419 903/+351 963 709 475
Táxi Manuel José Quaresma Esteves
+351 966 144 656/+351 284 412 295
Cuba City Council
+351 284 419 900
Vila Ruiva Parish Council
+351 284 495 178
Cuba Health Center − +351 284 419 080
Points of Interest
House of the Writer Fialho de Almeida
António Bicho Museum, known as “Museu Caluta”
São Vicente de Cuba Main Church’s Treasure Museum
São Vicente de Cuba Main Church
Carmo Church and Ashram
São Pedro Church
Nossa Sra. da Conceição da Rocha Church
São Sebastião Church
São Luís de Faro do Alentejo Main Church
Nossa Senhora da Encarnação Main Church
Nossa Senhora da Visitação or Nossa Senhora do Outeiro Church
Misericórdia Church− Vila Alva
Nosso Senhor dos Passos Chapel – Vila Alva
Papa São Sixto Hermitage
Nossa Senhora da Represa Hermitage
Santo António Hermitage
Quinta da Esperança or Quinta do Conde
Relógio Borralho Eco-Palace
Dolmens − Vila Alva
Albergaria dos Fusos Dam
Forest Fires: 117
Cuba Fire Department: +351 284 419 060
GNR − National Republican Guard: +351 284 249 217
CODE OF CONDUCT
Do not leave the marked and signaled route. Do not approach cliffs. Pay attention to the markings. Do not dispose of organic or inorganic waste during the trail, take a bag for this purpose. If you see garbage, collect it, help us to keep the Paths clean. Beware of livestock, don’t bother the animals. Leave Nature intact. Do not collect plants, animals or rocks. Avoid making noise. Respect private property, close gates and barriers. Don’t light fires and be careful with cigarettes. Do not vandalize the Paths signage.