It has been a while since I took you to Tavira, and even longer since I submitted an entry to Norm’s Thursday Doors. So I thought quite appropriate to combine the two together and take you somewhere quite special – Palácio da Galeria. And as it is Thursday Doors I’ll begin with the door that caught my eye in this 16th century palace. It is upstairs, and was once the entrance to a small chapel inside the palace. The tiles around the door are 17th century azulejos and are quite beautiful. I assume the chapel no longer exists as we didn’t find it albeit I did stumble across a rather lovely ceiling in one of the smaller rooms.
The palace is located within the town walls, and is known for it rather lovely loggia. In fact it was the loggia that led to the townsfolk nicknaming this home Casas da Galeria, the houses of the gallery. The loggia, or ‘galeria’, is on the first floor and as all loggais are it has sides open to the outside but is only accessible from the inside. It was commissioned by the family of Aragão de Sousa who wanted panoramic views over the town, and they certainly achieved that. It would have been a delightful spot to sit.
By the 18th century the building was occupied by Dr João Leal da Gama Ataíde, a judge who on his return to his home town of Tavira commissioned renown Algarvian architect Diogo Tavares de Ataíde to remodel his home in a style and splendour which reflected the judge’s wealth and status. I think he succeeded!
If I have understood all that I have read today about the building it was following his remodelling work that the locals began calling it Palácio da Galeria rather than Casas da Galeria. It certainly feels like a palace upstairs with its many rooms and views of the town and castle. Following the death of the judge the building lay empty for many years until 1863 when the Tavira Council took ownership. And as often happens with council buildings it was poorly maintained and experienced a multitude of uses from law court to school to council office. By the late 1990s it was in a state of disrepair, but fortunately the council finally realised what they had and commissioned a restoration programme.
Palácio da Galeria is now Tavira’s main museum space. There don’t seem to be any permanent exhibitions albeit the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ one is still here after 3 years and they have some excellent free guide books to take away. On the day we visited there was a temporary exhibit sharing the work of Fernando Ricardo, a Portuguese photojournalist. His photographs are superb . . . . . and because of the simplicity of the exhibition you are able to fully appreciate for yourself how every hipped roof – known as Telhados de Quatro Águas – equates to one room. You can also see the Phoenician wells underneath the building itself. So we definitely recommend paying the few euros to pop in and explore.