In England when I think of pillories I immediately think of stocks, which although abolished in the 19th century will still be found in use (for fun) at fairs and history museums. They are not though something I think about very much nor are very interested in, however when I first spied the pelourinho in Beja at the end of one of its narrow medieval streets I had to take a closer look. It seemed to be calling me, or maybe that was the lovely cafe in its shadow!
The Portuguese pillory, like the English stocks, is always in a public place and usually outside the town hall. Instead of a wooden frame on a post with holes for the head and arms like in England, the pelourinho (also called picota) is a stone column. As with the English stocks the high visibility was to ensure humiliation for the offender, and whilst it doesn’t appear from what I have read that items were thrown at the offender tied to the column the offenders were often whipped here and prior to the 12th century hanged.
We had read about the Pelourinho de Beja prior to our visit, which is why when I saw it I recognised it for what it was. However if I hadn’t read about it I would never have realised walking past this was a tool for justice and punishment. The symbols and carvings do not make me immediately think of justice, which probably explains why I have never really noticed the ones in Silves , Tavira or Vila Real de Santo António. I have seen their respective picotas but until this post I had assumed they were public sculptures and not really looked at them in any detail. I will be looking at them quite differently from now on!
This one in Beja has been here since at least the 13th century* , well a version of this one anyway. The original was first dismantled in the 19th century, then recreated with some of the original elements in the 20th century before being partially destroyed again, albeit by accident, in 2001. This current version one, now in Praça da República, is a 21st century replica, however the design and size is considered to be authentic. In fact you can compare it with the original yourself, since elements of the original one can be still be seen in the castle grounds.