Village

Pedrógão Pequeno

Jóia da Beira Baixa

A white village, in granite, amid the sea of brown schist surrounding it. It stands beside the Zêzere, at the heart of the Schist Villages Network, with everything conveniently to hand.

This old town on the left bank of the Zêzere, beside the IC8, is only a few kilometres from Pedrógão Grande and the Cabril dam. Its heritage includes the Mother church and the Bridge over the Zêzere from the time of Iberian Union under Spanish kings. In a terrain of schist there is a Pedrógão – a granite outcrop – which provided the stone for door and window mouldings, although schist is the predominant building material.

In Pedrógão Pequeno the schist is hidden beneath white rendering. When the philharmonic band comes to play there, the streets are full of people, evoking the 1950s when the construction workers for the Cabril Dam came to the village. To discover the view from the top of Monte da Senhora da Confiança and the old road that takes us to the Zêzere over an ancient bridge from the time of the Iberian Union (when Spanish kings ruled over Portugal). You have to try the fish soup.

 

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Heritage

Solid, heavy, with simple structures and thick walls, the popular buildings of Pedrógão Pequeno denote an intimate relationship with the countryside that has withstood the passage of time. The private houses of the village tell the stories of those who lived there and have gradually taken centre stage as they have grown venerable over the years   It is another of the “white villages” of the Schist Villages Network.

Pedrógão Pequeno hoards archaeological treasures that entice you to explore: a stretch of Roman road leading to an access road to an Iron Age castro; a fortified Castro wall full of relics still to be studied; a collection of discoid stelae that could represent belief in life beyond the tomb.

With its rich heritage, Pedrogão Pequeno has much to offer in this field:  Roman road, Philippine bridge over the Cabril, pillory, private buildings from different eras, the Manuel Ramos School Canteen, the old Hospital of the Misericórdia, the Ribeiro bridge, various chapels, among other points of interest

Also worth a visit:

  • 17th and 18th century private buildings

  • Late 19th- early 20th century private buildings
    These buildings bear witness to another heyday of Pedrógão Pequeno, after it had already ceased to be the seat of the municipality.

  • Old Hospital of the Misericórdia
    This was the old hospital of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Pedrógão Pequeno. In that era, marked by a deeply religious Christianity, succour to the needy was provided by the religious institutions (e.g.: monasteries) or by wealthy individuals who joined together to found institutions (e.g.: Misericórdias) and who sought, through these pious works, to ensure their eternal salvation. The building that was used as a hospital later passed into the public sphere. Nowadays it is in ruins.

  • Ribeiro Bridge
    Just off the EN2. This bridge has only one segmented arch, which is slightly raised in the middle.

  • Cabril Road
    Built in 1860, it provided better access to the Philippine bridge.

  • Primary school
    A one-of-a-kind school, built in the neoclassical style in the 19th century, it also features a large entrance staircase. The pediment boasts a medallion, inscribed with the following: "EDUARDO CONCEIÇÃO SILVA SCHOOL, BEQUEATHED BY HIM TO THE CHILDREN OF HIS HOMETOWN IN 1888". At the main entrance, there is iron work dated 1887.

  • Manuel Ramos School Canteen
    Built in the aesthetic of the Estado Novo's so-called "Constructions Plan", which was devised in 1940 in order to build all the primary school buildings needed for the "education of the Portuguese people.” In 1941, the Plan set out to build 6060 buildings and a total of 12500 classrooms. By the end of 1950, 7000 new schools had been built all over the country.  The “Constructions Plan” schools became one of Portugal's trademarks.

  • Chapel of Santo António
    Already standing in 1730. Restored in 1950. A small, rectangular chapel, perched on a rocky outcrop.

  • Chapel of São Sebastião
    It pre-dates 1730 and, until 1892, was the chapel for the old cemetery. According to old records, it had a porch. In 1918, the Vidigal family had the chapel restored and used it for wedding and christening ceremonies for their family members.

  • Chapel of Santa Maria Madalena
    Commissioned by the Conceição e Silva family in 1893. Frontage facing west. The portal is simple with a round arch. The top of the facade is decorated with two pinnacles and a cross atop a sphere set into a base decorated with 4 volutes. At the altar, a small niche houses the image of Saint Mary Magdalene.

  • Cabril Wayside shrine (to the souls in purgatory)
    A small niche housing a board on which the souls of Purgatory are painted, inscribed with the following:
    "For the souls of Purgatory. Our Father. Hail Mary"
    Beside it is a granite headstone, engraved with the inscription:
    Ó.UÓS.OUTR
    OS.q.PASAIS.S
    EM.OLHARES.Pª
    NOS.LEMBRAIUO
    S.DE.NOSAS.PENAS
    ASSIM.SEREIS.UOS.1861

    "Oh ye who pass by and disregard us. Remember our suffering, for so too ye will be".

  • Stations of the Cross
    The 14 stations circuit goes from the village centre to the top of the Monte da Srª da Confiança. Station I is located on the corner where Rua Eduardo Conceição e Silva merges into Praça Ângelo Henriques Vidigal. It has a cross, but no date. Station II is in Praça Ângelo Henriques Vidigal. It is dated 25.08.1865. Station III is on the EN2 and has a cross, albeit undated. The remaining stations can be found after crossing the Ribeiro Bridge, en route to the Chapel of Nª Srª da Confiança. Every one of the stations has a modern tile panel depicting the respective scene from the stations of the cross.

  • Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Confiança
    The current chapel replaced a previous one. The frontage faces south, towards Pedrógão Pequeno, with the following inscription   "CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF CONFIDENCE, BUILT BY THE CONCEIÇÃO E SILVA FAMILY IN THE YEAR 1902". Inside, there is only one nave and a chancel arch flanked by two altars.

History

Traces of Castro occupation have been found on either side of the Zêzere: on the Monte de Nª Srª dos Milagres (Pedrógão Grande), as well as on the Monte de Nª Srª da Confiança (Pedrógão Pequeno). This spot, although never excavated, is called the Castro of Nª Srª da Confiança, being estimated to cover an area of 3.5 hectares, and was occupied from the Copper Age, from the 3rd millennium BCE to 170 BCE, throughout the Late Bronze Age (until 700 BEC), the Iron Age (700 BEC to 100 BEC) and most likely during Roman rule (2nd century BCE to the 5th century BCE). There are remains from the earliest period of occupation, some of which were found in Pedrógão Pequeno. Such as a quartz adze.

However, Pedrógão Pequeno itself was founded by a Roman consulate called Aulio Cursio (150 BCE.). The Romans left several traces of their occupation behind. The most significant is probably the ancient bridge over the Zêzere. The remaining supports on either side of the river are now submerged, and can be found between the Philippine bridge (from the time when Spanish kings ruled in Portugal) and the IC8 bridge. But bridges always connect to a road network, and the road that crossed it linked Emerita Augusta (Mérida), via Sertã, to Conimbriga. Another testament to this road is the stretch that leads to the castro. And to cement just how significant the Roman occupation was, a votive altar was also found nearby (see the box “Folklore and Facts”).

The Moors invaded this territory in 718 and it was only reconquered in 1110, by Count D. Henrique. King Afonso Henriques (who reigned from 1128 to 1185) bequeathed Pedrógão Pequeno to the Knights Templar during the second half of the 12th century (1165 and 1174), who then granted it its charter in 1174.  In 1194, Sancho I (who reigned from 1185 to 1211) granted D. Affonso Pelagio, Prior of the Knights Hospitaller, and all present and future members of the Order of Malta, a large expanse of land called Guidintesta, which stretched from the Zêzere to the Tagus, and also included Pedrógão Pequeno.

As soon as the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem (Order of Malta) took possession of that vast territory they took the measures necessary to populate and defend it; building the castle of Belver; granting charters to the different lands belonging to it.”  (PIMENTEL, 1881) A castle was possibly built during this period, although no trace of it can be found nowadays.   In 1419, Pedrógão Pequeno belonged to the municipality of Sertã and in 1448, D. Vasco de Ataíde, Prior of Crato, bequeathed the settlement to Diogo da Silveira, a scribe of King Afonso V. This monarch (who reigned from 1438 to 1481) raised its status from village to town, and gave it a pillory, gallows and its own judge. The lord of the land thus controlled all civil and criminal jurisdiction, rents and ground rents King Manuel (who reigned from 1495 to 1521) gave it a new charter in 1513. Around this time, a new pillory was built, topped by an armillary sphere.  In 1618, Pedro Nunes Tinoco, under the orders of Brother Manuel Carneiro, Prior of Crato, carried out a survey of the town. The 1758 parochial registers stated that the 109 strong population belonged to Prince Pedro, who was Grand-Prior of the Order of Crato.

In 1808, during the French Invasions, several houses were sacked and torched by Napoleonic troops and, in 1836, following Mouzinho da Silveira's administrative reform, the municipality was abolished and became a parish of the municipality of Sertã.

To date, a painting by watercolourist Rui David e Silva is the only document that depicts the Praça Ângelo Henriques Vidigal before the town underwent a heavy-handed urban intervention in 1951, where several buildings were demolished.

Nature

Surrounded by bounteous forests and high rocks, traversed by water courses and luxurious vegetation, Pedrógão Pequeno nestles in an extensive schist area in the heart of the country, overlooking the sweeping valley of the Zêzere river. However, it also includes part of a small granite outcrop wedged along the river banks, that extends all the way to Pedrógão Grande.

An article by Prof. Orlando Ribeiro describes the area as follows:  “Crests and slopes have become heath, where grazing on the edible plants has led to a predominance of rock roses, with their strong scented resin in hot weather and, in springtime, their large white flowers of intense but fleeting beauty. At the beginning of the century, on the initiative of the villagers and before State intervention robbed them of the common land, pine tree plantations came to cover these barren lands, frequented till then by goatherds and miners. Today, the trees press so closely around the cultivated land that the village has taken on a misleading appearance of being the result of recent clearances.”

 

Territory

Proud seat of the parish in the municipality of Sertã, in the Castelo Branco district, Pedrógão Pequeno extends over 4.275 hectares on the left bank of the Zêzere, on the edge of the province of Beira Baixa, close to the spot where the wall of the Cabril Dam was built. Taking advantage of the terrain, the village was established on a prominent but not very steep granite hilltop, profiting from proximity to the Zêzere, dominating the section where the river could be crossed. The village is enveloped by flat farmland with deep soil and an abundance of water.

Over the centuries,  it has moved from its original site on the Monte da Srª da Confiança, settling and growing along the old road that used to pass through the village to the Cabril bridge. This can be clearly seen from the layout of the village and the siting of the oldest houses still standing there. In the early 1940s, Orlando Ribeiro and Sant’Anna Dionísio described Pedrógão Pequeno as:“… a modest town, former seat of the municipality, of unrendered granite houses, situated on a high plateau surrounded by dense curtains of woods, a couple of steps from the deep gorge cut by the implacable waters of the Zêzere.”  (“Guia de Portugal - Beira Litoral, Beira Baixa, Beira Alta”, 1944)

The predominant building material is granite, but, only from the 1950s/1960s onwards, the facades began to be almost completely rendered and whitewashed, resulting in this “white village”. The granite only remains visible around the door and windows (jambs, lintels and thresholds).

Stories and Facts

Origin of the name
Pedrógão is a common toponym, but the meaning is disputed. It could come from the Latin term petroganum, perhaps of pre-Roman origin, meaning whitish rock. This aspect is related to the local geology, where there is an “island” of granite in this territory’s vast “sea” of dark schist. The greater resistance of the granite can be observed in the Zêzere valley downstream from the Cabril dam. The name compares the village with another, larger one nearby (Pedrogão Grande). In one of the versions of Fernando Álvaro Seco's “Portugalliae” (1600) – one of the first cartographic representations of the whole continental Portuguese territory – we can already find the name Pedrogão Pequeno at the site of the current village.

Votive altar
Location: National Archaeology Museum, Lisbon.
Dated: 1st century C.E.
Classification: It is presented in “Religions of Lusitania” (National Archaeology Museum, 2002)
At the beginning of the 20th century this altar was found in the wall of a house in Roqueiro, a neighbouring village, having very probably come from the Castro of Nª Srª da Confiança. It was taken to the National Archaeology Museum.
It is a granite, parallelepiped stone with the following Latin inscription:
CICERO
MANCI
NABIAE
L.V.S.
This translates as: 
“Cicero, son of Mancius freely fulfilled his vow to the goddess Nabia”

Cult of NABIA
The votive altar found near to Pedrógão Pequeno is a testament that the native divinity called NABIA was worshipped around here. Other items indicating the cult of this divinity have also been found, mainly in the north of Portugal and in Spain.

The gallows site
When King Manuel I reformed the around 750 old charters existing at the time, many villages already had a Town Hall as the seat of local executive power and as a building for exercising judicial power. Justice had three symbols: the Court (with prison), the Pillory and the Gallows. The latter was supposed to be located in the outskirts of the town, but would also be in a clearly visible spot, such as on top of a knoll. In Pedrógão Pequeno the site chosen to set up the gallows was the hill where the cemetery currently stands.

Gorse and rosemary”
Pedrógão Pequeno and its surrounding areas appear in some illustrations in “Gorse and Rosemary” (1907), by Alfredo Keil. The composer of the Portuguese national anthem wrote the poems and made the illustrations during his stays in the vicinity of Ferreira do Zêzere, basing them on his visits to the region.

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  • Horticultural produce
  • Fish soup

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Pillory

Pedrógão Pequeno, Sertã

Dated from the 16th century and classified as a Building of Public Interest, it had quite a troubled history before getting to where it is today.

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Contacts and Information

Location:
Pedrógão Pequeno, Sertã 
Getting Here:
De Lisboa
Seguir na A1 até à saída 7 (A23 - Abrantes/Torres Novas). Seguir pela A23 e sair na direção de Tomar. Seguir pelo IC3 durante 25Km até Sta. Cita. Na N110 seguir durante 28km até Cabaços. Seguir no IC8 durante 25km até Aldeia Ana de Avis. Virar à direita, entrando na N2, e cerca de 400m depois está Pedrógão Pequeno.

Do Porto
Seguir o IP1, na direção Sul, até à saída 11 (Lousã). Perto de Cernache, virar à direita. Continuar pelo IC8 durante 33km até à Aldeia Ana de Avis. Virar à direita, entrando na N2, e cerca de 400m depois está Pedrógão Pequeno.

De Espanha (Vilar Formoso)
Seguir a A25, sair em direça à A23. Seguir a A23 até à saída 18 (Pombal) Seguir o IC8 até à saída indicada de Pedrógão Pequeno.

Contactos

Associado

Câmara Municipal da Sertã

Largo do Município
6100 Sertã 
Portugal
(+351) 274 600 300
Associado

Posto de Turismo da Sertã

Largo do Município
6100 Sertã 
Portugal
+351 274 600 300

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