Arraiolos was built on a hilltop in the fourteenth century. And as you look at the white houses scattered over the hillside, and the river below, you’ll detect an aura of romanticism hanging over this town.
It’s in the ruins of the walled castle; in the legend of the bride whose long-awaited wedding meant that she was married while wrapped up in a carpet; or in the legend of another bride who, through sheer misfortune, never got married at all and whose story lives on in the fine fifteenth and sixteenth-century manor house of the Sempre-Noiva, near the town. And, of course, this romanticism is evident in the work, dating back more than five centuries, of the embroiderers who, for love and art, have created world-famous carpets modelled on those of Moorish artists who were expelled from Lisbon. There are two dozen carpet producers and many places where you can admire and buy these works of art.
In the local council building, you can also see a collection of tapestries and creations by Dórdio Gomes, a local painter.
Now that you’re in the town centre, in the peaceful Praça Lima e Brito, you’ll see the simple historic houses, the pillory, the Hospital do Espírito Santo with a fine Manueline doorway in the chapel and, near to the Church of the Misericórdia, decorated with azulejos, there’s the noble Casa dos Arcos and the Igreja Matriz (parish church), Gothic in origin and redesigned in the Manueline style.
At the entrance to the town, in Vale Formoso, be sure to visit the Convento dos Lóios, now a pousada, built in the sixteenth century and covered with historic blue azulejo panels.