Progress was fatal for an Alentejo jewel, now lost and abandoned. This is the village of Safira, in Montemor-o-Novo, and deserves a visit.
Uninhabited since 1930, from the village of Sapphire, in the municipality of Montemor-o-Novo, only the wreckage and traces of a once prosperous and lively place remain. Currently, Safira is more of a piece of land almost lost and forgotten in the middle of a vast Alentejo and a completely abandoned village since 1965.
This happened, historians argue, due to the need to seek better living conditions and new opportunities for the future. After all, it is a very isolated place and, today, only rubble and ruins of some houses, church, lake and cemetery remain.
If you’d like to visit what’s left of the village of Safira, know that there is still a toponymic plaque clearly visible on the EN4. If you follow, you will pass through a paved road and, later, you will be welcomed by the wreckage that insists on rising to welcome the resistance.
The lack of infrastructure, connections to other more urban spots and lack of job opportunities are pointed out as the main reasons why this place has been banned from abandonment, leaving nothing but stones and rubble, leaving only to the imagination what what could have been before.
In 1768, Father Thomás de Vasconcelos Camello, while parish priest of the church of Nossa Senhora de Safira, referred that that parish had “57 properties, including 120 houses where 578 people live. On the top of a moor are built the church and the houses of the priest and the sexton”.
Words that can be read in a historical document, which also refers to the practice of local religious activity, the existence of a temple and its implements, agricultural and pastoral activity and even the damage registered in Safira resulting from the 1755 earthquake (“a crack in the arch of the chancel, another in the right side wall and some damage to the belfry and bell”). There are also signs of the existence of a lime factory and an arsenic mine at Herdade da Gouveia de Baixo, and another copper and iron mine at Herdade da Caeira.
This short story conveys the idea of a simple and modest village, but one that has not resisted the evolution of time, at least as far as human experience is concerned. Since nature has completely tamed the place, the number of birds and flowers that abound there is enviable.
Safira was also an area of nobility title, namely for Augusto Dâmaso Miguens da Silva Ramalho da Costa, a large landowner in Montemor-o-Novo, where he also held the position of Mayor of the local Chamber. Augusto received the title of Viscount, by decree of King D. Luís on April 30, 1886 and, later, was elevated to Count. The nobleman died on February 3, 1945, and this title never existed again.
Church of Sapphire: the former ex libris
The church of Nossa Senhora da Natividade de Safira, in the village of Santa Maria de Safira, belongs to the parish of Silveiras, and is, as with the rest of the village, not only abandoned, but also partially destroyed. The façade and walls of a building built in the bishopric of Infante Cardinal D. Afonso, in the 16th century, remain. XVI, son of King Manuel I and Bishop of Évora and Lisbon.
It was greatly affected after the 1775 earthquake, which seems to have been the beginning of the region’s decline, something that happened in the middle of the 20th century. XX.
What to visit in Montemor-o-Novo
Once in Alentejo, more specifically in Montemor-o-Novo, there are a number of places that can, and should, be worth a visit. From the beginning, the Castle, most likely built on the ruins of a Muslim village and which served as a defense over the centuries, namely in the War of Restoration, against Castile, and in the fight against the French invasions.
The Archeology Museum, in the Convent of São Domingos, the Igreja Matriz, the Fountain of Nossa Senhora da Conceição or the Escoural Caves, with their cave paintings, are other points of interest in this Alentejo county.
Relatively close by, you also have the possibility to enjoy the waters of the reservoir of the Pego do Altar dam. but the starting point must be the historical Safira. And here is a short video, from the Portugal do Ar channel, about the beauties of the village.