Discover the ancient part of the city, having as stopping points the monuments associated with the life of the navigator Vasco da Gama in Sines.
Who was Vasco da Gama
The navigator Vasco da Gama (ca. 1469-1524), discoverer of the Maritime Way to India, is one of the major figures of Portuguese and world history. He was born in Sines and it was the county of Sines that he claimed as the reward for his deed in India to the end of his life. It is possible to draw a route in the city of Sines based on the monuments of Gama. That route begins in the Castle (where he spent his childhood and where he was supposed to be born), passes down the Mother Church (where he was ordained), stops in the Statue of Vasco Gama (testimony of the love of Sines for its most famous child) and ends in the Church of Nossa Senhora das Salas (that he rebuilt and by whose saint he had special devotion).
The Castle + House of Vasco da Gama
Supposing that his father, Estêvão, was already alcaide of the village in 1468/1469, the second floor of the donjon may be, as suggested by historian Arnaldo Soledade, the place in Sines where the navigator was born (tradition points to a house at the present Rua Vasco da Gama). There is no doubt that he spent his childhood here and that the monument is full of memories and traces of the Gamas. However, not even that was needed to make it the most important monument of Sines. Built in the first half of the 15th century, in the most noble and strategic point of the city, hanging over the bay, the Castle - a defensive fortress - was the condition imposed by King D. Pedro I to grant the charter to Sines, in 1362. Today, it no longer defends the city from the pirates, but remains the most amazing belvedere to the bay.
For its connection to the navigator’s life, the main tower of the Castle hosts, since 2008, the new museum / multimedia facility House of Vasco da Gama. More details »
The Mother Church of São Salvador
The Mother Church of São Salvador is practically leaning against the east wall of the Castle. It is here (that is, in the early building of the church) that, at 11 or 12 years old, with three of his brothers, Vasco da Gama receives the first tonsure and becomes a member of the Order of Santiago. In the 18th century, the medieval church, already too small for the number of believers that wanted to go to mass, had to be completely transformed, acquiring its present look, typical of the baroque of King João's time. Inside, behold carefully the high altar with a shrine of the Holy Sacrament, the azulejos of the chancel, the images of St. John the Baptist, of Nossa Senhora da Graça, of Santa Catarina and of Senhor Jesus das Almas and the panel in the ceiling, painted by Emmerico Nunes.
Statue of Vasco da Gama
Twenty metres south of the Mother Church, close by the west tower of the Castle, is the statue of Vasco da Gama. Inaugurated in 1970, still on the occasion of the celebrations of the navigator's five hundredth anniversary, it was a popular claim since at least 1898 (the 400th anniversary of the Discovery of the Maritime Way to India). Looking at the Atlantic, in a place of insurmountable beauty, one can say that the best view of Sines is the one of its most famous child.
Church of Nossa Senhora das Salas (and Treasure)
The route of Vasco da Gama ends at the west side of the city, in the "modern" Church of Nossa Senhora das Salas, which replaces the original church built, in the beginning of the 14th century, by Dona Betaça, maid of honour of D. Isabel (to be married with King Dinis). Perhaps to celebrate the success of the voyage to India, Vasco da Gama decides to rebuild the chapel completely, in the 16th century. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Order of Santiago, the work progresses, and two tombstones that show the position of the navigator are placed close by the gateway of the new temple, with a Manueline style: "This house of Nossa Senhora das Salas was built by the most magnificent Dom Vasco da Gama”. Inside the temple, behold carefully the high altar in golden carving with an image of Nossa Senhora das Salas (17th century), the panel of azulejos alluding to the life of Mary and the retable of Senhor do Vencimento. Its magnificent treasure is open to visitors since 2006.