Name of Monument:

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aires

Also known as:

Nossa Senhora de Aires Sanctuary


Parish of Nossa Senhora da Anunciação, Viana do Alentejo, Évora, Portugal




Architect: Father João Baptista (active 1743); Oratoria by St. Philip Neri, Estremoz; master of construction: Manuel Antunes; master stonemason: Manuel Gomes co-ordinating several local artists: António Ferreira Esteves, Gonçalo António da Silva, Manuel Madeira, André Melro, António Monteiro [dates unknown]

Denomination / Type of monument:

Religious, pilgrimage sanctuary


The sanctuary of Our Lady of Aires had for a long, long time been a devotional meeting place for thousands of pilgrims during the religious festivals held annually in the Autumn. For this reason the Senate of Viana obtained a decree from King José I (dated 27 September 1751 and signed by the Marquis of Pombal) to create a tax-free Fair of Nossa Senhora de Aires. In light of this, the 16th-century church was replaced by a more impressive one, which was managed by Father José Peres. The plan was approved by Archbishop D. Fr. Miguel de Távora, and construction began in July 1743. The blessing and initial inauguration took place on 15 March 1760 while the church was still in an unfinished state. Work continued up until the second blessing of 13 May 1804.


In the south-facing Rococo outline of this church, designed by Father João Baptista, the light and shadow contrasts created by the different coloured marble is notable, which together with the arches framed by colourful scagliola, is typical of the Alentejo tradition.
The façade has a triangular pediment and is flanked by two bell towers with a carillon of 1955 and niches. The doorway is Rococo (1755). Above the right lateral arch of the portal is a small sundial made of white limestone, which dates from the late 18th century. The dome dominates and is illuminated by four large windows.
The nave is divided into three spans separated by fake pilasters. It has two pulpits and two loggias for parishioners that are raised in the central spans and closed off by railings. The interior azulejos are 19th century.
The chancel, built between 1744 and 1750 on a slightly circular plan, is opened up by four round arches with projecting cornices and supported by white and blue marble columns. On four sides of the chancel on Rococo pedestals stand the gilded wooden figures of the Four Evangelists by the sculptor João Baptista.
The gilt wood baldachin crowns a Gothic polychrome statue of Our Lady of Aires, (late15th century) made of limestone.
Building of the octagonal sacristy began in October 1743. On the left-hand side are Pombaline (Marquis de Pombal, Prime Minister 1750–1777) Neo-Classical paintings.

View Short Description

This old devotional Sanctuary in Alentejo is a remarkable example of a Baroque church built in a rural environment. The south-facing rocaille outline, designed by Father João Baptista, together with the contrasting light and shadow created by the different coloured marbles is notable, as are the arches framed by colourful scagliola, typical of the Alentejo tradition. The church, built on a Latin cross plan, has two symmetrical bell towers; the interior is decorated with stucco and mural paintings.

How Monument was dated:

Historical evidence and stylistic analysis

Special features

Church doorway



Manuel Antunes [n.d.]

A Rococo doorway dating to 1755. The lintel is decorated in high relief with flower garlands, palms and shells, and is crowned by a Marian monogram.

Trompe l’oeil paintings on the walls and ceiling


c. 1858


Trompe l'oeil paintings of Our Lady of Aires decorate the ceiling, while on the walls they recall the Our Lady Litany.

Main altar


c. 1751–1760
The image of Our Lady dates to the late 15th century


The main altar, in the centre of the chancel, has been placed beneath a cupola that has four large windows and some in trompe l'oeil windows too. The altar has Rococo spiralling pilasters and a gilt wood carved baldachin that crowns the image of Nossa Senhora de Aires.


Church interior

c.1745; painting 19th century

Father João Baptista and Manuel Gomes [dates unknown]

The hemispheric cupola is illuminated by four large windows and some other trompe l'oeil windows too. It is decorated with Rococo flower valances and colourful stucco. In cartouches painted on the pendentives are the Evangelists: St. Hieronymus, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose and St. Gregory.

Octagonal dome

Church exterior

c.1745; painting 1859

Father João Baptista [n.d.] and Manuel Gomes

The dome with Baroque and Rococo features is topped by a small lantern and four large windows together with some trompe l'oeil windows too. The dome is composed of white stonework – which at one time was polychrome – and is ornamented with spiralling motifs.

Selected bibliography:

Leal, P., Portugal Antigo e Moderno, Lisbon, 1893.
Espanca, T., “Inventário Artístico de Portugal – Distrito de Évora” in Santuário de Nossa Senhora de Aires, Cidade de Évora, No. 60, Lisbon, 1978.

Citation of this web page:

Cristina Correia "Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aires" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;BAR;pt;Mon11;7;en

Prepared by: Cristina Correia
Translation by: Cristina Correia, Artur Fouto
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: PT 07