Discover the fascinating history of Faro!
As the most southern town in Portugal, Faro enjoys a unique role in Portugal, offering a wide variety of fascinating tourist attractions.
The history of Faro is ancient and rich, with touches of Phoenician, Roman and Moorish culture still sprinkled around the city, offering interesting unknown things to be discovered.
This is where the history of Faro begins. Faro was once known as Ossonoba, originally attracting settlers and traders since the Paleolithic era thanks to its location near the Ria Formosa lagoon.
Many people settled here and fortified a settlement long before the Romans transformed it into this town called Ossonoba. The Romans rebuilt the wall around the main city area, which now corresponds to the Old Town, where the forum, the temples and other public buildings were situated. In the Roman period, the town was basically concentrated outside the walls, where a second quarter consisted mainly in rich patrician houses. In the region of Ossonoba there were other large patrician villas, such as Milreu (9 km north of Faro). Nowadays you can still see and visit the important Roman ruins in Milreu.
Faro became a Bishop’s seat in the 4th century, even after the Visigoth occupation in the 5th century. These people of Germanic origins ruled the city until Ossonoba was taken over by the Moors in the 8th century, although the area was allowed to preserve its main port town status in the south-west of the Iberian peninsula.
The Moorish occupation lasted about 500 years and towards the end of this period, the city became the capital of an independent Moorish kingdom. It was ruled by a family called Harun, whose name gave origin to the actual name of Faro. Documents (mainly Christian sources) from the period of the Moorish occupation refer to the city sometimes as Ossonoba sometimes as Santa Maria de Hárune.
The Portuguese king Afonso III conquered Faro in 1249 and annexed it as Portuguese territory. According to the Portuguese chronicles, the city of Faro was defended by strong walls and large wooden doors. In order to conquer the city, the Portuguese soldiers collected a large amount of wood and placed it in the front of the main city dor, setting it on fire. As soon as the door collapsed, the army managed to enter and to take over the city. Under the new Christian rulership, Faro was established as the capital of the Algarve region by King Afonso III of Portugal. The city of Faro became a centre of culture and learning, some of the earliest printed books in Portugal being created in the city by a Jewish printer in the 15th century.
As in many other conquered cities, the main mosque was replaced by a Christian gothic Church, called Santa Maria church (now Cathedral). Short after the conquest, the Moorish population that lived in the town, was granted civil rights and the maintenance of their economical activities, such as farming, trade and handicrafts.
Faro became once more a Bishop’s seat in 1577, the church of Santa Maria being used as Cathedral. From the 16th century the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Assunção (now used as the Municipal Museum) joins the Bishop’s Palace. In 1596, in a period when Spanish kings ruled Portugal, the son of Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex became a national hero when he shared command of the expedition that captured Cadiz from the Spanish.They burned some buildings and seized the library of the Bishop of Faro. These books and other texts are currently part of the Bodleian library at the University of Oxford. One of the books included in this library was the first ever printed book in Portugal. Faro suffered another disaster in 1722 when it was ravaged by an earthquake, and again in 1755.
Unfortunately, the earthquake of 1755 destroyed many buildings in Faro. However, the destruction was less severe than in other cities in Algarve. After the earthquake, the capital of Algarve changed from Lagos to Faro. The earthquake destruction offered an opportunity for a large-scale city restoration and the building of new remarkable buildings.
Faro is an incredible vibrant city, which has wonderfully preserved its historical atmosphere, encapsulating a multidimensional spirit.
Enjoy unforgettable moments next to your dear ones, always counting on Faro Airport Transfers, which provides the best transfers at the highest standards!