Viseu, Capital of the Beira Alta
Although Viseu nowadays is the economic heart of the Beira Alta in central Portugal, it has preserved it´s cultural treasures well.
In the old part of the city, history blends in with commercial activities even in the busiest streets. In the Rua Escura, you will see gargoyles and gothic windows in houses from the 16th century. The winding Rua Direita ("Straight Street"), is very lively with traditional trade.
Cava de Viriato
Excellent examples of Portugese architecture from every period can be found in Viseu, and from Roman times, there are monuments such as the well-known “Cava de Viriato”, the large octagonal enclosure of a military camp.
The Viseu Cathedral
The original Viseu Cathedral dates back to the 13th century. Traces of these ancient origins can still be seen in it´s basic structure and the massiveness of it´s walls, as well as in some details.
The Cathedral as it stands today is largely Gothic, mixed with Romanic characteristics, and with additions and alterations from later periods, such as the 17th-18th century bell tower and frontal façade (in Mannerist style).
Worth mentioning are also the Baroque tiles and paintings of the interior.
The Grão Vasco Museum
The museum, founded in 1916, occupies the building of the old Seminary, located beside the Cathedral. This building, begun in the late 16th century in Mannerist style, has had its interior recently modernised by Porto architect Eduardo Souto de Moura.
The main exhibits of the museum are the painted altarpieces made for the Viseu Cathedral during the Renaissance. Among them the main altarpiece, executed by a workshop that included the young Vasco Fernandes, as well as later altarpieces by a mature Vasco Fernandes and his collaborator, Gaspar Vaz.
The artistic significance of these works turn the Grão Vasco Museum into one of the most important art museums in Portugal.