Today we challenge our readers to venture on a visit to Solar dos Zagallos, an old small palace in Sobreda, 15 minutes away from Lisbon, right next to the city of Almada on the South bank of the Tagus River.
In this surprising palatial house of the 18th century, currently belonging to the City Council of Almada, is installed the particularly dynamic Cultural Centre. Here are gathered the patrimonial value of the house and the cultural contemporary activities that justify our choice for a pleasant stroll.
From the second half of the 17th century, this region began to be occupied by noble families that built their summer small palaces here. Generally speaking, these weren’t big farms of agricultural production, but simply leisure houses surrounded by gardens and orchards where the summer was more pleasant.
The Family Zagallo
It was for this same purpose that the Solar dos Zagallos was built in the mid-1700s by the morgado (first-born in a family that inherits an inalienable and indivisible bond from the previous first-born) Rodrigo de Oliveira Zagallo. The side wing of the building and the chapel dedicated to Saint Anthony, decorated with impressive panels of tiles adorned with miracles of the saint correspond to this time period.
In the magnificent garden, there is a funerary chapel dedicated to Senhor dos Passos, in which the interior is filled with tiles that tells the parable of the Prodigal Son. The exterior tiles present us two angels carrying the Instruments of the Passion. They date back to the 1980s, probably reproducing the much deteriorated originals.
In 1825/6, the Solar suffered a second amplification. At that time the monumental staircase and the front wing that displays the Zagallos’ family crest carved in stone were built. In the front wing constituted by two magnificently decorated rooms in rococo style, we find paintings with mythological themes, medallions with portraits and wreaths of flowers that enrich the space and that on their own, are worth a visit.
Such ostentation was destined for the reception of the king D. Afonso VI that to great disappointment of the owner, never came to happen. Francisco Zagallo e Mello, a staunch defender of the absolutist cause, handed this house over to the troops loyal to D. Miguel, who were quartered here in 1832.
From the same period, we find in the extensive garden, at the end of an alley, on land that used to belong to the Quinta de Santo António Caiado, a Fresh House. This stands out in size in relation to a small chapel that is also dedicated to Saint Anthony, built by the morgado of the neighbouring family.
The simplicity of this chapel is evident, its interior is completely covered by polychrome tiles and inlaid works. These latter ones, constituted by vulgar and exotic shells from the Indian Ocean, pieces of white and blue oriental porcelain and stones and other materials, cover the entire dome, dazzling the visitor.
The Family Piano
In 1921, the Solar dos Zagallos was acquires by António Piano, a banker of Italian roots who started residing here. An extended renovation was run by this new owner, thus, the oldest wing of the house where we can now find elaborate panels of tiles revivalist expression was modernised. The chapel suffered deep transformations, across the property were added annexes and in the garden, decorative elements that have white and blue and polychrome tiles with figures.
In the course of centuries, the garden acquired an appearance mixed between the French style, geometric and orderly, and the English style, with a natural feel. Large and surely, with more than a century of age trees make the place fresh and private. Tanks with fountains, benches and alleys in different levels give an impression that the space is larger than it really is.
We highlight the orchard of orange trees, which produce a sweet exotic fruit that requires lots of water and its strong and pleasant aroma show the ostentation and wealth of its former owner.
The City Council of Almada
In 1982, the City Council of Almada bought the property. In 1991, it was deeply recuperated, restored and renovated, but always protecting the identity of this patrimonial building and the gardens around it. Two years later it was inaugurated as cultural equipment. It is considered today to be one of the landmarks of the municipality.
It is worth mentioning the permanent exhibition of a collection of Traditional Pottery, representative of the production centres working in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Here you will find functional objects or figures from all over the country.
This is a space of memory but also of creativity. Aimed at the local cultures, it is an open house that promotes the discovery of personal and collective values. For that reason, we don’t simply find a restored building worth a visit, but rather a dynamic space, used for regular activities that promote dialogue with the public. Here are take place exhibitions, seminars, concerts, guided tours and activities for kids.
We also highlight the annual Festa no Solar, integrated in the municipality’s feasts in June. An event organised by the community with a programme that includes exhibitions, concerts, dances, traditional games, artistic workshops, a gastronomy event and a crafts and regional products fair.
Whether it’s during the annual feasts or for a calm stroll, we invite you to go to Sobreda and discover the Solar dos Zagallos and the cultural dynamic of the municipality of Almada.