figueira, proença-a-nova
Saber ler nas pedras. Figueira is a village of immense rural charm. The jumbled streets in its centre hide a communal oven, the star attraction of the village.

This village is a true "village": the chickens on their roosts cluck their greetings and the goats gaze at us with their gentle yet distrustful eyes; the cart still bears hay and the vegetable plot is close at hand for sowing; the communal oven still scents the air with newly baked bread.

The village of Figueira is built of schist, is almost flat and easy to walk around. The jumbled streets in its centre hide a communal oven. Surrounding it, farmland planted with olive trees produces the "green gold" that once generated the wealth of the village.

At the entrance to the village, the road splits into two that wrap around the old village. It is longer than it is wide, with little alleys criss-crossing to form a maze in which, at any moment, a multitude of traditional architectural details transport us back to other times. Vegetable plots, back gardens, agricultural stores, animal pens and chicken coops stand happily shoulder to shoulder throughout the residential area.

At Atelier da Aldeia, there are several activities available for visitors, including the chance to learn how to make bread, one of Figueira's most outstanding traditions.

  • territory

    Figueira is located where the south flank of the Serra de Alvelos gives way to the flatness of the heath, on a small elevation with the land rolling all around. Here there are no steep slopes in the landscape. It is merely a schistose terrain with hills eroded into gentle curves and water courses cut down to the “living rock” by torrential flows. Which is why the deep valley cut by the stream forms the northern boundary of the village.

  • nature

    It rises here and flows for just a short time, but when it does flow, a furious torrent attests to the well constructed walls of its banks. After much winding, the Ribeira da Figueira flows into the Ribeira das Moitas which, many twists and turns later, joins the River Ochreza and this joins the Tagus.

  • history and stories

    The village has a curious history in which the wolf plays a leading role. It is said that the village was laid out in such a way as to provide protection, with the streets (one longitudinal and several transversal ones) forming a complex of entrances. At night the streets were closed off with gates, safeguarding domestic animals against wolf attacks throughout the whole village. Traces of some of those gates can still be seen today.

    The village centre may date back to the. It is said that families skilled in the art of building with stone lived here. The village is thought to have been a school where this know-how was preserved in the building pattern of the walls of the houses and animal pens. And in the walls that came to form the banks of the stream and that withstand its torrential flood waters. Its former inhabitants’ sense of community shines through the urban fabric of the village. A sense that was manifest in the succession of agricultural activities, in the village economy or in the collective strategy for dealing with the wild beasts mentioned earlier and bad weather.

    The community used to come together to carry out the many chores that the olive grove, the olive trees, the olives and the olive oil called for. Not to mention the around 400 head of sheep and goats that populated the hillsides and valleys from here to the slopes of the Serra de Alvelos.

    Origin of the name
    Fig trees (figueiras) are very common in the village and the immediate environment. It is not unreasonable to link the name of the village with this fruit tree, whether due to their abundance, then as now, or because a particularly fine specimen once stood somewhere in the village.

    At the sounding of the conch shell.
    A symbol of the sense of community among the inhabitants of Figueira, the conch shell still exists. The village has never had a chapel or a bell. Therefore, blowing the conch shell was the way to call the community together to make decisions, to cast lots as to who should have first use of the threshing floor, who should be second and third … or to grind the grain in the mill. Or to call all the able-bodied for joint work in the fields or the village.

    Booking use of the communal oven
    Use of the communal oven had its own rules, recognized by everyone in the community. Anyone wishing to bake their bread had to pre-book the oven. Each family had a tabuleta  (the name given to the piece of wood identifying them). One took this tag to the oven and pegged it into the board in the number corresponding to your family.

    Building up the flocks again
    A long time ago there was a flock of 400 sheep and goats in the village. Bearing in mind extensification and sustained adaptation to the capacities of the land and the village, the headcount nowadays has to be lower. However, after almost all the flock had disappeared, the village now has 200 sheep and goats belonging to several owners. With the regeneration of the village, agriculture has been reborn.

  • patrimony

    The predominant building material is schist, although a number of building facades have been rendered and painted. There is a building pattern in the use of schist that distinguishes this from the other Schist Villages:  many door jambs are irregular and in some walls we can see an atypical practice of laying the schist vertically. The back gardens are delimited by slabs of schist stuck vertically into the ground.

    The main street of the village was originally paved in irregular stones, both granite setts and thick limestone cobbles and is now asphalted. As you walk along it and down the jumble of streets with their undeniable rural charm, you will discover a collection of schist houses of considerable interest that are still well-preserved and whose unity helps us to understand the community way of life once shared by all. Examples of this way of life are the communal oven, the threshing floor and the "gates" of the village which closed to protect the animals from the wolves that used to circle the village at night in search of food. The livestock graze in and/or wander through the unpaved village squares, just as they wander through the streets of the village in companionable association with its inhabitants.

    Several houses boast stones carved with dates – some from the 19th century - quite probably relating to the year of construction.

    Worth a visit:

    • Balau family house
      This is the most striking house of the village (19th century) with a small private chapel inside, where mass was once said daily. Not open to visitors.
    • Communal oven
      The key attraction of the village, apparently built in 1915. Bread is still baked in it several times a week.
    • Water supply fountain
      This mid- 20th century facility consists of two separate parts, the nearer one for the use of the villagers and the other for the flocks to drink from.
    • Threshing floor
      This used to be of enormous socio-economic importance in the village, but has since fallen into disuse.
    • Watermills
      There are several watermills along the banks of the stream that can be visited.
    • Olive Presses
      There are several but none functioning nowadays, with the last one having closed in 2010.
  • festivities
    • July: Fado Night
    • August: Dar vida a (X)isto (Bringing (X)this to life)
    • November: Magusto (roasting chestnuts on a bonfire) with accordions
  • products
    • Horticultural produce
    • Eggs
    • Goats
    • Goats cheese
    • Olives and olive oil
    • Cherries
    • Bread baked in the communal oven
    • Bolo finto cake
  • how to arrive

    Coordenadas GPS: 39º45’07’’N; 7º51’07’’O. Altitude: 326 m.

    De Norte e de Sul
    Na A1 sair na saída 7 (A23, Torres Novas/Abrantes). Seguir pela A23 até à saída do IC8 (Pombal/Sertã). Seguir pelo IC8 até Moitas e aí virar em direção a Figueira/Sobreira Formosa.

    Outras Informações:
    Na aldeia existem painéis informativos sobre

    • a AX Figueira, à entrada da aldeia;
    • o PR8 PNV - Caminho do Xisto de Figueira, no centro da aldeia.
  • Residents' name
  • Ex-libris
    community oven


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