Arcos de Valdevez

Arcos de Valdevez

The Roman bridge over the Vez River


Coat of arms
Coordinates: 41°50′50″N 8°25′7″W / 41.84722°N 8.41861°W / 41.84722; -8.41861Coordinates: 41°50′50″N 8°25′7″W / 41.84722°N 8.41861°W / 41.84722; -8.41861
Country  Portugal
Region Norte
Subregion Minho-Lima
Intermunic. comm. Alto Minho
District Viana do Castelo
Parishes 36
  President Francisco Rodrigues de Araújo (PSD)
  Total 447.60 km2 (172.82 sq mi)
Elevation 47 m (154 ft)
Highest elevation 1,416 m (4,646 ft)
Population (2011)
  Total 22,847
  Density 51/km2 (130/sq mi)
Time zone WET/WEST (UTC+0/+1)
Postal code 4970
Area code 258
Patron São Paio

Arcos de Valdevez (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈaɾkuʒ dɨ ˌvaɫdɨˈveʃ]) is a municipality along the northern frontier of Portugal and Galicia (Spain). The population in 2011 was 22,847,[1] in an area of 447.60 km².[2] It is the largest municipality in area of the district of Viana do Castelo.


A statue that commemorates the historical Battle of Valdevez
The Municipal City Hall in Arcos de Valdevez, showing the ornate 19th-century facade

The first settlements in the area of Arcos de Valdevez occurred between the 5th and 3rd millennium BC, verified by archaeological investigations from many of the funerary mounds within the municipality, such as Núcleo Megalítico do Mezio. This also includes many rock carvings and paintings that were found in the Gião archaeological station. This period of proto-history, and Roman occupation, not just for its influence on toponymy, was important for many of the defensive and habitational structures that dot the landscape of the municipality. These include many of the castros that exist throughout the area, and in particular, in the parishes of Ázere, Álvora and Cendufe.

During the Middle Age many of these proto-cultural sites were abandoned for medieval parishes or monasteries located along plains or atop strategic hills, such as the Monastery of Ermelo (Cistercians) or Santa Maria de Miranda (Benedictine). These areas facilitated settlement, which was tied to herding and seasonal cultivation, while the mountains provided many sources of game. The facility of settlement greatly enhanced its importance, since its proximity to Spanish territory favoured strategic expansion into the south: the number of medieval bridges in the area, such as in Vilela and Cabreiro improved further expansion.

In documents dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries, there were several military, social centres and infrastructures had been built along these northern positions. A Roman-type bridge within the municipal limits, was constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries, and first referenced during the named Inquirições de 1258 (1258 Inquiries), when the name Arcos appeared in Portuguese toponymy.

Although abandoned in the 13th century, the Castle of Santa Cruz in Vila Fonche, which predates the actual village, was one of the first human centers, helping to protect human populations and facilitate communication that crossed the bridges along the Vez River. By 1258, the Castle controlled a geographic area that included the present boundaries of Arcos de Valdevez. Its importance along these trade and military routes influenced King Manuel I to elevate this "metro-pole" to the status of village in 1515.

Liberal reforms during the 18th century would expand the administrative limits of the municipality, with the annexation of the areas of Soajo, Ermelo and Gavieira.


Physical geography

The green hilltops in the municipality of Arcos de Valdevez, within the civil parish of Salvador
A view from the small civil parish of Eiras, showing the dispersed communities in the foothills of Penede-Gêres mountain range
The River Vez, with the Church of the Espírito Santo in the background, within the parish of Gavieira

Arcos de Valdevez is situated in the northwest Portuguese peninsula of the historical province of Minho, in the district of Viana do Castelo. It is limited in the east by Spanish Galicia, south the municipality of Ponte da Barca, southwest and west by Ponte de Lima, also by its western frontier with Paredes de Coura, north by Monção and northwest by Melgaço.[3] Territorially, it occupies 20.18% of the Minho-Lima subregion, 2.10% of the Norte region, or approximately 0.5% of continental Portugal.[3]

The municipality is constituted by three fundamental morphological units: the river-valley depression occupied by the Rivers Vez and Lima, of which 35% of the municipality is located; the mountainous escarpment of the Peneda-Gêres; and an accidented area in the west that extends to the eastern limits of the municipality.[4] The Vez valley, which crosses the territory from north to south, divides the mountainous western and eastern areas, and is the location of the principal activities of the territory.

Human geography

The municipal seat of Arcos de Valdevez, the city specifically, is composed of the civil parishes of Salvador and São Paio, which together account for a population of approximately 2204 inhabitants. It is characteristic of the larger area of northern Portugal, with a relatively homogeneous culture and population, dispersed within a similar scenic environment; it is one of the larger municipalities in Portugal, with an area of approximately 447.6 square kilometres (172.8 sq mi).

Administratively, the municipality is divided into 36 civil parishes (freguesias):[5]

  • Aboim das Choças
  • Aguiã
  • Alvora e Loureda
  • Arcos de Valdevez (São Salvador), Vila Fonche e Parada
  • Arcos de Valdevez (São Paio) e Giela
  • Ázere
  • Cabana Maior
  • Cabreiro
  • Cendufe
  • Couto
  • Eiras e Mei
  • Gavieira
  • Gondoriz
  • Grade e Carralcova
  • Guilhadeses e Santar
  • Jolda (São Paio)
  • Jolda (Madalena) e Rio Cabrão
  • Miranda
  • Monte Redondo
  • Oliveira
  • Paçô
  • Padreiro (Salvador e Santa Cristina)
  • Padroso
  • Portela e Extremo
  • Prozelo
  • Rio de Moinhos
  • Rio Frio
  • Sabadim
  • São Jorge e Ermelo
  • Senharei
  • Sistelo
  • Soajo
  • Souto e Tabaçô
  • Távora (Santa Maria e São Vicente)
  • Vale
  • Vilela, São Cosme e São Damião e Sá

The largest of these parishes, Gavieira, Soajo, Cabreiro, Gondoriz and Sistelo, are located in the mountainous areas that are part of Peneda-Gerês National Park.

The municipal seat is situated 36 kilometres (22 mi) from Braga Municipality and 90 kilometres (56 mi) from Porto, in the civil parish of São Salvador. The urban agglomerations of Arcos de Valdevez roughly coincide with the principal roadway, the Estrada Nacional E.N.101, that links Braga with Monção. The construction of the ancillary I.C.28 altered this pattern, permitting rapid access to Arcos de Valdavez from other regional centres.

Administratively, along with Viana do Castelo, Ponte da Lima and Ponte de Barca, it is overseen by the VALIMA Associação de Municípos do Vale do Lima (Association of Municipalities of the Vale do Lima).

Since 1981 the population of the municipality has been in steady decline; relative to the 2008 census, the population of the municipality has decreased, but at a rate far less than following the urbanization brought on by the Carnation Revolution in Portugal.[6] What has resulted is an emigrant population, with most activities and residential concentration within a small area along the southwest border.[6] Consequently, the urban areas of Salvador (with an urban density of 1090 habitantes/km²) and its neighbouring parishes (São Paio, Aguiã and Giela) have seen some concentration.[6]

Population of
Arcos da Valdevez
(1801 - 2011)
1801 21,435    
1849 25,824+20.5%
1900 31,968+23.8%
1930 32,163+0.6%
1960 38,739+20.4%
1981 31,156−19.6%
1991 26,976−13.4%
2001 24,761−8.2%
2011 22,847−7.7%


The Peolourinho de Arcos de Valdevez constructed to mark the settlement of Portuguese territory in the area




The municipal government has funded several sports related projects to develop local athletics, including the construction and/or maintenance of the following:

In addition, there are several local sports organizations and clubs that benefit from the local infrastructures or offer different sporting services; these include the local esquestrian and nautical club.

Arcos' local football (soccer) club is the C.A. Valdevez (Portuguese: Clube Atlético de Valdevez), established in 1945, and currently playing the Portuguese Second Division Series A league. Arcos de Valdevez has a rugby team, Clube de Rugby de Arcos de Valdevez.


  1. Instituto Nacional de Estatística
  2. Direção-Geral do Território
  3. 1 2 Pacto de Autarcas (2011), p.6
  4. Pacto de Autarcas (2011), p.8
  5. Diário da República. "Law nr. 11-A/2013, pages 552 16-17" (pdf) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 Pacto de Autarcas (2011), p.10
  7. Noé, Paula (1992). SIPA, ed. "Castro de Ázere (PT011601040002)" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  8. Noé, Paula (1992). SIPA, ed. "Antas da Serra do Soajo (PT011601460001)" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  9. Noé, Paula (1998). SIPA, ed. "Mosteiro de Ermelo (PT011601110008)" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: SIPA – Sistema de Informação para o Património Arquitectónico. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
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