Castelo Branco Embroidery is a very exquisite piece of hand made work containing tens of thousands, of individual meticulous stitches in pieces of art. In the town of Castelo Branco, a pretty place where the streets are lined with orange trees and its citizens are watched over by the protective walls of an ancient castle, a group of women sit in silence at their work benches. The only sound which breaks this sleepy tranquillity is the constant, hollow piercing of tautened canvas by the embroidery needles held expertly in the women’s hands as they strive to protect another valuable aspect of their heritage. From across the square, a church bells peel a fairytale melody.
This is the Oficina Escola Bordados de Castelo Branco, a place designed to ensure the survival of a local heritage craft dedicated to the creation of intrinsically beautiful works of embroidered art. The origins of the embroidery school and training centre lie in the 16th and 17th century when the handicraft was practiced by almost every woman in the locale. However, in 1969, the last remaining factory dedicated to the art closed its doors. As one of the women explained, “We had two options when we left school, to work the land or to do this…”
Castelo Branco Embroidery
The ladies in unison all agree that yes, it is very important to preserve the tradition and the teach the next generation of artisans and enhance the local economy and community. Every exquisite piece of finished work contains thousands, if not tens of thousands, of individual meticulous stitches in pieces of art whose designs are woven into the history of the region. The project at the Oficina Escola Bordados de Castelo Branco was initiated back in 2001 and has gone from strength to strength, with the finished works of art created by these dedicated and highly-skilled ladies adorning the catwalks, high-street fashion stores and the homes of the discerning art lover throughout the world.
This Castelo Branco Embroidery post is a part of a series of 9 posts I wrote based on my journey to Beira Baixa in March 2016. Please find the links o the other articles bellow:
This Castelo Branco Embroidery post was written by my inspiring friend Brendan Harding as part of my ongoing collaboration with the Centro de Portugal Tourism Board. All opinions are my own. Photo credits to my inspiring friend Emanuele Siracusa.