The barrocal is the “birthplace” of Tôr. The village is surrounded by streams, floodplains and beds of rocks, creating a wonderful rural landscape where you can witness old traditions brought to us by the mills, waterwheels, wells, lime kilns and dryland orchards. Inserted in a limestone area, Tôr is known for its rich agricultural soils, that welcome citrus, vegetables and wine, evidence of the wise relationship between Man and Nature. They’re taken care of with pride, delivering added economic value to the region.
Tôr is seven kilometres from Loulé, the City Council, and 30 kilometres from Faro. It occupies an area of 15.82 sq. km and it is inhabited by 885 people (2011 data), 668 of these are voters (2022 data). The parish is limited to the north by Salir, to the south by São Clemente and São Sebastião, to the east by Querença and to the west by Benafim.
This is the first line of a poem and it symbolizes the desire cherished by the people of Tôr, since 1931, that the village should become independent from Querença. A dream come true in 1997.
The territory of Tôr previously belonged to Salir, and it was later added to Querença when Querença became a parish. In the Ataíde Oliveira’s book Monografia do concelho de Loulé (1905) one can read: «In addition to the small village, where the parish church, composed of 20 inhabitants [Querença] is located, there is the so-called village of Tôr or Atôr, which has approximately 60 inhabitants, all in more or less dispersed houses.”
The dream faded with the national administrative reform of 2013, the year in which the Union of Parishes of Querença, Tôr and Benafim, based in Querença, was created. A possible future administrative reorganization could rewrite once more in the near future the history of the autonomy of this parish.
The CAMPOS DE LAPIÁS (castle koppies) challenge us travel back to the Jurassic period.
The main rock formation of this megalapiás (also known as Tor, or castle koppie rock formations) is located to the north and northwest of the city of Loulé, between Castelão (S. Sebastião) and Clareanes (S. Clemente). The Barrocal da Tôr, located between Clareanes and Tôr, is one of the most relevant areas. It forms part of the Barrocal Site of Importance to the Community, defined by the European Commission’s Habitats Directive.
These geomonuments were formed about 165 to 145 million years ago from calcium carbonate-rich muds in an ancient shallow tropical sea. Corals, crinoids and other living organisms became fossilized in limestone rocks.
Values such as nature conservation, geodiversity, and the preservation of the region’s natural heritage and biodiversity, led the Municipality of Loulé to join forces with those of Silves and Albufeira to promote an application for the creation of a UNESCO World Park: the algarvensis Geopark.
The ALGAR DA FIGUEIRA is in the extreme northwest, in the place of Picavessa and can be visited coming from Ferraria or Várzea d’Alagoa. Once there, you’ll be able to find one of the last lime kilns which was used until the mid-20th century. You can also see an obelisk-shaped object close to an area of fine sand between rocks and red earth.
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST
Tôr is bathed by the Benémola and Mercês streams. Located on top of the largest aquifer in the Algarve, named Querença-Silves, it is actually quite rich in water.
The Tôr stream is shared with the parish of S. Sebastião. It suited as a “swimming school” for many in the region who learned to swim in this water hole. Until the first half of the 20th century, the stream had water all year round, except during the severe drought recorded in the years 1945-1946.
The parish is also characterized by some flatter areas: Morgado, Várzea da Ponte, Várzea das Pereiras, Várzea d’Alagoa and Várzea do Fojo. The highest elevation, with 330 meters of altitude, is in Sítio da Ferraria.
The landscape is made of small vegetable gardens and some vineyards. The traditional dryland orchards also stand out, with a predominance of fig trees, olive trees and carob trees.
The Mediterranean scrub, olive trees and holm oaks stand out among the bushes of pincushion gorse, mastic tree, flax-leaved daphne, rosemary, sageleaf rockrose, common holly, strawberry tree, common heather, mariola, oleander, needle grass and dwarf palms.
The area is home to rare species of actual interest for nature conservation and taxa of high heritage value. Some species are a bit more common, such as the Butcher’s-broom – Ruscus aculeatus, but they’re also protected. On the other hand, Asplenium petrarchae – a fern composed of several stems that grow from the same root – often appears in cracks in limestone rocky surfaces within the barrocal.
Insects are of key importance for the proper balance of an ecosystem, due to their role as pollinators and also serving as food for numerous groups of living beings. This area is home to insects such as the Megachile ericetorum, a rare bee species in Portugal, quite keen on limestone habitats. More common, the scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthamelii), the largest butterfly in Europe, measuring between 55-80 mm. The misleading stone grasshopper (Ocnerodes fallaciosus), who lives here, is only found in the south of mainland Portugal, in rocky biotopes with strong sunlight and little vegetation.
Which reminds us of a story, back in 1755, when a locust plague occurred. At the time, the City Hall determined that all households with five or more people were obliged to capture 2 bushels of locusts. Households with fewer members had to collect half a bushel. Anyone who did not comply would incur in a fine of 500 réis. This law was extended to Salir and Alte.
SANTA RITA HERMITAGE
The date of foundation of the hermitage of Tôr, a branch of the Nossa Senhora da Assunção de Querença Mother Church, is unknown. However, it is consensual that it was built in the first half of the 18th century. In 1758 – writes the parish priest of Querença – the hermitage was attended by people on pilgrimage, especially at Christmas, Easter, and on the day of the patron saint, Santa Rita de Cássia, on the 22nd of May. Its image is made of wood and dates to the first half of the 18th century.
The chapel, with a rectangular plan, consists of a chancel and a single nave. The chancel’s roof has a barrel vault and the nave’s roof, originally made of wood, was replaced in the 20th century by a concrete slab.
Nowadays, its square is home to the big days of celebration.
The Tôr bridge, over the Ribeira de Algibre, was built in the late Middle Age based on a Roman pre-existent one, to serve the connection between Milreu (in Estoi, Faro) and Salir. It is, since 2014, a monument of municipal interest.
One hundred meters upstream, there is a second bridge, built in the 90’s (20th century).
FESTIVALS AND RELIGIOUS CELEBRATIONS
The FESTIVAL OF SANTA RITA takes place annually, on the last Sunday of July. In addition to the traditional religious ceremonies, there is a buffet and a bazaar where the offerings are displayed.
Judges, Butlers and Squires are appointed to then make their offerings to Santa Rita: trays filled with food and drink, called “ramos” (bouquets).
THE SÃO LUÍS FESTIVAL started taking place in the last quarter of the 20th century, in 1988, before Tôr became an administrative parish. It happens in February in homage to the patron-saint of animals, São Luís. After the procession, the bazaar opens for offerings, which are auctioned for the benefit of the local church. It is an opportunity for the community to gather around some good roasted chorizo and homemade local wine.
A curious note: until the acquisition of the image of the Saint, the festival committee of Tôr carried out the celebration “borrowing” the Saint from Querença or the one from Benafim.
During its long lifetime, Tôr has not been immune to legends, superstitions and witchcraft. Ataíde Oliveira noted in his book Monografia de Loulé: “Over to the lands of Tôr, there is an epileptic woman who claims to have a long-gone priest in her belly, one who had died many years ago. Everyone in the neighbourhood has gone to visit the woman and comes out saying with conviction that the woman has whatever it is in her belly. Days or weeks later, a daughter of this woman began to complain that the priest had also entered her stomach. »
CULTURAL AND CREATIVE INDUSTRIES AND NATURE TOURISM
Arts: Baraço, using needle grass as a raw material, empreita, leather footwear, iron works, baskets, wood, ceramics.