Embroidery of Castelo Branco

For over three centuries, Castelo Branco has been famous for its embroidered bedspreads. These bedspreads, of oriental inspiration, have been known at least since the middle of the 16th century.

These bedspreads are made of linen and embroidered in silk thread, and their decorative elements carry a unique symbolism. In this way, the pitcher represents the earth and the tree of life; the newlywed are represented by a couple of birds together or by the drawing of a symbolic man and woman; the chain-stitch stands for the unbreakable chain of matrimony; carnations represent the Man and roses the Woman; lilies stand for Virtue and hearts for Love; tendrils represent Friendship, ivy deep affection; jasmine means the virtue of chastity; pomegranates and pines are the solidarity of the family; cockerels stand for the blessed offspring, and lizards are the amulet for a much desired happiness.

There is no limit to the range of colours although there are monochromatic examples where the design takes on greater prominence. In general terms, Castelo Branco Embroidery can be divided into two styles: the popular, with more obvious designs, and the erudite, more elaborate and complex and attributed to the upper, better educated classes. Some designs reflect influences brought back from the Orient on the Portuguese voyages of exploration. However, there are also references to daily life, the local fauna and flora or even just erudite artistic figures appropriate to the respective periods and taken from Renaissance and Baroque imagery.