Road Trip

Probably the most beautiful primary school in Portugal

burn leads peel national road 103, which is some of the most beautiful in the North of Portugal, little knows the secrets that hide in some villages that she crosses. This is the case of the primary school of Faiões, in the municipality of Chaves. It is different from all the other primary schools in the country and is probably the prettiest of them all.

Faiões is a small and modest village, like the great majority of transmontane villages. But its primary school and the history associated with it defies all logic given what we could expect in this town, along with two large urban centers and two impressive monuments typical of other locales.

The Faiões primary school is different from all the others in Portugal that were built at the same time. The rest followed common plans and, therefore, it’s just that they’re all the same. But this has a story that invariably turns me different. It was not built by the central government, but by its own power, by the village.

Faiões Primary School

The idea for its construction came from António Luís Morais Sarmento, a benefactor who lived in Faiões but was a native of Paradela de Monforte, a vizinha locality. A doctor by training, António Morais Sarmento was also reitor of the University of Coimbra between 1939 and 1941.

His link to the University of Coimbra is evident in the architecture of the primary school that he financed. We notice some similarities between this humble educational institution in a remote transmontana village and the buildings of the university where he was resident. The most evident is the sineira tower, which was inspired by the famous Torre da Cabra da Universidade de Coimbra.

Being an important personality at that time and having some contacts with the government, António Luis Morais Sarmento tries to convince the Ministry of Education to build a primary school in his village, Faiões. The authorities agree to finance only a goal of two total expenses, I have to pay the price of the village to bear the remaining expenses.

António Luis convinces his father to donate the land where it would be built. He himself will pay at the expense of what the government refuses to pay. The people of Faiões, eager to have a school in the village and willing to contribute, help as they can: trabalha de graça e com afinco.

Faiões Primary School
Faiões Primary School

We count the oldest inhabitants that, in the following years, the homens of the land dedicated a large part of their free time to building a school or to transporting the enormous blocks of granite that were necessary for the walls. As muheres revezavam-se na tarefa de cozinhar o almoço que os hombres necesitavam.

It is known that the construction began in 1932 and that, in 1934, all the walls of the building were already complete. Despite the fact that there will be no absolute certainties, I think that the first classrooms will begin in the school year of 1935/36, with 3 shifts. The school started in 2012, the year in which, due to school reforms, it was closed.

The school had a canteen, whose food was also provided by the Morais Sarmento family. The inclination of this family for charity is not here: António Luís himself ordered the construction, a few meters from the school, of a group of 10 social housing houses for young people with financial difficulties.

Over the past 80 years, several have formed generations of children who here will learn to read and write. O fim inglório chegou, as foi dito, in 2012. The educational reform stipulated that each primary school would have to have, at least, 20 students. The elementary school of Faiões has 18. And so it was, for just 2 children, that the school dated.

In recent years, it has been the object of some rehabilitation works and for here it was transferred to the headquarters of the Faiões Parish Council. Currently, there are plans to transform this space into a gathering place for the elderly of the village. Sinais two times in which the joy of children is disappearing from the Portuguese villages.

A primary school is not, in principle, something that is considered a monument worthy of being protected. But this one is not the same as the others. The Faiões primary school is the most beautiful in Portugal and deserves your visit. Therefore, if you are in Chaves or drive by N103, stop in this village and spend a little time contemplating this little marvel.

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