The origins of this embroidery
The tradition of growing flax and the abundance of mulberry trees in the Castelo Branco region led to the development of the local embroidery, a highly renowned regional craft. The inspiration for its designs would however have come from the Orient.
According to Maria Margarida Ivo Rosa in “O Bordado de Castelo Branco”, the voyages of discovery brought new influences on Portuguese textiles and embroidery. Native embroiderers were brought from India to join the colchoeiros (embroiderers of bed coverings). In the 16th century these embroideries were a symbol of prestige, which only increased their demand.
Worked in silk on a white linen or cotton ground, they normally used symbols to narrate biblical scenes or heroic stories. They also depicted hunts and other designs characteristic of oriental culture. Geometric patterns, leaves, flowers and animals gave rise to an art of great beauty and originality.
Among the specific elements we can identify are the “Tree of Life”, “carnations and roses” representing men and women, and “tendrils”, which symbolise friendship. These are motifs that, due to the renown of Castelo Branco embroidery, can now be found in many other areas outside textiles and embroidery. We can find them around the city on pavements or buildings, which shows that they are now symbols of the city itself.