From the origins to the Present
The first evidences date back from the 4th cent. b.C, when the Phoenicians settled in the Western Mediterranean. The city was called Ossonoba, being one of the most important urban centers in the South of Portugal and a trade center of farming products, fish and ore. From the 2nd cent. b.C. to the 8th A.D the city was under Roman and Visigoth ruling, and was conquered by the Muslims in 713.
The name Ossonoba prevailed during the Arabic occupation. However in the 9th cent. it changed to Santa Maria do Ocidente. Capital of an ephemeral independent principality, it was fortified with new walls. In the 11th cent. the city became known as Santa Maria Ibn Harun.
After the Independence of Portugal in 1143, D. Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, and his successors initiated the expansion towards the South and conquered the territories occupied by the Muslims. Following the conquest by D. Afonso III in 1249, the Portuguese called the city Santa Maria de Faaron or Santa Maria de Faaram.
In the subsequent centuries, Faro became a prosperous urban center due to its geographical location, its secure harbor, the exploitation and commerce of salt, farming products from the inner Algarve and trade that were implemented with Portuguese Discoveries.
In the 14th cent. the Jewish community became very important in the city. One of its more prominent figures was the typographer Samuel Gacon, responsible for printing the Pentateuch in Hebrew, the first book printed in Portugal in 1487. The community of Faro was one most famous in the Algarve and Portugal, having many artisans and entrepreneurs.
This prosperity was interrupted when King D. Manuel I issued an edict, in December of 1496, expelling them from the country in case they refuse to convert to Catholicism. Thus, there were no Jews in Portugal officially. In the Old Town, the Convent of Our Lady of the Assumption, sponsored by Queen D. Leonor, wife of King D. Manuel I, was erected in the same area where the Jewish quarter was located.
In 1499, King D. Manuel I was responsible for a deep urban transformation. Many buildings were erected in the city – the hospital, the Church of the Holy Spirit (Church of Mercy), the Custom House and the Abattoir – outside the Alcaçaria and next to the seaside.
In 1540, King D. João III raised Faro to city and in 1577 the seat of the Bishopric in the Algarve is transferred from Silves to Faro. The looting and arson carried out by the English troops, led by the Count of Essex, in1596, caused significant damages in the walls, churches and other buildings.
The city experienced a great evolution in the17th and 18th centuries. A new enclosure was built during the Restoration War (1640/1668), which encircled the constructed and farming areas, forming a big semicircle in front of the Ria Formosa.
On the 1st of November 1755, the country was shaken by a massive earthquake and the Algarve was deeply affected.
The religious buildings of Faro were destroyed. The walls, the castle and its towers, bastion, headquarters, warehouses, the Custom House, the County Jail, the Convents of St. Francis and Poor Clares were ruined.
The city limits stayed inside the 17th century enclosure until late 19th century. Over the last decades the city has grown enormously.