Old Mértola bridge
Mértola (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈmɛɾtulɐ]) is a municipality in southeastern Portugal next to the Spanish border. It has a total area of 1,292.87 km² and a total population of 8,712 inhabitants (2001). In terms of land area, it is the sixth-largest municipality in Portugal. The resultant population density of 6.74 persons/km² is the second-lowest in Portugal, behind only that of adjacent Alcoutim. The municipality is composed of 9 parishes and is located in the southeastern part of the District of Beja, in the Lower Alentejo region.
The seat of the municipality is the town of Mértola, which has around 3100 inhabitants. The town of Mértola is located on a hill by the Guadiana river, and its strategic location made it an important fluvial commercial port from Classical Antiquity through the period of Islamic domination. Among the vestiges of its past, Mértola boasts the only mediaeval mosque to have survived in Portugal.
The most important monument of Mértola is its main church (the matriz), originally a mosque built between the 12th and 13th centuries. After the Christian conquest of the town, in 1238, the mosque was turned into a church, but its architectonic structure was left unaltered. In the 16th century the church was partially remodelled, gaining Manueline vaulting with a new roof and a new main portal in Renaissance style. Nevertheless, the inner arrangement of the naves of the church, with four naves and several columns, strongly resembles that of the original mosque, and the interior of the church still has the mihrab, the decorated niche that indicates the direction of the Mecca. Outside, the church has four portals with horseshoe arches, typical of Islamic architecture.
Mértola é uma vila portuguesa do distrito de Beja, região do Alentejo e sub-região do Baixo Alentejo, com cerca de 3 100 habitantes. A vila encontra-se situada numa elevação na margem direita do rio Guadiana, imediatamente a montante da confuência da ribeira de Oeiras.
É sede de um dos maiores municípios de Portugal, com 1 279,40 km² de área e 7 332 habitantes (2009), subdividido em 9 freguesias. O município é limitado a norte pelos municípios de Beja e de Serpa, a leste pela Espanha, a sul por Alcoutim e a oeste por Almodôvar e por Castro Verde.