Bela (BEIENSIS), Diocese of, in Portugal, suffragan of Evora. It was created June 10, 1770, and numbers 175,000 Catholics, with 115 parishes, 120 priests, and 197 churches. It is the capital of the district of Baixo Alemtejo. The city is supposed to be the Pax Julia, or Paca, of the Romans, and is still surrounded by remains of old Roman walls, which, however, were partly restored during the Middle Ages. Beja was taken from the Moors in 1162 by Affonso Henriques. It stands on the summit of a high hill surrounded by beautiful and fertile valleys under cultivation, as the district is rich in agricultural products, mainly cereals, olive oil, and wine. The best example of medieval architecture still extant in Portugal is the castle built in Beja by King Dom Diniz. It is a square, massive structure 120 feet high, from the top of which the whole of the Alemtejo country and the Cintra mountains may be seen. The walls of the castle are covered with hieroglyphics. Beja was in its early days an episcopal city, but at the time of the invasion by the Moors lost its dignity. The Cathedral of Beja is an old temple, though so much modernized as to make it impossible to determine with any degree of certainty its original date. Other famous churches are those of Our Lady of the Conception, St. Iago, or Santiago, and Santa Maria de la Feira, said to have been an old Moorish mosque. The College of St. Sissenando, which belonged to the Jesuits, and was built principally at the expense of Donna Maria Sophia, in 1695, stands in the street where the saint was born. Part of this building is now occupied by the episcopal palace. The city has about 8,000 inhabitants, modern improvements, schools, banks, libraries, etc. It is said to be the richest in Roman remains of all the cities in Portugal, except Evora, which now possesses a large collection of Roman antiquities collected in Beja.
FRANCISCO J. YANES