Last updated
Category3rd-level administrative division
Location Portugal
Found in Municipality
  • Middle Ages (Ecclesiastic Parish)
    1835 (Civil Paróquia)
    1916 (Freguesia)

Freguesia (Portuguese pronunciation:  [ˌfɾɛɣɨˈzi.ɐ] ), usually translated as "parish" or "civil parish", is the third-level administrative subdivision of Portugal, as defined by the 1976 Constitution. [1] It is also the designation for local government jurisdictions in the former Portuguese overseas territories of Cape Verde and Macau (until 2001). In the past, was also an administrative division of the other Portuguese overseas territories. The parroquia in the Spanish autonomous communities of Galicia and Asturias is similar to a freguesia.


A freguesia is a subdivision of a município (municipality). Most often, a parish takes the name of its seat, which is usually the most important (or the single) human agglomeration within its area, which can be a neighbourhood or city district, a group of hamlets, a village, a town or an entire city. In cases where the seat is itself divided into more than one parish, each one takes the name of a landmark within its area or of the patron saint from the usually coterminous Catholic parish (paróquia in Portuguese). Be it a city district or village, the civil parish is often based on an ecclesiastical parish.

Since the creation of a democratic local administration, in 1976, the Portuguese parishes have been ruled by a system composed by an executive body (the junta de freguesia , "parish board/council") and a deliberative body (the assembleia de freguesia , "parish assembly"). The members of the assembleia de freguesia are publicly elected every four years. The presidents of the parish boards are also members of the municipal assembly. [1]


The parish, in contrast with the municipalities, had their base in the ecclesiastical divisions that "had its origin in the fact that neighbours professed the same religion and professed their faith and divinity in the same temple". [2] Freguesia, the traditional Portuguese word for parish, had its beginning in the filius ecclesiae (child of the church) and filius gregis (child of the shepherds's flock), the collectivity of the religious faithful, with similar aspirations and interests. [2] Between 1216 and 1223, Afonso II of Portugal began a process of legitimizing the Portuguese territory by conferring charters to nobles, clergy and municipal chambers (which would not be completed until after 1249, under Afonso III of Portugal), making the parish the smallest division. But, the power of the clergy built these areas, accumulating immense wealth and power. The liberal government of Mouzinho da Silveira abolished the parishes in 1832, but the government of Manuel da Silva Passos restored them in 1836. [2] The freguesia began to refer to the civil/administrative entity, while the paróquia (Latin : parochia) became affiliated with the religious entity.

Before the 2013 local government reforms, the 308 municipalities were subdivided into 4,259 civil parishes. [3] [4] In 2011, after more than two weeks of bailout negotiations in light of the sovereign debt crisis with the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission, the Portuguese government was obliged to reduce the number of municipal and parish local governments after July 2012. [5] The government of Pedro Passos Coelho introduced a plan to reform the administrative divisions, claiming it would create efficiencies and save money. The plan envisioned the reform of the management, territorial geography and political form of how Portugal functioned at the local level, including specifically at the freguesia and concelho levels. [3] It was determined that these changes would then be formalized before the 2013 local government elections, as part of a process to reduce expenditures, a condition of the $110 Billion accord. [5] In addition to the reduction of the number of representatives in the local boards, the plan also established criteria for the reduction, amalgamation or extinction of various civil parishes. [3]

The reform was implemented according to Law 11-A/2013 of 28 January 2013, which defined the reorganization of the civil parishes, [6] This way, the number of parishes was reduced from 4,259 to 3,091.

Municipalities in Portugal are usually divided into multiple freguesias, but seven municipalities are not: Alpiarça, Barrancos, Castanheira de Pera, Porto Santo, São Brás de Alportel and São João da Madeira all consist of a single civil parish, and Corvo is a special case of a municipality without civil parishes. Barcelos is the municipality with the most civil parishes (61, since 2013).

Portugal has no unincorporated areas; all the national territory belongs to a civil parish, including uninhabited islands: Selvagens Islands to , and Berlengas to Peniche, Desertas Islands to Santa Cruz, and Formigas Islets to Vila do Porto, in the municipalities with the same name (except for Sé, which belongs to Funchal).

Cape Verde

Of Cape Verde's 22 municipalities, which form the highest level of sub-national government in the small African state, some but not all are subdivided into parishes. There are 32 parishes in the country.


Macau is an autonomous Special administrative region in Southern China that was historically a part of the Portuguese Empire until the Handover of Macao in 1999. During the period of Portuguese rule it was divided into two municipalities which were subdivided into a total of seven parishes. In 2001 the municipalities were dissolved and their administrative functions transferred to the Municipal Affairs Bureau. The parishes were legally retained but no longer serve an administrative function.

See also

Related Research Articles

Caldas da Rainha Municipality in Comunidade Intermunicipal do Oeste, Portugal

Caldas da Rainha is a medium-sized city in the district of Leiria of Portugal. The city serves as the seat of the larger municipality of the same name and of the Comunidade Intermunicipal do Oeste. At the 2011 census, the municipality had a population of 51,729 in an area of 255.69 square kilometres (98.72 sq mi), with 30,343 residing in the city. Although the city itself lies about 10.5 kilometres (6.5 mi) inland, three of the municipality's civil parishes lie on the Atlantic Ocean. Caldas da Rainha is best known for its sulphurous hot springs and ceramic pottery.

Municipalities of Portugal Overview of the municipalities of Portugal

The municipality is the second-level administrative subdivision of Portugal, as defined by the 1976 Constitution.

Administrative divisions of Portugal Overview of the administrative divisions of Portugal

Administratively, Portugal is de jure unitary and decentralized state. Nonetheless, operationally, it is a highly centralized system with administrative divisions organized into three tiers. The State is organized under the principles of subsidiarity, local government autonomy, and democratic decentralization of the public service.

Concelho, is the Portuguese-language term for municipality, referring to the territorial division. In comparison, the word município refers to the organs of State. This differentiation is still in use in Portugal and some of its former overseas provinces, but is no longer in use in Brazil following the abolition of these organs, in favour of the French prefecture system. It is similar to borough and council.

Salir do Porto Civil parish in Centro, Portugal

Salir do Porto is a former civil parish in the municipality of Caldas da Rainha, Portugal. In 2013, the parish merged into the new parish Tornada e Salir do Porto. The civil parish has an area of 9.86 square kilometres (3.81 sq mi) and had a population of 797 at the 2011 census.

Câmara Municipal

A câmara municipal is a type of municipal governing body, existing in several countries of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.

Odivelas Municipality in Lisboa, Portugal

Odivelas is a city and a municipality in Lisbon metropolitan area, Portugal, in the Lisbon District and the historical and cultural Estremadura Province. The municipality is located 10 km northwest of Lisbon. The present Mayor is Hugo Martins, elected by the Socialist Party. The population in 2011 was 144,549, in an area of 26.54 km2 (10.25 sq mi).

By the end of Portuguese rule, Macau was administratively divided into two municipalities and seven civil parishes. Parishes were administrative subdivisions of the municipalities. After the 1999 handover to China, parishes are still officially recognized divisions but for symbolic reasons only.

Pombal, Portugal Municipality in Centro, Portugal

Pombal is a city and a municipality located in the Leiria District in the sub region of Pinhal Litoral in Portugal. The population in 2011 was 55,217, in an area of 626.00 km². The population of the city of Pombal proper is about 18,000 inhabitants.

Legislative Assembly of Macau Organ of the legislative branch of Macau

The Legislative Assembly is the organ of the legislative branch of Macau. It is a 33-member body comprising 14 directly elected members, 12 indirectly elected members representing functional constituencies and 7 members appointed by the chief executive. It is located at Sé.

Castro Verde Municipality in Alentejo, Portugal

Castro Verde is a town and a municipality of the Alentejo region of Portugal. The population in 2011 was 7,276, in an area of 569.44 km2. Castro Verde is situated in the Baixo Alentejo subregion, within a territory known locally as the Campo Branco . The municipality can be recognized by the local municipal markers along its borders, that appear within its borders to denote its reference as A Window on the Plains; municipal markers appear as stylized house profiles, with an exaggerated window that allows the visitor to see through into the panorama.

Águeda Municipality in Centro, Portugal

Águeda is a city and a municipality in Portugal. According to the Portuguese 2011 census, the municipality of Águeda had 47,729 inhabitants, in an area of 335.27 km². The city proper had a population of 14,504, while the remainder is distributed in 11 parishes, within the Baixo Vouga Subregion.

Subdivisions of Portugal Overview of the subdivisions of Portugal

The subdivisions of Portugal are based on a complicated administrative structure. The second-level administrative division, after the 5 regions and 2 autonomous regions, is 308 municipalities (concelhos) which are further subdivided into 3091 civil parishes (freguesias).

Administrative divisions of Cape Verde

The territory of Cape Verde is divided into 22 concelhos (municipalities), and subdivided into 32 freguesias.

Provinces of Portugal Overview of the provinces of Portugal

The term "provinces" has been used throughout history to identify regions of continental Portugal. Current legal subdivisions of Portugal do not coincide with the provinces, but several provinces, in their 19th- and 20th-century versions, still correspond to culturally relevant, strongly self-identifying categories. They include:

Pedro Passos Coelho Former Prime Minister of Portugal

Pedro Manuel Mamede Passos Coelho is a Portuguese politician and university guest lecturer who was the 118th Prime Minister of Portugal, in office from 2011 to 2015. He was the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) between 2010 and 2018.

2013 Portuguese local elections

The Portuguese local elections of 2013 took place on 29 September. The elections consisted of three types of elections in the 308 Portuguese municipalities, namely the elections for the Municipal Chambers, whose winners are elected mayors, the elections for the Municipal Assemblies, as well as the elections for the lower-level Parish Assemblies, whose winners are elected parish presidents. The latter were held separately in the more than 3,000 parishes around the country. The number of parishes had been reduced by over 1000 due to a local government reform undertaken by the Government led by Pedro Passos Coelho.

Freguesia de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Freguesia in Macao Special Administrative Region, China

Freguesia de Nossa Senhora do Carmo is a civil parish in Macao Special Administrative Region. The major part of the freguesia is located in Taipa but it runs through to Hengqin Island in mainland China. The freguesia is named after the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo. It is the largest freguesia in Macau with an area of 7.9 square kilometers.

Aguada de Baixo Civil parish in Centro, Portugal

Aguada de Baixo was a freguesia in Águeda Municipality, Aveiro District, Portugal. It had an area of 4.7 km2 and in 2011 had a population of 1373. In 2013 it was merged with Barrô as part of an administrative reorganization of the territory and formed the União das Freguesias de Barrô e Aguada de Baixo.

2017 Portuguese local elections

The Portuguese local elections of 2017 were held on October 1, 2017. The elections consisted of three separate elections in the 308 Portuguese municipalities, the election for the Municipal Chambers, whose winner was elected mayor, another election for the Municipal Assembly, as well an election for the lower-level Parish Assembly, whose winner was elected parish president. This last election was held in the more than 3,000 parishes around the country.


  1. 1 2 "7th Constitutional Revision" (PDF). Assembly of the Republic (Portugal). Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 Ferreira, José António Costa (2005). "O Poder Local e Regional na Assembleia Constituinte de 1975/76: As Regiões Adminsitrativas" (in Portuguese). Porto, Portugal: Faculdade de Letras, Universidade do Porto: 20–27. hdl:10216/19439.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 1 2 3 Gabinete do Ministro Adjunto e dos Assuntos Parlamentares, ed. (2011). "Documento Verde da Reforma da Administração Local" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: Governo da República. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 24, 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  4. Data of the Official Administrative Charter of Portugal, 2011
  5. 1 2 "Governo e 'troika' acordam reduzir número de câmaras e freguesias" (in Portuguese). Lisbon, Portugal: RTP Online. 4 May 2011. Archived from the original on October 2, 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
  6. "Law nr. 11-A/2013" (PDF). Diário da República (in Portuguese). Assembly of the Republic (Portugal) . Retrieved 13 August 2014.