What does Loulé mean in English?
Updated: Sep 18, 2021
And what’s the story behind the name?
There is some debate about the origins of the name “Loulé”, which could either have come from the Arabic al Ulya, which means “hill”; or from the Portuguese name for Bay (laurel) tree – Loureiro. We like the idea of the second option – and here’s why!
The story goes that the name dates back to the 11th century when the Algarve was still part of the Moorish lands of Al-Faghar. It is said that King Ferdinand I “The Great” of León was travelling through Loulé when he came upon the Moorish castle (which would have looked very different from the castle you see standing here today). As he took in the building, the king saw a tree growing inside the castle walls, and a conversation broke out about what type of tree it was. While some immediately claimed that it was a carob tree, others insisted it was a Poplar, yet more a White Poplar or Oleander, and the rest of the voices chimed in, claiming it was a Laurel.
- “LAURUS É!” (It is a Laurel) exclaimed the monarch, who always had the last word. From then on, the village became known among Christians as “Louroé”, which would later become LOULÉ!*
This story has been generally accepted as being true by the population of Loulé, so much so that it is represented on the town’s coat of arms. What we do know is that King Ferdinand I did, in fact, conquer the site from the Moors for the first time since they had settled in the region – so you never know, it could be a true story!
The Loulé Coat of Arms*
The Loulé coat of arms was officially granted in 1935 and, as you can see in the image, it has several distinctive features:
1. Initially topped with 4 castles, the 5th castle was added when Loulé was granted city status in 1988.
2. The castle in the centre of the coat of arms bears the cross of the Military Order of Saint James of the Sword (São Tiago), which was founded in Castile and sought to take back the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors. This cross can be seen on many southwestern Portugal municipal arms, including Tavira and Via Nova da Cacela.
3. Above the castle is a Bay (laurel) tree with golden fruit (in reference to the legend).
4. And either side of the castle is a Moorish and Christian king…
*Sourced from Sérgio Horta
But why are there Moorish and Christian king heads on the coat of arms?
We’ll let you know in our next blog post!