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Parishes of Portugal


Parishes of Portugal

Category 3rd-level administrative division
Location Portugal
Found in Municipality
Created Middle Ages (Ecclesiastic Parish)
1835 (Civil Paróquia)
1916 (Freguesia)
Number 3,091
Government Junta de Freguesia
Assembleia de Freguesia

Freguesia (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˌfɾɛɣɨˈzi.ɐ]) is the Portuguese term for a secondary local administrative unit in Portugal and some of its former colonies, and a former secondary local administrative unit in Macau, roughly equivalent to an administrative parish.

A freguesia is a subdivision of a município or concelho, the Portuguese synonym term for 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.

Each parish is administered by a junta de freguesia ([ˈʒũtɐ ðɨ ˌfɾɛɣɨˈzi.ɐ]), drawn from a publicly elected four-year-term assembleia de freguesia.

As of 2010, the 308 municipalities were subdivided into 4,261 civil parishes, each one governed by their civil parish board (junta de freguesia) and headed by an executive that includes the president (presidente da junta de freguesia), treasurer and secretary. This number declined to 3,091 administrative parishes as part of the austerity (brought on by the sovereign debt crisis) and administrative reforms of the local government. Prior to the reform, Paulo Júlio, Secretary of State for Local Administration (Secretário de Estado da Administração Local), admitted that until 2012, 1500 civil parishes would be extinguished throughout the country, in order to reduce costs and rationalize management.[1] The proposals, also justified these changes with the Green Book on Local Administrative Reform (Livro Verde da Reforma de Administração Local) suggesting most civil parishes did not meet minimum prerequisites associated with population densities, and that local elected officials would be able to better manage reconfigured parishes.[1] The National Association of Civil Parishes (Associação Nacional de Freguesias – ANAFRE), more pessimistically, indicated that new criteria, established by the national government would result in the elimination of 2504 parishes with the reforms, based on criteria that defined populations in terms of predominantly urban (predominantemente Urbanas – APU), marginally urban (medianamente urbanas – AMU) and predominantly rural (predominantemente rurais – APR), suggesting that approximately 200 fell into a "grey zone".[2]

The parish extinction law passed by the majority in the Legislative Assembly, the PSD and CDS-PP coalition, provides for the restructuring of local government; this involved the extinction/aggregation/fusion of more than a thousand parish councils.[3] The opposition parties voted against this bill, but it is expected that the process of parish reduction of at least one thousand parishes will be completed by early December 2012.[3][4]

Municipalities in Portugal are usually divided into multiple freguesias, but six municipalities are not: Alpiarça, Barrancos, 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: 89.

According to the Portuguese Geographic Institute, there were 4,259 freguesias in Portugal as of 2011.[5]

In Spain a parroquia is similar to a freguesia.


See also

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