I love travelling in Portugal and I have just enjoyed some days spent mainly in the Alentejo. Easyjet took us to Lisbon late in the day and we spent the first night at the Pousada of Palmela, originally a monastery for the Knights of the Order of St James of the Sword.
The village of Palmela dates back to 300BC and was founded by the Romans and then held by the Arabs who built a fortress on the hill above, overlooking the Sado estuary, the Arrabida Mountains and the surrounding countryside. An exhibition in the castle shows remains of the Moorish buildings. In the 12C the site was retaken by the Portuguese and the castle built during successive centuries.
I believe this plaque inside the Church shows the victory over the Moors.
It was the Military order of St James of the Sword (The Military Order of Santiago) which took the site from the Arabs. The Order, which began in Galicia, Spain, was one of the knightly orders engaged in the Crusades and based itself on the teachings of St Augustine, with both military and care (hospital) duties. The Order was already in Portugal in 1172, supporting the King in the fight to free the country, and in return the Order was ‘given’ land and towns, including Alcaçer do Sal, Ayamonte, Brantes, Sines, Garvão, Tavira. In 1418 Prince John (son of João I) was appointed Grand Master of the Order, with the headquarters at Palmela where he built a monastery for the knights (today’s Pousada) and during the 16C control of the Order was permanently by the Royal Family. This Order (and others) were formally dissolved in 1832-34 and properties sold.
The Church of St Maria dates from the 12C and was built alongside the castle tower but destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, and remains in ruins.
The Church of St James (Santiago) was built inside the castle walls in 15C.
Jorge de Lencastre (1481-1550), the illegitimate son of King John II became the Grand Master of the Order of Santiago and the Administrator of the Order of Avis. He is buried in the church. There were other tombs in the Church but I couldn’t read the inscriptions.
You may be interested in
The Order of St James of the Sword
The Cultural Heritage of Portugal
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