Castles in Portugal’s Alentejo -Monsaraz

The Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited for an eye-popping length of time, and this is evident in the area around Monsaraz as seen in the many megalithic sites – antas, circles, standing stones dating from c.5,000 BC or earlier.

Some sites say the hill of Monsaraz was a prehistoric castro but most of these castros seem to be in northern Portugal, so I am unsure about this. The site was occupied by the Romans and the Visigoths, and by the 8C the Muslims held the town, which in 1157/67 was retaken by Geraldo Sem Pavor who gave the town to the Order of Avis. The town changed hands between Portugal and Spain many times thereafter. In the 17C the Portuguese created a Vauban system of fortification for additional protection against the Spanish. Today Monsaraz is a quietly busy tourist venue.

Monsaraz

The views from the car park underneath Monsaraz (only residents drive in) are stunning. Visitors were lingering to enjoy the reservoir, Alqueva, before heading into the town.

The Reservoir of Alqueva

Visitors enjoying the The Reservoir of Alqueva from the Car Park at Monsaraz

The old road into Monsaraz
The old road into Monsaraz

The castle walls enclose the town and at the furthest end from the Town Gate is the walled Keep, with a courtyard which is now an occasional bullring. 

The Keep of the Castle of Monsaraz The courtyard of the Keep in the Castle of Monsaraz

The view over Alqueva Reservoir from the walls of the Castle Keep, Monsaraz

Remains of fortifications, The Castle of Monsaraz A watchtower in a corner of The Castle Keep, Monsaraz

The Castle of Monsaraz

The town is quite small – lines of white houses between the Town Gate and the Castle Keep, with a square in the middle and the Parish Church and Hospital of the Misericordia. And everywhere there are eateries or small shops appropriate to a tourist stop.

Monsaraz

16C Hospital of Misericordia
16C Hospital of Misericordia

Monsaraz, looking towards Reguengos do Monsaraz

The Town Gate, Monsaraz
The Town Gate, Monsaraz
The 17C fortifications of Monsaraz, with the Chapel of Sao Bento
The 17C fortifications of Monsaraz, with the Chapel of Sao Bento

You really need to spend at least a day in Monsaraz and the surrounding area with its many megalithic sites, but we were on a Castle Tour, and so we took to the road again for our final visit, Mourão.

You may be interested in
Monsaraz & here
A visit to Monsaraz
– interesting article
The Romans in the Alentejo
Visiting Monsaraz – lots of useful advice
Monsaraz (lovely photographs)

 

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