Early afternoon in Campo Maior felt like being in a remote and lonely part of Portugal, near the Spanish border, yet we were only two hours away from Lisbon Airport! It was raining again as we left Campo Maior but along the road to Arronches the sun broke through the clouds.
The town was held by the Moors from 711-1166 and only finally taken by the Portuguese in 1242. The name, Arronches, is apparently derived from Aroches, in Huelva, Spain. In 1310 the Castle was renovated by King Dinis with further fortifications in the 17C, similar to other border castles. The walls and outline of the fortifications have been absorbed into today’s town but can be identified on Google Earth by the triangular and curved streets. (This is another instance where the history of the town is unclear, but as a border town it was obviously fought over for several hundred years.)
Today the 15C Alegrete Tower of the Castle stands at the main entrance to the town but it was firmly locked on our visit.
The Convent of Our Lady of Light is 16C. José Saramago talks of ‘…the Renaissance Porch [below], the beautiful chapterhouse, with its stucco figures and its cloister, tranquil and well shaded from the suffocating heat from the beating sun…’. I would have loved to see inside the building…
The Church of Our Lady of Assumption was first built in 1236, and then rebuilt in the 16C, with continuing changes and additions.
José Saramago tells me that Arronches is ‘…a town ringed by five bridges…and with waters gushing through the river [the Caia River] and Arronches itself…’. We didn’t see these things – our visit was too brief – and the town is added to the ‘must-return at leisure’ list. After a brisk walk in this chilly and very quiet hilltop town we set off for Monforte.
The very helpful Tourist Office in Monforte introduced us to the new publication of walks in Portugal – a wonderful discovery! And the beautifully printed book was free. We walked round the walls of the castle (started in 1309 by King Dinis), peered into another ossuary, and then set off on the final drive of the day. This is another area which would repay a return visit: there is a Roman Bridge and Villa nearby and numerous prehistoric remains, as well as buildings of interest in the town.
The Mediaeval walls run through the town and buildings – it would be fun to trace the route more thoroughly!
The sun shone as we passed through Cabeço de Vide (a thermal spa town), but look at the colour of the sky – we arrived at the Pousada in Flor da Rosa in a cloudburst. What a dramatic day!