Near the border with Spain the Alentejo is wide, open, and empty. Lush, green grass covers soft hills, and cork oaks and olive trees are everywhere. Surprisingly there are few sheep and cattle – farming here seems very ‘quiet’ and unobtrusive – is this another area where people have moved off the land and into the towns? In April and May it is particularly beautiful – yellow, pink, and white wild flowers everywhere, several varieties of Cistus, and abundant water.
In this remote area Montalvão is a hilltop town above the Sever River – a tributary of the Tagus River and the border with Spain in this area.
The Castle of Montalvão was probably built by order of King Dinis between 1279 and 1325 at a time when the Christians were reclaiming Portugal and a presence was needed to assert this along the border with Spain. The Castle was built by the Order of Christ, one of the religious military orders, which therefore controlled the area. It was quite a simple structure, as can be seen in the photograph below.
The Church of Our Lady of Grace was built at the end of the 13C but all that remains of the original building is the doorway.
We didn’t do the town justice and it joins the ever-lengthening list of ‘must-returns’!