We enjoyed wonderful walks in the Alentejo with the help of our new book from the Tourist Office – Chão da Velha, Carreiras, Montalvão, and Galegos – and our base during these days was the Pousada Flor da Rosa.
In 1232 King Sancho gave the village of Crato to the Order of Hospitallers (The Knights of St John of Jerusalem) and in 1240 it became the headquarters of the order. The head of the Order was known as the Prior of Crato and it was Prior Dom Álvaro Pereira who built the Monastery of Flor da Rosa in 1356, the ‘mother church’ of the Order. In the 15C the Order was renamed the Order of Malta. Today the site consists of the fortified Chapel, the Castle (with cistern under the lawn), the Renaissance buildings, and the new Hotel. This is one of the most important monuments in Portugal.
The Chapel houses the tomb of the founder, Dom Álvaro Pereira, and is the most important fortified church in Portugal. It is a soaring, dark, cruciform space with no decoration, and it feels peaceful. Stairs lead to an upper floor and views over the countryside and the Cloister.
The Cloister is silent, with a strong reminder that this was the home of the Order of Malta.
There are 15C and 16C statues of the Virgin and Child are on permanent display from the National Museum in a room off the Cloister and while my first reaction was that these were very stiff and wooden presentations I wondered if, with my camera, I could find a more human portrayal. I had no additional light sources or tripod.
This is the most magical of places – if you visit the Alentejo do linger here.