I think that for many tourists to Portugal Crato in the Alentejo will not be on their list of ‘places to visit’, but that would be a pity. This little town, once a walled fortress, has an extraordinary history. The town is changing and being modernised but also preserved – one senses a tremendous civic pride in these small Portuguese towns, and of course they are spotlessly clean.
A brief history
In the 13th century vast areas of the Alentejo were granted to the Knights Hospitaller (originally the Order of St John of Jerusalem, later The Order of Malta) by King Sancho and in c.1340 Crato became the headquarters of the order in Portugal, led by a Prior of Crato.
The Order also built the nearby Monastery/Castle of Flor da Rosa in the 15th century. In 1662 the town was sacked and burned by the Spanish and it never regained its importance. Even today there is no love lost between the Portuguese and the Spanish.
Square of the Arches
The Main Street used to run through this square but it has now been closed to traffic, creating a most attractive open space which will continue to improve as the trees and plants mature.
The Museum in Crato
The Museum is in a Baroque palace in the centre of the old town, round the corner from the Square of the Arches.
Prehistoric and Roman artefacts
The museum has an extraordinary and surprising display of items and they all tempt you to explore further. So, it serves its purpose and is also delightful. The lesson here is that you should never underestimate these institutions in small provincial towns in Portugal – always go in. I have never been disappointed and am usually astounded at the quality of what I find.
Every museum has religious artefacts of one kind or another and I found this piece very beautiful.
Exhibition of Ethiopian art
Why would a small Portuguese museum, not far from the Spanish border, put on this display? Never mind the reason, it was fascinating.
Views in Crato
Wandering around the town is enjoyable and affords many delightful sights and views. We started with the storks!
Crato was a walled town and a narrow street leads up to the cast from the stork tenement block.
And finally, on all good outings you need to sit down in a busy local cafe before moving on. Crato in the Alentejo offered just the right thing hear the city gate.
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