Perched above the surrounding countryside, Monsaraz was founded before the arrival of the Moors in the 8th century, taken over by Gérard sans Peur in 1167 and given to the Templars to thank them for their help. The castle, built in 1310, gives this village the appearance of a ship on a hill. The inner courtyard of the castle now serves as an arena for bullfights; the accessible ramparts offer a breathtaking view of the Alqueva dam and the surrounding olive groves. It’s a panorama not to be missed . Still inhabited by around 70 persons, this lovely village has lost none of its magic. It’s a fabulous step back in time that awaits you: an entirely pedestrian village, you enter Monsaraz through one of the four arched doors. Buses and cars must park outside the fortified enclosure.
Also to visit absolutely:
Igreja Matriz: parish church rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake, which contains an impressive nave and a 14th century marble tomb, carved with 14 saints. Outside, on the church square, a stone pillory surmounted by a sphere is dated from the 18th century.
Museu de Arte Sacra: museum of sacred arts installed in a Gothic building next to the Matriz church, which has a beautiful collection of wooden religious statues from the 14th century and a superb secular fresco representing a good and a bad judge.
During Museu Aberto Festival (in July, in even years), a festive atmosphere seized the whole village for a week, exhibitions, street shows, concerts … punctuate village life.
The feast of Nosso Senhor Jesus dos Passos takes place the second weekend of September, it is an unmissable event in the life of this village. Monsaraz is adorned with thousand of colors, religious fervor mingles with the festive character of the inhabitants; numerous processions and bullfights punctuate this special week.