The village of Monsaraz is comprised within the municipality of Reguengos de Monsaraz.

Is located in the Alentejo region, in the south of Portugal. It’s one of the oldest villages in Portugal and it’s classified as a National Monument. Located at the top of a hill, the white and steep streets are encompassed by medieval ramparts, standing out amidst the vast plains.

The region in which one can currently find Monsaraz has been inhabited since the prehistoric times, something that is underlined by the megalithic vestiges founded there. There are around 150 archeologic findings which have inhabited the region for 6000 years.

Regarding the village itself, it began a fortified castro (or military camp), which was a sort of settlement in which the structures were predominantly circular. The settlement was continuously occupied, first by the Romans, then by the Visigoths, Arabs, Mozarabs and the Jewish. When it was under the Islam’s spell of domination, Monsaraz was called Saris or Sarish.

The Christian Reconquista leaded by Geraldo Geraldes, known as Geraldo Sem-Pavor (Fearless Gerald), stemmed from an expedition in Évora. This is a semi-fabled characters, known as a nobleman who were difficult to deal with, but one with an adventurous spirit. The Arabs (Almohad Caliphate) and then the Castilians occupied the village for a couple of years more until it was retrieved by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, the Saint Constable.

After the proclamation of Independence from the Spanish Crown (in 1640), a new bulwarked boundary was edified and eventual attacks became almost impossible.

The medieval rampart, the oldest one (with about 600 meters), was encompassed in the former’s interior.

When visiting it, we must check the following heritage points:

  • The Castle and the medieval rampart from the 16th century – the Castle’s interior is a bit featureless due to the several changes conducted when it served its role as a bullring during the 19th century;
  • House of the Inquisition – it is believed to have been the shelter of a family member of the Holy Office or a place of temporary stay for the accused who would later be trialed in Évora;
  • Gates: The Gate of the Village e the Gate of Évora (the main ones), of Buraco and of Alcoba;
  • Casa do Juíz de Fora (House of Juiz de Fora) –the house of the village’s governeros and juízes de fora (literally meaning “judges from the outside);
  • Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Lagoa, da Misericórdia e de Santiago (Mother Church of Hour Lady of Lagoa, Misericórdia and Santiago);
  • Capela de S. José (Chapel of Saint Joseph);
  • Pillory –a symbol of the council’s jurisdiction and autonomy;
  • Novos Paços da Audiência (New Town Hall Audience) – the ultimate Town Hall;
  • Antigos Paços da Audiência (Old Town Hall Audience) – it was the most noble and representative civil building of the old Monsarez. Currently it holds Museu do Fresco (Museum of Fresco), in which one has to underline the Fresco do Bom e Mau Juiz, which is found at Sala do Tribunal (Court Room).
  • Cisterna – principal reservatório de água e grande abastecedor da população.

I’ve been in Monsaraz a couple of times already and I do enjoy walking around this plains of Alentejo. The landscape that you have from the valley of the Guadiana River is gorgeous. It’s Alentejo at its best.

To get know Alentejo I recommend you to read this article about its cante.