Perched on a hilltop that oversees all the surrounding horizons, the village of Monsanto has a unique charm that has earned it two titles in the 20th century – the Most Portuguese Village in Portugal in 1938 and Historical Village in 1995. Monsanto is one of the region's main tourist attractions and oﬀers visitors a unique experience. It was granted charters by King Afonso Henriques, King Sancho I, King Sancho II and King Manuel. The oldest part is also the highest point, where the Knights Templar built a wall with the donjon.
Our history your time
Monsanto situa-se a nordeste das Terras de Idanha, aninhada na encosta de uma elevação escarpada - o cabeço de Monsanto (Mons Sanctus) - que irrompe abruptamente na campina e que, no seu ponto mais elevado, atinge 758 metros. Pelas várias vertentes da encosta e no sopé do monte, existem lugarejos dispersos, atestando a deslocação populacional em direção à planície.
Trata-se de um local muito antigo, onde se regista a presença humana desde o paleolítico. Vestígios arqueológicos dão conta de um castro lusitano e da ocupação romana no denominado campo de S. Lourenço, no sopé do monte. Vestígios da permanência visigótica e árabe foram também encontrados.
D. Afonso Henriques conquista Monsanto aos Mouros e em 1165 faz a sua doação à Ordem dos Templários, que sob as ordens de D. Gualdim Pais, mandou edificar o Castelo. O primeiro Foral foi concedido por este rei em 1174, sucessivamente confirmado por D. Sancho I (1190) e D. Afonso II (1217). A D. Sancho I se deve também a repovoação e reedificação da fortaleza, desmantelada nas lutas contra Leão, novamente reparadas um século depois, pelos Templários. D. Dinis deu-lhe Carta de Feira em 1308, a realizar junto da ermida de S. Pedro de Vir-a-Corça. El-Rei D. Manuel I outorgou-lhe Foral Novo (1510) e deu-lhe a categoria de vila. Em meados do séc. XVII, D. Luís de Haro, ministro de Filipe IV, tenta o cerco a Monsanto, sem sucesso. Mais tarde, no início do século XVIII, o Duque de Berwick cerca também Monsanto, mas o exército português, comandado pelo Marquês de Minas, derrotou o invasor nos contrafortes da escarpada elevação.
Em 1758, Monsanto era sede de concelho, privilégio que manteve até 1853. No século XIX, o imponente Castelo medieval de Monsanto foi parcialmente destruído pela explosão acidental do paiol de munições.
Convida-se para uma visita ao que resta do poderoso Castelo na escarpada encosta onde se pode observar a alcáçova, a cintura de muralhas e torres de vigia, bem como as belíssimas ruínas da Capela de S. Miguel do séc. XII, e a Capela de Santa Maria do Castelo.
A gloriosa resistência aos invasores (romanos ou árabes - não se sabe bem) comemora-se na Festa de Santa Cruz, deitando-se das muralhas do castelo simbólicos cântaros com flores, levando as mulheres ao cimo das torres as tradicionais bonecas de trapos - as marafonas.
A Capela de S. Pedro de Vir-à-Corça ou Ver-a-Corça, Imóvel de Interesse Público, situada na base do monte nos arredores da povoação, entre os lugares de Eugénia e Carroqueiro, é um templo românico construído em granito, datando provavelmente do séc. XIII, em que se destaca uma rosácea. Em seu redor se realizava a feira autorizada por D. Dinis em 1308.
A Estação Arqueológica romana de São Lourenço, Imóvel de Interesse Público, situada na Freguesia de Monsanto, corresponde presumivelmente a uma vila romana que integra um complexo termal. São também conhecidos quatro túmulos romanos em granito. Perto do local das ruínas, vê-se também um troço de pavimento.
What to see
Old Chapel of Senhora do Socorro
Baroque chapel built in 1692 by private initiative. and under private administration. It has a single nave with an axial portal where there is a long inscription related to its institution, over which is a cornice that supports a window with a tapered cut at the top for more light. After a long period of abandonment and lying in ruins, it was rebuilt in the 1940s, with an added storey for habitational use; on the ground floor, a shop was installed. These works profoundly altered the volume and spatial organisation of the temple, but one can still recognise the old typology, as the elegant corners in the form of Tuscan pilasters are retained; inside, only the basin for holy water remains.
The current car park and overlook at the entrance to the village is locally known as the Bulwark square, or Baluarto, in its popular form. This platform does not appear to correspond in fact to a bulwark – a protruding polygonal element designed to defend the flanks of the corners of the fortifications with artillery and which the pieces today would stage –, because their layout in an arch only presents the angular extremities. This solution appears to be inspired on this military architecture, but it lacks the historical veracity that the place name stubbornly looks for. Even so, it may be a reminder of a firing platform used in a late episode of the Peninsular Wars (20th century).
Chapel of S. João
In this rocky, flat corner of the east side of the castle, we find the ruins of the Chapel of S. João. Little or nothing is know of it. Remnants of 16th-century ceramic tiles found in its ruins indicate that it would have existed in that era and that in the mid-18th century it would have supposedly still been open for worship, as it is included on a list of the religious buildings of Monsanto. The remains of the walls reveal a small temple made up of a nave and main chapel, with a single axial door; the triumphal arch is a recent reconstruction, poorly done and out of proportion. Today, it serves as a magnificent outlook for viewing the landscape of the area of Castelo Branco and its surroundings, or for simply getting a feeling for the space.
Chapel of Santa Maria do Castelo
A simple building, dating from the 18th century, made up of a nave and main chapel, with distinct roofs. The main facade is set off by corners in the form of pilasters, finished off by a gable with a Latin cross at the peak; it has a doorway with a depressed arch and on the right side there is a small barred window. Inside, the semi-circular triumphal arch is flanked by an interesting polychrome image on the side of the Epistle, although it is a recent addition. After a long period of lying in ruins, it was recently restored to its supposed original form. Nearby, a straight wall that is accessed by two ramps was part of a battery for four cannons, integrated in an inner protected area inside the main gate, built in the early 19th century.
St. Anthony’s Chapel
This Manueline-style chapel has a portal with four archivolts The chancel boasts a gothic-style dome. The artwork on the façade is worth noting. It has a Manueline portal with an arch with four archivolts with two shafts topped by fleurs-de-lis on either side. There is a bell tower above the cornice. There is a simple portal in the north side façade. The cemetery beside the chapel dates back to 1836.
Chapel of São Miguel
The chapel today is isolated in the northeast area of the castle, and Monsanto’s Medieval settlement grew up around it. The floor plan of the temple has a single nave and chancel. The facade has a doorway with a semi-circular arch. The sparse decoration is only lively in the zoomorphism of the imposts and otherwise only in the modillions, whilst remains of painted mortar hint at supressed ornamentation. The bell tower was built on an overlooking rocky outcropping. It construction dates from the late 12th or early 13th centuries. Older findings, however, point to a previous temple. Its good present-day appearance results from restoration works in the mid-20th century: a simple building divested of archaic architecture, justified by its outlying border location, which was not totally pacified at the time.
Casas da Villa
The Casas da Villa (Houses of the Town) result from a passion for Monsanto, considered to be the most Portuguese village in Portugal; they are also the consequence of their owner’s strong connection to the land. But what makes the Casas da Villa such a special tourism venture is the fact that it was designed to respect its origins, to be at the service of Monsanto, the village and its people. Each one of the Casas da Villa houses is the fruit of a meticulous restoration process, which carefully maintained its original traits – in homage to the region and its history -, to which we added modern comforts to provide a unique and genuine experience. Some of the original stone walls have been protected by “windows”, giving our guests a feel of the essence of the houses without forgoing the contemporary amenities expected these days. The location of the houses, in the heart of Monsanto, provides a unique experience and a splendid horizon that you will not forget! From the terraces of the Casas da Villa, visitors can also enjoy the splendid horizon that surrounds them, in an atmosphere of calm and liberty.
What to do
TRY PORTUGAL – Adventure, Nature & Culture
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Portugal A2Z Walking & Biking
Powered since 2006 by your passion for travel, Portugal A2Z Walking & Biking was created to offer you authentic experiences and unforgettable memories in the most exclusive places in Portugal, taking you to the most historic places and wild landscapes. The perfect example of this is our holidays in the Historical Villages. Each one more surprising than the one before, prepare to cross mesmerizing landscapes, going through some of the most impressive Portuguese natural regions like the Côa Valley, with their cave paintings, the Estrela Mountain Range, with the highest peak in continental Portugal, or Faia Brava, the first private conservation area in Portugal. And at the end of each day, explore another village, each with a different story to discover, between castles and walls, between taverns and gourmet restaurants, between centuries-old traditions and the latest inspirations. Dare yourself to wear the shoes of the great conquerors who fought for the oldest European border while restoring your body and mind with pure air and breathtaking views.