Monsanto, picturesque Templar village

Monsanto, picturesque Templar village

Located close to the Spanish border in the centre of Portugal, Monsanto is generally considered to be the most typical and picturesque of all Portugal’s prized villages.

With its huddle of steep, granite-paved streets and houses hewn out of the rock, the origins of this ancient and altogether extraordinary place date from prehistory when it was linked with pagan rituals.

With an imposing Templar castle, built in the 12th century and rising more than 750 meters above sea level, the historical village of Monsanto is a stunning “sea of granite”. Besides the walled enclosure of this medieval fortress, there are numerous chapels, noble manors, and houses that use this type of rock.

In 1165, Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, handed it over to Gualdim Pais, master of the Knights Templar, who built the village’s impregnable castle.

Visible from miles around, Monsanto’s formidable stone fortress has been significantly strengthened and embellished over the years, first by King Sancho I who drove the Moors out of the area in the 12th century and later by King Dinis.

Just below the castle stands the relic of the chapel of São Miguel, a roofless Romanesque church which dates back to the 13th century.

Gualdim Pais (the 6th Grand Master of the Order in Portugal and the founder of cities such as Pombal and Tomar, and castles such as Almourol and Idanha-a-Nova) was responsible for the construction of the Castle of Monsanto – a work that would become requalified by King Sancho I a few decades later.