Quinta da Regaleira and Carvalho Monteiro, Portugal

Quinta da Regaleira and Carvalho Monteiro, Portugal

Upon arriving at Quinta da Regaleira, in Sintra, Portugal, it is natural to want to know its history, learn about the sculptures and paintings, and interpret them.

We want to know the ideals represent there, the mysteries behind the artworks, the particularities of its architecture, and much other information.

With Quinta da Regaleira, our instinct will not behave differently.

However, in addition to that information being of the most extreme importance, they are not enough to know the monument.

In this case, it is essential to know the life history of its original owner: António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro.

For practical reasons, I will now refer to António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro as Carvalho Monteiro or simply CM, as he often had himself recorded at Quinta da Regaleira.

To situate ourselves a little in the historical context in which Carvalho Monteiro lived and in which Quinta da Regaleira was built, I list some relevant dates below:

1848, 27’Nov – Carvalho Monteiro was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1859 – Carvalho Monteiro travels from Brazil to Portugal
1871 – Carvalho Monteiro graduated in Law and left incomplete his degree in Philosophy
1879 – Luigi Manini comes to Portugal
1893, 11’Dec – CM buys Quinta da Regaleira for 25 “contos de réis”, the currency at the time.
1898 – CM commission the project to Luigi Manini
1900 – Beginning of the construction of the palace, chapel, and garden
1905 – Beginning of the construction of the palace gardens
1908, 1’Feb – King D. Carlos I was assassinated in Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon
1910, 5’Oct – The shift from the monarchy regime to a republic
1912 – End of palace works, chapel, and garden
1913, ‘Oct – CM is arrested, implicated in the monarchic attempt of 1913 against the republican Afonso Costa. CM was later released
1913, 25’Dec – Death of Perpetua Augusta Pereira de Melo, Carvalho Monteiro’s wife
1918 – End of the garden’s floral decorations
1920, 25’Oct – Carvalho Monteiro dies at Quinta da Regaleira
1949 – Waldemar Jara d’Orey buys Quinta da Regaleira
1988, 12’Jan – Sale in favor of Aoki Corporation
1997 – Sintra City Council buys Quinta da Regaleira from the Japanese group Aoki Corporation
1998 – Opening of Quinta da Regaleira to the public

I take the opportunity to mention that Carvalho Monteiro’s fortune was inherited from his father. The latter traded precious stones, in addition to other ventures.

To understand the work that was carried out in Quinta da Regaleira, it is necessary to bear in mind that Carvalho Monteiro, during his university time in Coimbra, had very close friends as Hintze Ribeiro, Bernardino Machado, Guerra Junqueiro, and others great figures of the time.

As this text will be available in English and is intended to be consulted mostly by non-Portuguese, I suggest researching the names mentioned above.

With such friends, we can only infer that Carvalho Monteiro was a great cultural man, to say the least.

And also, as a man of the 18th century, he was very knowledgeable about esoteric subjects, in addition to a very high level of general culture, as we would say today. Some records say that he would speak Latin as if he spoke Portuguese and his collection of books by Camões was unique.

A fervent Catholic, he was also a convinced monarchist and a personal friend of King D. Carlos.

This explains that, when D. Carlos was assassinated in 1908, 1’Feb, Carvalho Monteiro covered the palace with black and purple crepes for several days as a sign of respect.

The studies on Carvalho Monteiro point him out as a reserved person, with exquisite tastes but not to flaunt them but to enjoy them with family or friends.

However, during the times after the Implantation of the Republic, as CM was a personal friend of the king and being very wealthy, he was the target of a shameful campaign to discredit him. The campaign had its success at the moment, but it doesn’t seem to have stood the test of time.

For those who wanted to discredit CM, he was shown as being miserly. However, for those who knew him closely, he was known as a very generous man, but cautious in spending, humble in his human dealings but firm in his intentions.

He was one of the founding members of the Lisbon Zoo, he was an anonymous patron of people and social works such as Misericórdia de Sintra, the artistic house of the Royal Theater of São Carlos … and more.
There are many references to Carvalho Monteiro being related to Freemasonry. However, this subject divides several authors.

Many authors defend the thesis of CM’s involvement with Freemasonry, and they interpret many signs in Quinta da Regaleira under that concept. However, some proof that there is no evidence whatsoever of that involvement.

The great culture, religiosity, and adherence to the monarchical cause attributed to Carvalho Monteiro are spread throughout Quinta da Regaleira.

Quinta da Regaleira, the palace and gardens that seem to have emerged from a fairy tale, was imagined by its owner who found in Luigi Manini the perfect companion for its execution.

What CM said, Luigi Manini took notes and executed.

Throughout Quinta da Regaleira we will find traces of the personality of Carvalho Monteiro, and we will only understand the raison d’être of each element, considering the personality of its original owner, combined with the mastery of its builder.

I hope this brief text has aroused your curiosity to visit Quinta da Regaleira. I hope I can serve as a guide for this monument in the gallery of my favorites.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

The origin of the Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

The origin of the Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

The Order of Císter’s origin

To understand why the Monastery of Alcobaça was built on the place where we can find it, we have to go back to the beginning of the Order of Saint Benedict, which I will do in a too-brief way.

The Order of Saint Benedict was born in the year 529 AD, in the Abbey of Montecassino, in Italy.

As a motto, these monks who wore black were guided by “Ora et Labora” which means to pray and work.

It is the oldest Order of Catholic enclosed religious orders.

This Order, at the time it was created, gained many followers and supporters with respective donations.

His original ideals, which pointed to a life of simple existence based on his work’s fruits and spiritual modesty, have changed with time and many donations.

A few centuries later, Benedictine monks lived in abundance, wielding great power far beyond their geographical sphere rightful influence. 

In the 10th century, almost five centuries after the Order had started, Europe experienced chaotic times, with great promiscuity between ecclesiastical power and feudal power. 

This distance from the original order principles began to create protests within a group of monks, which some feudal lords shared.

In 910 AD, Guilherme The Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, donated some land to build a Benedictine monastery that would depend solely on Rome’s power. In this monastery, the dissident monks could create an order that would return to the Benedictines’ original purity.

Bernão, Abbot of Baume, came to direct this new Order known as Order of Cluny.

The Order of Cluny came to be one of the most powerful religious orders of the Middle Ages.

Counting on many donations guaranteed its independence, and the Order ended up having many other Benedictine monasteries under their direction.

But that independence and success resulted in a significant enrichment of the Order and an irremediable distance from their guiding principles.

It is for this fundamental reason that, in 1098, the Order of Císter was born.

A limited group of monks, headed by Roberto de Champagne, abbot of Molesme, founded the Order of Cistercian at Cîteaux Abbey, not far from Burgundy.

The Benedictine monks of this movement distinguish themselves from the rest of Benedictians by:

– wearing a white habit,

– returning to a way of life away from luxuries,

– and living off the fruits of their work in the field and prayer.

This movement quickly gained sponsors among many feudal lords, and, in the 12th century, it found a fertile ground to prosper in the embryonic Portuguese nation.

For Portugal, like other European kingdoms, Cistercians would be responsible for two significant contributions:

        • the introduction of the Gothic style, even though at that time it was still very incipient;
        • the introduction of new agronomic concepts, since their farms were perhaps the most critical sources of dissemination of agricultural practices and culture.

Order of Cistercians in Portugal

In 1139 D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, granted a license to build a Monastery of the Order of Cistercians in Portugal to João Círita, who would later be Master of that monastery, the Monastery of São João Baptista of Tarouca .

In the process of conquering Santarém, which ended in 1147, D. Afonso Henriques sent D. Pedro Afonso, to France to request Bernardo de Claraval to intervene in Rome in favor of Afonso Henriques to obtain the Portuguese crown.

Bernardo of Claraval, a Cistercian, was a very important figurehead at the time.

Studies are giving Bernardo de Claraval’s intervention in Rome as fundamental to Portugal’s independence. There are historical doubts whether D. Pedro Afonso would be half brother of D. Afonso Henriques or his bastard son.

In the course of the visit, as mentioned earlier to Claraval, it was decided to donate the lands to the Order of Císter, where nowadays the Monastery of Alcobaça is located.

The subsequent conquering of Santarém contributed to making it possible to build the Abbey in Alcobaça, a village located 60 km northwest of Santarém.

D. Afonso Henriques conquered Portugal from the Moors from north to south, for those who do not know.

Therefore, it is natural that, after conquering Santarém, D. Afonso Henriques continued to move further south to conquer more territories. Consequently, the monks’ intervention in the conquered lands of Alcobaça was essential.

Construction of the Alcobaça Monastery

The donation of land to the Order dates back to 1147, shortly after the conquest of Santarém.

In 1152 the construction of the provisional church began. In 1153, D. Afonso Henriques signed the Letter, formalizing land assignment to the Cistercian Order.

Only in 1178, the current building began to be built. The date of 1222 is accepted as the end of its construction.

Comparing the Alcobaça Monastery with the Claraval Abbey, we can see that the Portuguese monument is a daughter of the french one, so many are similarities between them.

I hope that this first text about the Monastery of Alcobaça has opened the “appetite” for a visit to this magnificent monument.

Carpe diem

David Monteiro

Monsaraz, a medieval village, Portugal

Monsaraz, a medieval village, Portugal

When we approach Monsaraz, we can’t avoid noticing the extensive vineyards, interrupted by a massive elevation where at the top you can find a castle with a medieval town inside.

The village is much older than the country. Since prehistoric times, there are records of its existence, passing through the Roman occupation, the Visigothic kingdoms, the Moorish occupation until present times.

Monsaraz was conquered from the Moors, for the first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, in 1167 by Geraldo Geraldes. Later, it was reconquered by the Moors and then was definitively conquered by the Portuguese in 1232, during the reign of Dom Afonso II.

Even today, when walking on the streets of Monsaraz, we can feel the medieval environment. The village’s look shouldn’t be very different from five hundred years ago if we do not consider the sanitary and electrification infrastructures.

The village is surrounded by the castle walls, and, in 1946, the whole set was declared to be a National Monument.

View from Monsaraz castle
View from Monsaraz castle

From the castle walls, we can appreciate the immensity of the Alqueva Dam, inaugurated in 2004. This dam covers ​​250 km2 when its maximum capacity is reached, making it the largest artificial lake in Western Europe.

Monsaraz only more recently gained greater tourist projection when, in 2017, it won the contest “7 Wonders of Portugal” in the category of villages.

The most frequent building materials used are shale, which sets the walls structure, and lime, which gives the village its white and prestigious look.

Monsaraz deserves the visit without a doubt. Although I also suggest you get some distance from the village to better see it framed in the landscape.

As in the whole of Alentejo, the gastronomy here is also a delight for visitors. Tasting a lamb stew or “migas” is undoubtedly a good lunch option.

Have a good time.

David Monteiro

Marvão, at the top of a mountain, Portugal

Marvão, at the top of a mountain, Portugal

Marvão is visible from many kilometers away.

When we approach Marvão, what we first see is an immense quartzite monolith with a walled village on top.

The Marvão’s castle has walls along the crest of the mountain and within the walls we find the village.

At the base of the mountain we can find a village called Portagem, where around 30.000 Jews, in between 1492 and 1496, crossed the border to Portugal, fleeing Spanish persecution. 

They waited for their turn to enter Portugal, where they could then live in peace.

The name of the place, Portagem, means toll and what they had to do to cross the border, a common procedure at the time.

Although later they were also persecuted in Portugal, many were able to integrate into the society or even get a ship to other places.

Anyway, about the Jewish heritage I will write an article in the near future.

The road that takes us from the base to the top of the mountain, winds through the slope, until, necessarily, we stop in front of the castle wall where there is an entrance to the village.

Looking at the open entrance through the wall, we see that it is not aligned with another inside entrance. The reasons are obvious, and had military defense purposes, making it more difficult for invaders to enter.

This vision takes me immediately to Hollywood movie images, with castle attacks, swords, arrows and boiling oil.

When passing the walls, all we see are very well maintained old buildings.

The most recent buildings do respect old architectural lines and you can feel a pleasing harmony throughout the village.

The street floor is cobbled and, in the center of the streets, wider and almost smooth stones identify where the sewer infrastructures pass. They are very well framed in the context.

In Marvão we can also talk about points of interest but the whole village is a BIG point of interest.

Still, I suggest a visit to the castle from where you will have an extraordinary view.

As in Castelo de Vide, also in Marvão we find houses with arched warhead doors, characteristics of the Jewish families’ houses. Photographing these houses is almost mandatory.

Above all, the environment you can experiment in Marvão will be, probably, your strongest memory.

In Marvão we have the feeling of living in very distant times. It seems that the village was embalmed in medieval times and preserved to this day.

Wikipedia has a very interesting article about Marvão I suggest reading. You can access it here.

I already tried several accommodations in Marvão and what I can say is that they seemed right in terms of quality / price. In other words, choosing a more expensive accommodation and you will have more quality and a cheaper one will be simpler.

It seems silly to say that but it is not as logical as it may seem and that is why I mention it. This relationship is not always like that in many places, but perhaps because Marvão is a small village, the quality / price relation is transversal in the various accommodations.

Be sure to try the excellent Alentejo cuisine that is very well represented here.

Please do not leave Marvão without tasting: Migas com Magusto de Carnea, Sopa de Tomate à moda antiga, Açorda à Alentejana ou uma Sericaia com Castanha. I know the names are in Portuguese but there is no point in translating the names, it is preferable that you taste the dishes.

From Marvão we can start an excellent walk to Castelo de Vide, or start the walk at Castelo de Vide and end it here. To find out more about the walk, I ask you to go here.

Well, I hope to have the pleasure to guide in this town in the near future.

Take care,

David Monteiro

Castelo de Vide, Portugal, why visit?

Castelo de Vide, Portugal, why visit?

Castelo de Vide lacks no reasons to be visited. However, not being a highly promoted tourist destination, it is natural that anyone who is not from this country has never heard of this village.

This article is divided into three parts: 

    • the list of points of interest in Castelo de Vide as you can find at the local Tourist Office,
    • my personal reasons for liking this village so much,
    • and what you can find near this village that, for reasons of proximity, it adds to the reasons for visiting this village.

Castelo de Vide is a village located in the Alentejo region, belonging to the District of Portalegre.

It is located approximately 2h and 30m drive from Lisbon in a northeasterly direction, very close to the Spanish border.

When in this village, just look around and you will see that everything is green and there is often some humidity in the air, although the temperatures are very high in summer and very low in winter. This green and humid environment were the arguments in which King D. Pedro V based for having called this village the “the Sintra of Alentejo” for both villages to share the same kind of weather.

Points of interest of Castelo de Vide

    1. Castelo – is a medieval castle, in a relative state of conservation whose walls surround the old village medieval houses.
    2. Synagogue and Jewry – With the expulsion of Jews from neighboring Spain, a great number of families came to settle in Portugal, mainly along the border. Therefore, the Jewish heritage in these border towns is very deep. This synagogue, also medieval, maintained its existence from the period of persecution of Jews in Portugal, during the XVI century, until today. Currently, it is a very interesting small museum.
    3. Arched warhead doors – many above mentioned the Jewish houses have an arched warhead, characteristic of the Jewish houses of that time.
    4. Fonte da Vila – Beautiful fountain in the center of the old town.
    5. Churches, fountains, gardens, viewpoints … other numerous points of interest.
    6. The food … oohhhh the food: sarapatel, molhinhos em tomatada, fígado à moda de Castelo de Vide, alhada de cação, migas com entrecosto, pézinhos de coentrada and boleima … I know, the names are in Portuguese … you will need to taste those dishes at Castelo de Vide.

What I consider most interesting

Despite the great interest that the above-mentioned points have, there is something different that attracts me to this village and which I will try to explain.

Fortunately, in Portugal, we can find several medieval villages excellently preserved. This is the case, for example, of Óbidos and Monsaraz.

But, the cases of these well-maintained villages, although very interesting, being there we realize that there are few real residents. Most of their homes are now allocated to Local Accommodation (B&B).

Not that I have something against such a situation. On the opposite, I use those B&B for my business.

However, that does not happen here, or not yet at least. The old part of the village is mostly occupied by locals and this gives it a genuine and familiar atmosphere.

On the other hand, in the villages that do not have so many local inhabitants, it is possible to carry out more conservation works or to impose on the entrepreneurs of the referred local accommodations more improvements in each of their properties.

The result is visible. Any of these villages, like Óbidos and Monsaraz, look like living museums.

In the case of Castelo de Vide, having an older population, it is not possible for property owners to carry out so many maintenance works. The result is a more original village, more effectively lived and, for me, more interesting.

Also, writing about the points I find most interesting in Castelo de Vide, I need to include the walk from this village to Marvão. About this walk, you can find more information here.

But I believe that the attractions of Castelo de Vide are not only in the town itself but in the fact that it is close to other points of interest:

    • Marvão – you can read about this village access to the specific post here.
    • Portagem – In English “Portagem” means toll. During medieval times, if you wanted to cross the border from Spain to Portugal you had to pay a toll, and that what this place is all about. This location is of the greatest interest to anyone interested in the Jewish heritage in Portugal, as it was here, between 1492 and 1496, that many Jewish people (maybe around 30.000)  waited for the moment to be able to enter Portugal safe from Spanish persecution. Although we know that later the Jews were also persecuted in Portugal – I will write about it in a different article – they first found refuge in this country.
    • Amaia – ruins of an ancient Roman city, possibly from the 1st century BC and which disappeared between the 5th and 9th centuries.

Maybe one day I will be able to guide you in Castelo de Vide … who knows.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Historical Villages (Aldeias Históricas) Portugal

Historical Villages (Aldeias Históricas) Portugal

When we talk about Historical Villages (Aldeias Históricas, in Portuguese), we refer to a specific set of twelve locations forming a route with the same name. Those locations are:

    • Almeida
    • Castelo Mendo
    • Castelo Novo
    • Castelo Rodrigo
    • Idanha-a-Velha
    • Linhares da Beira
    • Marialva
    • Monsanto
    • Piodão
    • Sortelha
    • Belmonte
    • Trancoso

Please check the map to locate each location here.

For any Portuguese who knows his/her country, the first situation that stands out is the fact that some of these locations are not villages, with five towns and a city among the twelve alleged “villages”.

However, I believe that the discrepancy between the designation “Villages” and the administrative status of the places in no way detracts from the route’s concept or its objectives.

In order to guide this text, I will answer two questions I consider essential to start making some sense to the Historical Villages concept and attractiveness.

What are the Historical Villages

In 1991, the Portuguese government formulated a project called “Program of Historical Villages of Portugal” which aimed to combat the desertification effect felt in the interior of the country, more specifically in the Beira Baixa region.

This desertification process, as it is known, had very harmful effects on the physical and social structures of these areas.

Therefore, it was necessary to find a strategy for the recovery, preservation, and promotion of the referred Beira Baixa region, based on values ​such as History, Culture, and Heritage.

In this sense, the aforementioned Program was created, including the locations at the time thought to be key to the objectives and to concentrate efforts to achieve better results.

Naturally, many actions have been developed over time, resulting in the integration of new partners, the departure of some, and the consolidation or disregard of places previously included in the list.

Why are Historical Villages interesting, or, otherwise, what can make a tourist go visit the Historical Villages?

With the exponential increase in tourist activity in well-known places, whether in urban or natural contexts, there is also an interest increase for less accessible places to mass tourism.

Places such as Lisbon, Porto, Peneda-Gerês National Park, Algarve, Douro Valley, Aveiro, Coimbra, Sintra, and some others, are currently suffering from great tourist pressure.

All the above-mentioned places are very interesting, I promote visits and I lead visits to all these places. However, it is a fact that they have great tourist pressure and for that, I can mention an interesting fact: of the many and interesting monuments in Portugal, the three most visited monuments are included in the list of places mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Among the localities mentioned above, I will say that some areas of the Douro Valley and the Peneda-Gerês National Park, still do not suffer from over-visitation but they are moving in that direction.

On the other hand, there are other places of great tourist interest but, because they are not known, they are less visited as is the case with Historical Villages.

In the Historical Villages, the historical, cultural, and social heritage the tourist can enjoy with great quality is immense.

Of course, you will also find very interesting and unusual accommodation, such as Casas do Côro. These visits will not lack the region’s own cuisine and high-quality wines.

Interesting places + few visitors + high quality accommodation and meals = excellent experiences.

In the slideshow below, you can find a photo of each place included in the Historical Villages route and I look forward to having you on one of my tours.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

Almeida
Historical Villages - Portugal
Castelo Mendo
Historical Villages - Portugal
Castelo Novo
Historical Villages - Portugal
Castelo Rodrigo
Historical Villages - Portugal
Idanha-a-Velha
Historical Villages - Portugal
Linhares da Beira
Historical Villages - Portugal
Marialva
Historical Villages - Portugal
Monsanto
Historical Villages - Portugal
Piodão
Historical Villages - Portugal
Sortelha
Historical Villages - Portugal
Belmonte
Historical Villages - Portugal
Trancoso
Historical Villages - Portugal
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Jeronimos Monastery – some questions, Lisbon, Portugal

Jeronimos Monastery - some questions, Lisbon, Portugal

When we visit the Belém area, in Lisbon, Portugal, we see a set of monuments dominating the landscape, the Jeronimos Monastery is one of those monuments.

Among the many important dates for this monument, I would like to highlight two that seem fundamental to me:

    • January 6, 1502 – The first stone is laid for the construction of this magnificent monument.
    • Late 16th century – By this time, the construction of the Jeronimos Monastery will have ended, despite subsequent improvements or occasional interventions.

Considering these dates, I believe it will be interesting to think about some questions that help us start understanding this monastery.

These are the questions/subjects I will try to answer here.

    1. What was in this place before the Jeronimos Monastery was built?
    2. Why was the monastery built?
    3. Who were the main supporters of the construction?
    4. Some interesting dates from the construction of the monument to the present.

So, let’s go to the questions and answers.

What was in this place before the monastery was built?

Prior to the construction of the Jeronimos Monastery, in the area between what is now known as Belém and the mouth of the Ninha River, which we now know as the Jamor River, it was a wide estuary area that, being sheltered from the north winds, was suitable for anchoring.

Thus, it served as a point on the Tagus where boats, which entered or left, could wait for the most favorable conditions.

Here there was a village with the name Restelo, which was inhabited by free Moors or Moorish slaves and also by negros of the most diverse conditions.

The village must, in everything, looked like a Muslim site.

There were two streams that no longer exist today: the Pocinhos stream and the Gafos stream. These streams possibly supplied the population and vessels with freshwater.

From this anchorage, the vessels left for the Conquest of Ceuta, on 25th July 1415.

Having registered a great activity linked to the river here after the referred date, due to the great increase in nautical activity promoted by Infante D. Henrique, the village grew in number of inhabitants and vessels served.

Keeping in mind the great importance that religious life had for the people of that time, in this area, with a growing number of people, there was no cemetery or church.

Therefore, in view of this need, Infante D. Henrique, or Henry the Navigator as most of the world knows him, ordered a church dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém to be built and that church to be incorporated into the Military Order of Christ.

It is worth mentioning here that Infante D. Henrique was the General Administrator of the Order of Christ from 1420.

Nowadays there are no remains from this church, except an image of a saint who was sent to another location.

Events in this church that should be highlighted:

    • Vasco da Gama wakes here the night before he left for India on the 8th July 1497;
    • In this church Pedro Álvares Cabral attended Mass before leaving on the trip that took him to discover Brazil on March 8th, 1500.

Why was the monastery built?

There is no lack of theories about the reasons that led to the construction of this monument and the reasons that I explain here are within this controversy.

Manuel I, the Portuguese king who reigned between October 1495 and December 1521, was the nephew of Infante D. Henrique (Henry the Navigator) and Master of the Order of Christ.

Thus, when D. Manuel transferred the collective from the Church of Santa Maria de Belém, that was in possession of the Order of Christ to another location, he compensated them in due proportion.

At the site of the former church, a monastery was to be built, which he will hand over to the Jeronimos monks, considering his great devotion to São Jerónimo and because at that time, this religious order was highly dynamic and was more adjusted to the needs of the time.

The grandiosity of the monument, however, is related to the divine thanks for the success of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India.

Who were the main supporters of the construction?

The answer is simple, it was D. Manuel I.

However, D. Manuel died in 1521 and, as previously mentioned, the construction of the monastery occupied almost the entire 16th century.

For this reason, D. João III, succeeding D. Manuel I, inherited this task that he continued, but with less stamina since his great project was the magnificent Convento de Cristo in Tomar, a monument about which I will write in another post.

Even so, the works continued with D. João III who died in 1557, passing the task to D. Sebastião, his grandson and successor.

It is during D. Sebastião reign, and later, that the monument suffers from the same problems as the rest of the nation. All of these problems had an origin: lack of continuity of succession.

After the death of D. João III, in 1557, there was a period of two different regencies until D. Sebastião, in 1568, already reaching the age of majority, could reign.

Sebastião’s reign ended in 1578, with his disappearance in Alcácer Quibir and from that time until the end of the century, Portugal had three more rulers, including two Spanish kings.

This to explain the little importance that the monument had during the referred governments.

But, returning to the question, despite the remaining listed rulers, during the period of construction of the monastery, D. Manuel I was the greatest supporter of this monastery’s construction.

Some interesting facts from the end of the construction of the monastery to the present.

1755 – During the Great Earthquake the building resisted quite well. However, in the following year, there was a new, milder earthquake that caused some damage, among which, one of the columns of the church fell causing the fall of part of the dome.

1675 – A valuable tabernacle was added to the collection, following the fulfillment of a promise made by D. Afonso IV, for his success in the Battle of Montes Claros.

Between the end of the 17th century and the mid-18th century, the mausoleums of several important personalities were placed in the monastery church.

1834 – With the extinction of religious orders, it was the coup de grace that opened the wound for definitive bleeding. During the following decades, the monastery was stripped of its goods, leaving only the magnificent walls and, even so, no longer serving the original purpose.

1907 – Classified as a National Monument.

1983 – It is one of the sites of the XVII European Exhibition of Art, Science and Culture with the exhibition “Portuguese navigations and their consequences”

1983 – Inscription at UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Today, the Jeronimos Monastery is one of the most visited monuments in Portugal.

With this text I hope to have answered some questions about the Jeronimos Monastery.

However, there is so much to say about this monument that I barely scratched the surface and I will return to this subject in a near future.

Carpe diem

David Monteiro

The top 3 most visited monuments in Portugal

The top 3 most visited monuments in Portugal

The top 3 most visited monuments in Portugal, for 2018 are:

I don’t know any other Portuguese monument that exceeded 600,000 visits in 2018, which shows us that the three most visited monuments are, without a doubt, away more popular than the rest.

But, I’m not saying there are no other amazing monuments, equally or more spectacular than these three, also considering that the spectacularity of a monument has, above all, to do with the individual interest of those who visit it.

So, when planning your visit to Portugal, you will surely visit the monuments you are most curious about.

Due to the popularity of the above mentioned monuments, I will give them priority in the production of these texts, but not necessarily in the order presented here.

As for my personal preference, I would like to share it here. However, I’m always amazed at any of the monuments listed here, but for different reasons in each one of them and, therefore, I cannot choose a favorite.

Perhaps it will be better for you to come with me to visit these monuments and then you can give me your opinion.

What makes these three monuments stand out so much from the rest?

In my opinion there is no single reason but a range of reasons working together:

    • Their location relative to other possible monuments to visit on the same day or part of the day – what I mean by this is that the three monuments are close to other monuments that also offer visits, which allows the tourist who visits these spaces to have the possibility to visit others without wasting a lot of time on transportation.
    • Its spectacularity – their spectacularity is unquestionable, but in my view not enough to have such a huge difference in the number of visitors, there are other spectacular monuments, but because they are isolated, they do not receive so many visits, eg: Ajuda National Palace, Palácio Nacional de Queluz and the National Palace of Mafra whose total visits to the three monuments combined reach 637K annual visits.
    • Multiplier effect of social networks – the more visited, the more visitors it attracts, considering that there is an exponentially increasing number of social network communicators who visit the most popular monuments and then communicate via social networks to a certain audience, further sharpening the difference between number of visits to monuments.

The consequence of these combined behaviors is, among other consequences, the long lines at ticket offices, entrances and inside these monuments.

However, dear reader, the option is yours, there are many other equally spectacular monuments where we can go without waiting in line or having to share the space with a group of other groups, enjoying a higher quality visit.

The option is yours.

David Monteiro

Pena Palace - Sintra
Jeronimos Monastery - Lisbon
Quinta da Regaleira - Sintra
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Sines, much more than the harbor and the beach

Sines, much more than the harbor and the beach

Sines is a photogenic location and the birthplace of one of the most famous Portuguese. Can you guess who? Give it a try or keep reading this post.

It is located at the Alentejo‘s Atlantic coast. Please access to Google Maps here for more precise geolocation.

Sines is widely known because of its internationally and huge harbor constantly receiving enormous vessels carrying petroleum products for the refinery on the town’s outskirts.

However, if you can look at it at a closer range, you will quickly discover much more than that.

The beach is the most prominent spot to find and is probably one of the most “organized” on the south coast of Lisbon, with its promenade along the sand, parking spaces, and bars.

If you stand by the beach, you can look up, and the castle will catch your eye. There you will find Vasco da Gama’s house.

Vasco da Gama was a Portuguese Navigator from the XV century, probably one of the most famous ones. He leed the first ships navigating from Portugal to India, along the west coast of Africa in 1497.

It is not sure that he was born in Sines’s castle, but that is the most reliable possibility.

In case you are traveling to Sines, you might consider doing that during the world music festival at the end of July … amazing event. Please access http://en.fmmsines.pt/ to get more information.

As a passionate photographer, Sines is, without a doubt, a “must visit” place.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Alentejo, Portugal, an unknown region waiting for your visit.

Alentejo, Portugal, an unknown region waiting for your visit.

If we look at Portugal’s map, we see that Alentejo is the region between the most southern region of Portugal, which is the Algarve, up to a few kilometers north of Lisbon.

The Alentejo region is often separated in Alto Alentejo and Baixo Alentejo, as we can see on the map. It occupies 33% of the national territory.

For reasons I am unaware of, this region is not highly promoted for tourism purposes. I really can’t understand why.

We can think that the Douro Valley was not promoted until recently and, when it started to be known, it became one of the most visited regions in Portugal. Maybe that will also happen to the Alentejo so, now is the best time to visit this region before it becomes crowded.

In general terms, I can say that the Alentejo is characterized by:

    • hot and dry weather;
    • vast plains;
    • Alentejo’s “montes”;
    • many cork oaks;
    • peculiar monuments;
    • Cante Alentejo;
    • Fascinating History linked to the Moorish occupation;
    • singular gastronomy;
    • and it is one of the best wine regions in Portugal.

Hot and dry weather

It is said that good weather is constant at Alentejo because it rains very little or almost nothing in some areas. 

Throughout the year, you can have a wide thermal range, with hot and dry weather being much more frequent.

Because it rains so little, in the short, but intense winter in Alentejo, it never snows, even with temperatures that would allow it to happen.

It is only during the summer that it becomes more challenging to travel in the Alentejo, due to the high temperatures we can find there, which frequently exceed 40ºC/104ºF.

The montado field
The montado field

The plains

In the vast Alentejo plains, wheat, other cereals, and cork oaks are the most frequent crops.

These cereal fields are like a vast green blanket, sprinkled with cheerful colors from the thousands of wildflowers spontaneously born in the fields during the spring season.

When summer sets in, and the heat is felt in all its strength, these fields turn golden.

At the end of hot days, in addition to the red sky, you can also fell a unique aroma in the air, caused by the scent of rockrose, a fragrance I can identify as the smell of Portugal.

In the Alentejo, it is customary to say, “if you think the Alentejo is flat, then come here to ride a bicycle.” It is a way of contradicting the idea of ​​flatness in this region.

Portugal is a country with a lot of relief and has few plains. It is in the Alentejo, where we find the broadest plain areas in the country.

However, as the overwhelming majority of locations are ancient, for military reasons, they were born in higher places. In times of war, they were better defended if they were in higher ground.

The Alentejo “monte”

If you translate the word “monte” literally, it means hill. However, the term is used with the meaning of the set of land and the traditional Alentejo house isolated on a hill.

In Alentejo, the properties are more extensive than the properties in the north of the country. The populations are more concentrated, as opposed to the towns and villages of Minho, which are more spread out.

Alentejo houses are traditionally painted white, from lime, with small windows. The floor of these houses is made of terracotta bricks.

Outside the houses, you can frequently find benches made of the continuation of the walls. We can sit and enjoy the shade in the late afternoon, and socialize with neighbors and passers-by.

The cork oaks

The cork oaks s are the most common tree in the Alentejo and the rest of the country.

It is, by law, the national tree.

I will ask you to consult this text about this tree, paying particular attention to what is referred to as the “montado”. It largely explains the rural landscape of Alentejo.

Alentejo monuments

In this region, there is a lower percentage of medieval monuments than the northern areas such as Minho. The reason is that the country was conquered from the Moors, from north to south, and most of the families who had these monumental structures built were in the north.

Also, if we compare the Alentejo monuments with the monuments of the center of the country, we can say that in Alentejo, the monuments are not so exuberant, except the Cathedral of Évora.

However, in Alentejo, there are many monuments that, not having the dimensions of the before mentioned monuments, are unique or rare and with fabulous stories.

It is the case of the Capela dos Ossos in Évora, the military structures in Elvas, or the Cromeleque dos Almendres that has no parallel in Portugal.

“Cante Alentejano”

These are the typical songs of the Alentejo.

Vocal groups of men, who sing without instruments, and perform in a very particular way.

Cante Alentejano is an intangible World Heritage classified by UNESCO in 2014.

Fascinating History linked to the Moorish occupation and much more

Wherever we go in Portugal, there is a lot of History, dense, diverse and very interesting. In Alentejo, it is not different in this aspect, but it is peculiar in the kind of historical events.

Having been a region won to the Moors in the 12th, and 13th centuries, naturally, the History of the Alentejo has a lot of medieval battles. It also reveals the results of a Moorish culture that lived here for a long time.

But not for that reason, medieval and renaissance times are less represented.

It is the case of Évora, considering that it was a subject of considerable attention by some Portuguese kings. For this reason, it has many ancient structures.

In Évora, it is also where we find one of the oldest Portuguese universities and, consequently, of Europe.

In this city, Évora, there is also a lot to say about the History of the Jews in Portugal and the Inquisition process.

Concerning the strong Portuguese Jewish heritage, which Portugal is proud to have, it is inevitable to speak of Castelo de Vide Jewry.

Unique gastronomy

As Alentejo is traditionally a very poor region, and where cereals are grown, bread is essential in everyday life as it is in the local gastronomy.

In Alentejo gastronomy, we find many dishes that are made including bread and dishes where bread is the main ingredient.

If the bread does not make part of the dish, it cannot be missed to accompany the meal.

It is also common to have pork, garlic, coriander, tomatoes, lard, and olive oil.

Wine cellar Herdade do Freixo
Herdade do Freixo

Excellent wine

In my opinion, the Alentejo’s wine region, along with the Douro and Dão wine regions, is one of the top three wine regions of Portugal.

In this region, there is no shortage of extraordinary wine cellars with visits and tastings. I say extraordinary in terms of wine quality but also in the architectural spectacularity of its buildings.

In terms of architecture, see the example of Herdade do Freixo, in Redondo.

Anyway, I hope I could arouse interest in Alentejo, and maybe one day, I can count on your presence on one of my tours.

Carpe diem

David Monteiro