Southeast of Serra da Estrela is enchanting Monsanto, an ancient fortified village nestled on the slopes of the “Monsanto” (from the Latin “Mons Sanctus” or “Holy Mount”), a steep hill that reaches 758 meters of height.
Voted in 1938 the “most Portuguese village in Portugal”, the peculiar athmosphere of this village has been preserved by building restrictions.
The result is an original Lusitanian fortified town built around huge boulders, with some houses that are squeezed among them, and with some of the streets that have been carved from the rock.
The Romanesque Mother Church, the Antiga Capela do Soccorro (Old Chapel) and the Igreja da Misericódia (Mercy Church) are part of the historical heritage of this village, along with its Templars’s castle, or what remains of it: used as a munition storeroom, it was partly destroyed by an explosion in the 19th century.
From its ruins a magnificent panorama can be enjoyed and this alone is worth the drive needed to reach Monsanto, as this town has been almost ignored by public transportation.
An important tradition of Monsanto is the Festival of the Holy Cross that commemorates Monsanto’s long history of resistance to sieges. If you happen to visit this town on the 3rd of May you will be able to see the procession of the village’s women carrying the Marafonas (typical local ragdolls) to the top of the castle, from which clay jars full of flowers are thrown.