Monsanto: the town and the fortress

15 august 2016 

What to see in Monsanto? Monsanto is a magnificent village in Portugal of less than 1,000 inhabitants, located on a mountain not far from the border with Spain. The main attraction in Monsanto is the village itself, a conglomeration of ancient stone houses that blend (in the true sense of the word) with the surrounding rocks. A fortress built on the top of the mountain offers breathtaking views on the countryside.

Church in Monsanto Monsanto historic centre
Monsanto village Monsanto (Portugal)
Villages of Portugal Village in Portugal
Belltower in Monsanto
Monsanto is a delightful Portuguese village of a few hundreds people, perched on a mountain not far from the border with Spain. In 1938 Monsanto has received the recognition of the more traditional village in Portugal and has subsequently tried to preserve the buildings and the environment as much as possible from modernization, given that the origin of the village could be back to the Palaeolithic era, before Roman and Islamic occupation. The old stone houses rise along narrow alleyways paved by cobblestone, and blend perfectly with the surrounding landscape, dominated by huge granite boulders.
Stone house
Alleys in Monsanto
Walking through the alleys of Monsanto, admiring the picturesque views that can be seen at every corner.
Monolithic house
Monsanto stands on a hill dominated by large granite boulders, which have been repeatedly used as a supporting structure or as integral parts of the buildings. In this photo, a house was built between two boulders that act as side walls.
Monolith Case monolitiche
Houses in Monsanto
Buildings in Monsanto
More pictures of Monsanto showing the stone houses perfectly integrated with the surrounding granite landscape, an excellent example of megalithic structure (the megalith is a large stone used to build a structure without the use of concrete)
This house in Monsanto was built on a huge granite boulder.
Stairs carved in the rock Monoliths in Monsanto
More photos of megaliths in Monsanto, which can be found in large number among the narrow alleys of the town.
Shelter for farm animals
In the highest part of the village, megaliths are used as shelters for farm animals.
Stone stairs

The stairs between houses on different levels, are sometimes built by just carving the steps into a single huge stone.
Roads in Monsanto Monsanto access door
Old fountain
On the last picture, a fountain dating back to the 19th century. In the photos above, one of the main streets in Monsanto going through an access door. If you arrive in Monsanto by car (which is very likely due to the isolation of the village), it is imperative to park outside the historic center, either because the availability of parking space is very limited, either because the roads are narrow, winding, with steep slopes and sudden obstacles that can create lot of difficulties to who is not used to drive in such conditions.
The rock on the roof
Monsanto town
An easy path, although occasionally steep, leads to the top of a mountain behind the village, up to an old fortress. During the ascent, wonderful panoramas of Monsanto and of the surrounding landscape gradually open up.
Capela de Sao Miguel

At the top of the hill overlooking Monsanto, before arriving at the fortress, there is an austere-looking church: the Chapel of St. Michael (Capela de Sao Miguel) dating back to the Roman era. The church has a low bell tower nearby, while from the back you can admire a beautiful view of the valleys below.
Stone coffin Stone coffins
Around the church there are sinister coffins made by carving a single large granite boulder. Some coffins are rather small, probably suitable for just a child.

We finally get to the castle on the top of the mountain, a formidable stone fortress dating from the 12th century, built after the defeat of the Arabs who dominated the Iberian Peninsula.
A series of stone stairs lead to the top of the fortifications built among huge granite boulders.
Monsanto castle
The castle of Monsanto, once having the function of a real fortress, dominates the entire region, with a view that extends from Portugal to Spain.
Walls of the fortress Fortress of Monsanto
The perimeter walls of Monsanto fortress, built between large blocks of granite.
Castle of Monsanto Monsanto fortress
Panorama on Spain and Portugal Monsanto
The magnificent panorama of Portugal and Spain, visible from the castle of Monsanto.
A photo of Monsanto taken from the fortress at the top of the mountain.

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