Engraved into the slope of a great steep elevation, Monsanto rises suddenly and proudly with its granite houses which simultaneously stand out and are swollen by the rocks. The village, which was considered the most Portuguese village of the country in 1938, still preserves the traditional outline of Beira villages. This place has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. At the foot of the mountain, traces of a hill fort and a bath complex, probably built during Roman times, were discovered.
The village was conquered by King Afonso Henriques and was given by the King to the Knights Templar who built its first castle. The crown tried to increase the population of the village which was steep and difficult to reach and, throughout the Middle Ages, Monsanto was an important regional trade centre.
During the following ages, the village progressively lost its importance and its population gradually decreased, although its use as an impregnable defensive station in the area was kept until the 19th century. However, Monsanto never lost its medieval village aura and that is probably its most striking feature. You should explore its narrow alleys, surrounded by stone houses carved into the rocks and their green gardens as you climb towards the top of the woods. Enter the castle doors, admire its grandeur, go through its walls and stop to admire the wonderful views which surround it.
In Monsanto, you should visit:
- The castle, one the most impressive military structures of the interior Beira
- The common oven, the São Miguel chapel, the fountains and keeps
- The “casa de uma só telha” (house with just one tile), with a granitic rock coverage and the Clock Tower
- The São Pedro de Vir à Corça romantic chapel, built near the village during the 17th century
- The Penha Garcia Templar castle
- The town of Salvaterra do Extremo