Monsanto, the granite village
“The most Portuguese village of Portugal” – this is how Monsanto became famous, a village built from and amid granite blocks. Located in the East of Portugal, Monsanto has an extended history, the oldest evidence dating back from the Stone Age. Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Knights Templar have all left traces in this small and extraordinary Portuguese settlement, created and developed on a granite mountain (758 m).
Streets are narrow and winding amid houses, built from large or small granite blocks, the larger having 200 tones. This area, with a surface of 130 square kilometers approximately, seems to be taken from a story, so a hobbit from J.R.R. Tolkien books around the corner should come as no surprise.
The place has a perfect symbiosis of man and nature. For thousands of years, Monsanto people had minor interference with the stone, taking advantage of its protection and enjoying the benefits of living nearby. In 2011, the village had 828 inhabitants.
However, you can find also houses with modern structures and roof tiles, built from granite for guaranteeing extended durability in time.
In Monsanto, granite is used for walls, floors, roofs, streets, terraces, bathrooms, living rooms, kitchens, coffee shops, wine cellars, watchtowers, ramparts of a ruined castle etc. The structure of these houses remains the same since the 16th century.
Such atypical village must have a legend that goes with it. Every 3rd of May, peasants wear traditional clothing and go out on the streets carrying amulets, typical rag-dolls known as “marafonas”. The people sing on their way to the castle, located in the upper area of the village. Amidst this procession, people carry a white vase, which is later thrown away from the castle, as a ritual gesture for commemorating a happening from old times.
According to the legend, this castle confronted with 7 years of uninterrupted siege. So, 7 years passed away and villagers have no food, except a cow and a bag of wheat, thus facing death, unless they surrender. In spite of all these, a woman came up with a crazy idea: feed the cow with the whole sack of wheat, then throw it to the besiegers.
So they did it. And when besiegers saw the cow full with wheat, they imagined villagers have enough food left if they afford to feed their animals like that, so they give up on the siege.
Monsanto village is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Portugal. Observed from the top of the mountain, the scenery is fascinating and in clear days you can see far away up to Spain, because the village is only 30 km away from the Spanish border.
If you visit Portugal, maybe you find time to see this village blessed by nature, a place that stills preserves its history traces, because granite is such a durable natural stone.
Photo source: dailymail.co.uk and atlasonscura.com