Travel

Estremoz – Alentejo’s Historic White City

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An appetising aroma of sheep’s cheese and smoked chorizo sausages wafted through the stalls of Estremoz’s famous Saturday market. This weekly extravaganza shows off the best of the Alentejo’s local produce, including olives, chutneys, honey, fruit, vegetables and colourful ceramics. It is also home to a superb ‘flea market’ with stalls offering everything from coin collections to cowbells! The market is held in the Rossio Marquês de Pombal, a vast square at the town’s centre.

Estremoz exudes a real feeling of elegance and wealth, because high-grade white marble has been extensively used in the construction of its churches, civic buildings, streets and squares. So plentiful is the availability of top quality marble from the many quarries in this part of the Alentejo, that Estremoz and the nearby towns of Borba and Vila Viçosa have even used it for the doorsteps of their humblest cottages.

Unseasonal rain and a chill wind cut short our perusal of the flea market so we scuttled away to visit another of Estremoz’s attractions, the celebrated Café Águias d’Ouro (Golden Eagles Café). Built early in the 20th century, this art nouveau coffee house has long been famed for political debate, so we were not surprised to be surrounded by men emotionally discussing the weighty matters of local politics. Here was a café with just the kind of atmosphere one reads about in Portuguese literature.

Next to the Rossio, there is a peaceful municipal garden and the picturesque Lago do Gadanha (Lake of the Scythe), named after its central scythe-wielding statue. Nearby are a couple of splendid churches – the Igreja de São Francisco and the Convento dos Congregados, the latter of which is also home to a museum of sacred art.

As the rain turned even heavier, we decided to cross the square to visit one of Portugal’s national monuments, the Convento das Maltesas. This historic building, once a hospital, has a charming cloister at its centre and houses Estremoz’s ‘Live Science Centre’ (Centro de Ciência Viva). It is a very impressive interactive and educational science museum, where children of all ages can learn about the wonders of our planet. Perfect for stimulating scientific curiosity!

The old city of Estremoz

The ‘Cidade Velha’ (old city), with its palace and castle, stands defiantly on top of the hill overlooking the new town far below. It is reached by following a labyrinth of narrow winding streets and through two sets of impressive medieval walls, the construction of which began in 1261. Estremoz Castle is the town’s classic landmark, built during the 13th century as a defensive fortress. Within this fortification, King Dinis later built a palace where he lived with his wife Isabel of Aragon. Queen Isabel was famously generous to the poor and gained the status of a saint amongst the local population. She even has a tasty almond-flavoured cake, the ‘Bolo Rainha Santa’, in her name.

The castle has an imposing 27m high tower made from white marble, and the palace next door has been converted into a luxurious Pousada. This majestic hotel was our comfortable home during our time in Estremoz and boasts two magnificent lounges and a stately dining room, all containing a fantastic array of period Portuguese furniture. The top of the tower is reached by access through the Pousada and has a wide-ranging view of the Alentejo landscape. There is a chapel to the saintly Queen Isabel behind the palace and her own skillfully carved statue stands in the square close to the base of the tower. However, she does look rather glum!

This same square also gives access to the Igreja de Santa Maria, built between the 16th and 17th centuries, and the fascinating Museu Municipal. Built in the Manueline style, the lovely Santa Maria church has tombstones emblazoned with coats-of-arms of many notable Portuguese families.

The museum has an eclectic display of Alentejana objects on show, from exquisitely carved figures in wood and cork depicting rural activities, to rooms depicting local life in the 19th century. But it is the colourful ‘Bonecos de Estremoz’ that catch the eye! Literally translated as ‘Dolls of Estremoz’, there are 500 of these colourfully-painted figurines made from clay. This original folk art is more than three centuries old and in 2017 was classified by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

We discovered that the restaurant A Cadeia Quinhentista (Old 16th Century Gaol), just behind the Santa Maria Church, had some great examples of the best of Alentejana cuisine. Its menu was stacked with interesting local dishes – from ‘Pézinhos de Coentrada’ (pork’s feet with coriander) to the famous dessert ‘Sericaia’ (egg pudding served with cinnamon and plum syrup).

Elvas and Evoramonte

No visit to this part of the Alentejo would be complete without seeing something of Elvas and Evoramonte. Elvas is a wonderfully preserved fortress town located further east, close to the Spanish border, and justifiably popular with military historians. It was the first line of defence against Spanish invasion and its walls were designed so that no side was left unprotected – resulting in a unique star arrangement of battlements.

Essential for outlasting a protracted siege was a reliable supply of clean water, and this was ensured by construction of a long and impressive aqueduct. Elvas managed to fend off three separate Spanish sieges, only falling in 1808 during the Napoleonic wars. We spent a fascinating day exploring the town’s cobbled streets, churches, the ancient castle and the impressive battlements.

Evoramonte is one of the Alentejo’s lesser-known jewels. This ancient little town to the west of Estremoz has a medieval quarter straddling a ridge 481 metres in height. A good road winds its way to the top and we parked close to its pretty church and immaculately-kept cemetery. The 16th century castle, built in the Italian renaissance style, is perched at the other end of the settlement at the highest point and offers remarkable views.

It was a joy to stroll along the one and only street, deserted on a bitterly cold day, and we just couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle of the local wine at the village gift shop. This became the final part of our simple Alentejo lunch at home the following day – delicious smoked chorizo, tangy sheep’s cheese, olives and wonderful Alentejo bread followed by a tasty ‘Bolo Rainha Santa’. Happy memories!

By Nigel Wright
|| features@algarveresident.com

Nigel Wright and his wife Sue moved to Portugal 13 years ago and live near Guia. They lived and worked in the Far East and Middle East during the 1980s and 90s, and although now retired, still continue to travel and seek out new cultural experiences. His other interests include tennis, gardening and photography.

Evoramonte’s picturesque 16th century castle

Clean water used to be supplied to Elvas by an impressive aqueduct

The colourful ‘Estremoz Bonecos’ are a form of folk art
dating back over three centuries

The castle tower is constructed from white marble

Access to the old city is via one of the medieval gates

The splendid Convento dos Congregados is also home to the museum of sacred art

Estremoz Castle and Pousada are nicely seen from the picturesque Lago de Gadanha

Colourful Alentejo ceramics were on sale

The aroma of chorizo wafted through the market

The delights of the Duero River Valley

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There is a part of Spain, within a day’s drive of the Algarve, that you may have never heard of, let alone visited. If I’m right, you have been missing something interesting.

I’m talking about the Duero River valley. If you have driven north through Spain, heading for France or Britain, you have almost certainly driven from Salamanca through Valladolid and on to Burgos and Santander or Bilbao or France. You have driven right across the Duero River just south of Valladolid in the small town of Tordesillas.

The Duero River rises near Soria and runs from east to west through the provinces of Valladolid and Zamora before it forms the Spanish-Portuguese border for a while. When it enters Portugal, it changes its name to become the Douro and splashes on west to Porto and the Atlantic.

We all know the wonderful Douro wines – but you may not be aware of the fact that, in Spain, this river nourishes some very excellent Spanish wines, too.

There are a number of DOs (Denominación de Origen) that depend on the special climactic effects created by the Duero. The best known are the Ribera del Duero (home of Vega Sicilia, which is arguably Spain’s greatest wine) to the east of Valladolid and Rueda to the south of Tordesillas, but excellent, though lesser known, wines are also produced in the DOs of Cigales, north of Valladolid, and in Toro, Zamora and Los Arribes, all in the province of Zamora.

The red wines of Valladolid province are primarily made with the Tempranillo varietal and the whites with Verdejo or, increasingly, Sauvignon Blanc. In Zamora province, Tempranillo (here often called Tinta de Toro or Tinta del Pais) is equally as important but Garnacha and Juan Garcia are gaining in usage. Almost all the wines produced in both provinces are single varietals rather than blends and it is only in the Rueda DO that white wines are produced in quantity.

The Toro wines were so prestigious that King Alfonso IX of Léon conceded privileges for their production in the 12th century and Columbus took Toro wine on his 1492 expedition, because it could survive long journeys due to its structure and body.

A group of us recently wanted to experience the various Duero wines in situ, so we used the harvest festival in Toro (Fiesta de la Vendimia) in mid-October as our excuse to spend a week tasting wines, eating some wonderful Castillian tapas and looking at the scenery and architectural wonders of the area.

Our base was the Hotel Juan II in Toro, overlooking the Duero and right next to the magnificent collegiate church of Santa Maria la Mayor, a really beautiful combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture that was begun in 1160.

Not far away was the impressive Monasterio de Sancti Spiritus, founded in 1307 and home to a lovely collection of religious art and a beautiful Romanesque cloisters. More interesting, from our point of view, was the beautiful alabaster sarcophagus of Beatriz of Portugal, only child of King Ferdinand I and, in 1383, wife and Queen Consort of King Juan I of Castille.

Our tour took us to the Los Arribes DO, a long, narrow strip of rocky slopes along the eastern banks of the Duero on the Portuguese border (the name “Arribes” derives from the Latin ad ripam, which means “on the banks of”). The terroir is so hardscrabble and dry it is amazing that any wine at all can be grown, but, in fact, we tasted some quite drinkable ones. We also had the opportunity to take a cruise in the international waters of the ”Grand Canyon” of the Arribes del Duero. It was quite spectacular.

On our way back to Toro we stopped in Zamora for a walk around the old town, a look at the cathedral built in the mid-12th century, with its graceful cupola covered with scallop tiling, and an excellent dinner in one of the province’s finest restaurants, El Rincón de Antonio, the tasting menu of which was, of course, complemented by very tasty Rueda white and Toro red wines.

The Toro Fiesta runs over four days, and, during it, the town’s population swells from just under 10,000 to about 30,000, with the influx being almost entirely Spanish tourists.

The townsfolk are dressed in medieval costume and the celebrations are capped by the Gran Torneo de Justas Medieval on Saturday afternoon in the very rustic bullring. This is an hour long pièce de theatre, by four knights-errant and their pages, of (simulated) jousting, sword play and various pranks, all played for laughs to the vast amusement of the crowd. Of course, the knight representing Castille “won”, at the expense of the insipid (and probably drunk) knight representing Portugal and the mean and ugly black knight. Cheers all around.

On a political note, our visit was just after the “referendum” vote in Catalonia, and we were struck by the vibrant nationalist spirit in evidence all around us. There were many Spanish flags displayed prominently – a practice that, until now, had been rather frowned upon as being slightly fascist. It was clear that, while the illegal vote may have been divisive vis-à-vis Catalonia, it had certainly brought the rest of Spain closer together as a nation.

Our drive back home on the Sunday (with a boot full of good Spanish wine) was about 750km, all autoroute, and covered in about six hours – leaving time for a good tapas lunch on the way. Viva España!

By Larry Hampton

The mean and ugly black knight having a sword fight with the good knight (in red) representing Castille during the Gran Torneo Medieval in Toro’s bull ring

The Toro Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj), seen looking down on some of the revellers during Toro’s harvest festival

A view of the lovely cloisters in the Monasterio de Sancti Spiritus in Toro

The alabaster sarcophagus of Beatriz of Portugal in the Monasterio de Sancti Spiritus

The mid-12th century Zamora Cathedral

Ancient wine barrels in the vast cellars of the Menade winery deep underground in La Seca in Rueda

A view of the Duero River, with Portugal on the left and Spain on the right

The beautiful 12th Century Collegiate church of Santa Maria la Mayor in Toro

A typical display of the Spanish flag in the Plaza Mayor of Zafra

VN Barquinha celebrates protocol with Templar order that will make CITA the “world’s most important repository on the Order of the Temple”

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The Vila Nova da Barquinha Municipality has entered into a protocol with two branches of the Templar Order – the Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolimitani Universalis (OSMTHU) and the Ordre Sovereign et Militaiire du Temple de Jerusalem (OSMTJ) – to declare the municipality and the Interpretation Center Almourol Templar (CITA) as an International Place of Templar Cultural Interest.

The proposal for the protocol came to the Municipal Chamber meeting on October 9 and deserved a positive opinion from the executive.

Councilor Marina Honório explains that the initiative results from the association of OSMTHU and OSMTJ who also wants Vila Nova da Barquinha to host “an annual event of the International Congress type and the recommendation that bibliographic collections and objects could be sent to the Center and enrich the CITA as an unavoidable international reference on the Order of the Temple and its cultural influences across the ages.”

As a starting point for this collaboration, Fernando Freire explained that both branches of the Order have already approved several initiatives aimed at encouraging collectors, archives and library owners to make donations and to make CITA by 2021 the “most important, complete and extensive”. repository and bibliographic collection on the Order of the Temple ”.

On the OSMTHU side, one of the initiatives is the negotiation of the passage of the Temple Archive, consisting of multiple original documentation concerning the International Chancellery and the International Federative Alliance Secretariat since 1988, as well as various objects and archives, on loan to the locality of Soria, Spain since 2007, for CITA in Vila Nova da Barquinha.

Another initiative to be taken by OSMTHU is to designate CITA as the “custodial institution to be handed over the update of the Order’s Archives, composed of the official documentation produced by the International Chancellery annually” as well as the “addition of historical documentary collections. bibliographic and objects of archaeological, academic or museological interest that can be donated ”.

The OSMTHU will also offer a forged replica, according to traditional rules, of the sword of the crusader Godofredo Bulhões, symbol of the historical context that gave rise to the Order of the Temple.

The OSMTJ will contribute with the deposit of a thematic bibliographic collection as well as an extensive documentary archive about the activity of the Order in the last half of the twentieth century.

In addition to the initiatives in terms of Archive and Library, the protocol also provides for cultural exchanges, through the loan and exhibition of specific pieces.

Finally, this collaboration also aims to hold an International Conference. An “annual international event taking place in 2020, 2021 and 2022”, as explained by the mayor of VN Barquinha, Fernando Freire.

The venue for the annual event will be CITA, whose organization, programming and promotion will be the responsibility of the two orders involved in the protocol.

It is recalled that the Templar Interpretation Center of Almourol was opened to the public in November 2018 and is a pioneer center for the Order of the Temple in Portugal, endowed with a relevant set of features including an exhibition space, auditorium and thematic library.

By Ana Rita Cristóvão, antenalivre.pt

VN Barquinha celebra protocolo com ordens templárias que vai tornar CITA no “mais importante repositório mundial sobre a Ordem do Templo”

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O Município de Vila Nova da Barquinha celebrou um protocolo com duas ordens templárias – a Ordo Supremus Militaris Templi Hierosolimitani Universalis (OSMTHU) e a Ordre Sovereign et Militaiire du Temple de Jerusalem (OSMTJ) – a fim de declarar o município e o Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol (CITA) como Lugar Internacional de Interesse Cultural Templário.

A proposta de celebração de protocolo veio a reunião de Câmara no dia 9 de outubro e mereceu parecer positivo do executivo.

A vereadora Marina Honório explica que a iniciativa resulta da associação da OSMTHU e da OSMTJ e pretende também que Vila Nova da Barquinha seja sede de “um evento anual do tipo Congresso Internacional e recomendação de destino de acervos bibliográficos e objetos que possam enriquecer o CITA como referência internacional incontornável sobre a Ordem do Templo e suas influências culturais em todas as épocas”.

Como sinal de arranque desta colaboração, Fernando Freire explicou que ambos os ramos da Ordem aprovaram já diversas iniciativas que têm como objetivo encorajar colecionadores, arquivos e donos de bibliotecas a fazer doações e a tornar o CITA até 2021 no “mais importante, completo e extensivo repositório e acervo bibliográfico mundial sobre a Ordem do Templo”.

Da parte da OSMTHU, uma das iniciativas passa pela negociação da passagem do Arquivo do Templo, constituída por múltipla documentação original relativa à Chancelaria Internacional e ao Secretariado da Aliança Federativa Internacional desde 1988, bem como objetos e arquivo diverso, sob empréstimo à localidade de Sória, Espanha desde 2007, para o CITA em Vila Nova da Barquinha.

Outra das iniciativas a ser tomada pela OSMTHU é designar o CITA como a “instituição à guarda do qual será entregue a atualização do Arquivo da Ordem, composto pela documentação oficial produzida pela Chancelaria Internacional anualmente” bem como da “adição de peças documentais históricas, acervos bibliográficos e objetos de interesse arqueológico, académico ou museológicos que a esta possam ser doados”.

A OSMTHU vai também [convidar a Grão Priorado de Toledo da OSMTH a] oferecer uma réplica forjada, segundo as regras tradicionais, da espada do cruzado Godofredo Bulhões, símbolo do contexto histórico que proporcionou o surgimento da Ordem do Templo.

Já a OSMTJ contribuirá com o depósito de uma coleção bibliográfica temática de relevo bem como um extenso arquivo documental sobre a atividade da Ordem na última metade do século XX.

Para além das iniciativas em termos de Arquivo e Biblioteca, o protocolo prevê também trocas culturais, através do empréstimo e exposição de peças específicas.

Por fim, esta colaboração pretende também a realização de uma Conferência Internacional. Um “evento anual de âmbito internacional a decorrer em 2020, 2021 e 2022”, conforme explicou o presidente da Câmara de VN Barquinha, Fernando Freire.

O local escolhido para o evento anual será o CITA, cuja organização, programação e promoção será responsabilidade das duas ordens envolvidas no protocolo.

Recorde-se que o Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol foi aberto ao público em novembro de 2018 e é um centro pioneiro no que respeita à Ordem do Templo em Portugal, dotado de um conjunto relevante de recursos que incluem um espaço para exposições, auditório e biblioteca temática.

Por Ana Rita Cristóvão, antenalivre.pt

World experts in “Templarism” in Vila Nova da Barquinha

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“Order of the Temple – Spiritual Chivalry and Templarism” is the theme of the event that will bring together, between October 11 and 13, 2019, in the Almourol Templar Interpretation Center, Vila Nova da Barquinha, Portugal, the world’s leading experts on this subject, with speakers from France, Italy, [Germany, Austria] the United States and Portugal.

Antonio Paris (OSMTHU Master, Italy), Barbara Frale (of the Vatican Archives), Nicolas Haimovici (OSMTJ Regent, France), John von Blauch (United States), Luís de Matos, Manuel J. Gandra, Ernesto Jana and Nuno Villamariz Oliveira (Portugal) are some of the confirmed speakers.

During the event a new temporary exhibition will be inaugurated in the Templar Interpretation Center of Almourol – “Santoral and Templar liturgy”. The catalog of the exhibition will be made available on opening day. The event will also be remarked by the signing of Protocols of Cooperation and Partnership with CITA and the reception of the replica of the sword of Godofredo de Bouillon.

The program includes visits to Almourol Castle (Vila Nova da Barquinha) and the Convent of Christ (Tomar), as well as musical moments.

Registrations cost 15 € (with catalog offer), are mandatory and limited. The contact for more information and registration is +351 249720358.

Especialistas mundiais em “Templarismo” em Vila Nova da Barquinha

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“Ordem do Templo – Cavalaria Espiritual – Templarismo” é o tema da iniciativa que irá reunir, entre 11 e 13 de outubro de 2019, no Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol, Vila Nova da Barquinha, os maiores especialistas mundiais nesta temática, com oradores oriundos de França, Itália, Estados Unidos e Portugal.

António Paris (Mestre da OSMTHU, Itália), Barbara Frale (Arquivo do Vaticano), Nicolas Haimovici (Regente da OSMTJ, França), John von Blauch (Estados Unidos), Luís de Matos, Manuel J. Gandra, Ernesto Jana e Nuno Villamariz Oliveira (Portugal) são alguns dos oradores já confirmados.

Durante o evento terá lugar a inauguração da nova exposição temporária do Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol – “Santoral e liturgia templárias à roda do ano” – assim como a apresentação do respetivo catálogo. O acontecimento ficará também marcado pela assinatura de Protocolos de Cooperação e Parceria com o CITA e receção da réplica da espada de Godofredo de Bouillon.

Do programa fazem parte visitas ao Castelo de Almourol (Vila Nova da Barquinha) e ao Convento de Cristo (Tomar), bem como momentos musicais.

As inscrições tem um custo de 15€ (com oferta de catálogo), são obrigatórias e limitadas. O contacto para obter mais informações e inscrições é o telefone +351 249720358.

Por 

La fin des travaux de restauration du château de Quéribus

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Le chantier aura duré sept mois. Le château cathare de Quéribus, à la frontière entre l’Aude et les Pyrénées-Orientales, a subi une cure de jouvence. Un chantier indispensable pour ce site qui date du Xe siècle.

Les visiteurs ont pu redécouvrir ce mardi le château de Quéribus après sept mois de travaux. Un chantier périlleux en raison de la localisation du château cathare : en haut d’une falaise, à 728 mètres d’altitude.

Des maçons alpinistes !

Il a fallu utiliser des hélicoptères pour acheminer le matériel nécessaire (eau, chaux, sable, etc..) au pied de l’édifice. Parmi les travaux réalisés : le rejointoiement des murs. Pour Bruno Schenck, premier adjoint au maire de Cucugnan “c’était impératif. On pouvait passer la moitié du bras entre les pierres ! Cela n’avait jamais été fait depuis des siècles.” Il a aussi fallu s’occuper de plusieurs voûtes. Celle entre le corps de logis et le parvis du donjon a été refaite à l’ancienne, avec des moellons, et l’autre a été réalisée avec des pierres de taille travaillées sur place.

Le chantier a été compliqué techniquement. Un seul mot d’ordre: respecter l’architecture médiévale de l’époque. Ce sont des maçons spécialisés qui s’en sont chargés, des maçons alpinistes accrochés à la façade pour certains travaux, comme sur le donjon.

Bruno Schenck, l’adjoint au maire de Cucugnan est fier du résultat: “c’est un vrai bonheur d’avoir réalisé ce chantier, c’est essentiel pour le maintien du patrimoine. Le dossier en vue d’un classement au patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO continue, mais c’est très long !”

Par Isabelle Rolland, Sébastien Berriot, France Bleu Roussillon, France Bleu Occitanie

Groundbreaking Agreement Brings OSMTJ and OSMTHU Templars to the Table

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Regent Fr+ Nicolas Haimovici-Hastier (third from right) with his Magisterial Council in Zagreb, Croatia 2019

A groundbreaking agreement was signed between the OSMTJ and the OSMTHU, two of the leading branches of the Templar Order whose most modern institution dates back from over 200 years ago.

In a notably fragmented movement, with many small groups of undetermined origin and frequent divisions in the main branches, the firm determination of the OSMTHU to counter current trends and work on a convergence of goals expressed by the Declaration of Arraiolos (Portugal, 2018) was met by the long standing work for Templar Unity of the OSMTJ, under Regent Nicolas Haimovici-Hastier. Upon the Regent’s proposal to select a city or Templar relevant place that could work as a neutral ground of Cultural Exchange, where all groups, researchers, students and general public interested in the Templar Order could meet, discuss, learn and create bonds of friendship, the Grand Priory of Portugal of the OSMTHU committed to make all efforts to elect Vila Nova da Barquinha – of the Castle of Almourol fame and location of the Templar Interpretation Center (CIT) – the official seat of the Cultural Exchange Association between both branches.

To that end the early preparation steps have been taken to have a 3 year run of an International Congress to start in 2019 in Fall, in a date to be announced shortly.

So, leave your calendars opened to travel to Portugal this Fall, to Vila Nova da Barquinha (Almourol) – a short distance from Lisbon’s main airport and a shorter distance from Tomar – to be part of history when both groups celebrate fraternal friendship under the protection of the Templar Order.

Copy of the Agreement:

Abre al público el edificio islámico más completo de Toledo, el Museo Casa del Temple

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El próximo 30 de agosto abrirá al público el Museo Casa del Temple en Toledo, una nueva oferta turística que sumará riqueza patrimonial y que permitirá conocer un Bien de Interés Cultural considerado la casa islámica más completa que existe hoy en día en la ciudad.

Tal y como publica en su cuenta de Facebook el Museo Casa del Temple, el objetivo es convertir este espacio en un centro cultural, en sala de exposiciones, gastrobar y en lugar de eventos. Además, allí se expondrán un conjunto de piezas arqueológicas aparecidas en la casa, otras piezas de colecciones privadas, así como un 3D con el que entender la edificación en su origen.

La actividad expositiva comenzará con una muestra del artista chileno afincado en España Guillermo Muñoz Vera.

La Casa del Temple en Toledo data de los siglos XI-XII, perteneciendo a esta época la estructura general, típicamente andalusí, sustentada por las bóvedas del sótano y organizada en torno al patio. Diversas fuentes coinciden en señalar que el inmueble fue, en tiempos, propiedad de la Orden de los Templarios, a los que probablemente les donase el edificio Alfonso VIII para recabar su apoyo a las diversas campañas militares del monarca.

Enclavada en pleno Casco Histórico, justo al lado de San Miguel el Alto, sus alfarjes fueron restaurados en 2017 por el Consorcio de la ciudad, entrando a formar parte de las rutas del patrimonio desconocido.

Bien de Interés Cultural con la categoría de monumento desde 2002, el patio interior de la planta baja comunica con las cuatro crujías que definen el inmueble. Lo que vemos a nuestro alrededor son un arco de medio punto decorado con yeserías mudéjares y, ojo, el forjado del techo primitivo, que se supone que es anterior a 1109 y con canes labrados en el interior del patio. Y en uno de sus laterales conserva el alfarje con las tabicas originales. A cada lado de esta entrada, dos arcos de herradura apuntados y decorado con finas yeserías.

Ya en el sótano se encuentra un salón con un zócalo decorado con pinturas y que representan arcos entrecruzados, temas vegetales y una cenefa, todo supuestamente anterior a 1109. A lo que hay su añadir la planta primera y el ático.

in encastillalamancha.es

La misteriosa relación de la casa más antigua de Toledo y los templarios

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La casa del Temple, la que podría ser la casa más antigua de Toledo mejor conservada (data de los siglos XI-XII), podrá visitarse este sábado 18 de marzo de forma gratuita, tras la última restauración realizada en los alfarjes de su planta primera, compuestos por vigas «de las más antiguas de España».

La jornada gratuita de puertas abiertas forma parte del programa «Patrimonio desconocido», impulsada por el Consorcio dentro de las actividades organizadas con motivo del 30 Aniversario de Toledo Ciudad Patrimonio de la Humanidad, según ha informado el Ayuntamiento una en nota de prensa. Cada mes se visita y se da a conocer un espacio histórico rehabilitado que normalmente está cerrado al público. El último fue la fuente de Cristina Iglesias en el Convento de Santa Clara.

Rosana Rodríguez, concejala de Turismo, asegura que uno de los objetivos del 30 aniversario es abrir espacios desconocidos para «el disfrute» de los toledanos y también de los turistas y que, gracias a ello, se puede conocer una representación de la arquitectura civil de los siglos XI y XII salvada después de «tantos» siglos de historia. En este caso, la jornada de puertas abiertas se celebrará el sábado 18 de marzo, de 10:00 a 14:00 y de 16:00 a 18:00 horas, en la calle Soledad, número 2.

La cruz de Malta, en una de las ventanas de la Casa Temple
La cruz de Malta, en una de las ventanas de la Casa Temple

El Consorcio ha intervenido para llevar a cabo la restauración de los alfarjes de la planta primera que «no se habían terminado de limpiar y proteger» en la rehabilitación de 1997, en la que parte del artesonado de la Casa del Temple, según ha avanzado el presidente del Consorcio de Toledo, Manuel Santolaya, está compuesto por «vigas de las más antiguas de España».

Santolaya ha explicado que se trata de un «sitio excepcional» que tiene relación con el palacio de la Aljafería de Zaragoza y la iglesia de San Millán de Segovia y que incluso alguna de sus piezas, en concreto una alacena mudéjar, se encuentra en el museo británico.

Detalle de uno de los rincones de la Casa del Temple
Detalle de uno de los rincones de la Casa del Temple– LUNA REVENGA

El propietario de este antiguo palacio islámico, declarado Bien de Interés Cultural, Amador Valdés, ha asegurado que «seguramente es la casa más antigua de Toledo mejor conservada», en la que destacan sus zócalos de pinturas bícromas y sus estructuras de madera, «las mejores conservadas in situ del país», en las que han aparecido policromías que estaban ocultas tras la última restauración.

Casa del Temple
Casa del Temple– LUNA REVENGA

El propietario ha indicado que hay muchas leyendas que relacionan la Casa del Temple con la Orden de los Templarios pero ninguna oficial y ha dicho que en el siglo XIX, el historiador Amador de los Ríos ya denominó este espacio como Casa del Temple, al igual que Benito Pérez Galdós en su novela «Ángel Guerra».

Durante el siglo XIX, se conservaba además de la Casa del Temple, que ocupaba «toda la manzana», la Casa de la Parra, hoy desaparecida, que era donde se ubicaba «supuestamente la alacena del Temple», exportada a Londres tiempo después.

in ABC.es

The Sea of Galilee: receding waters of biblical lake

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A sharp drop in annual rainfall in the northern Galilee region over the past three years has caused the lake’s waters to recede.

On the shimmering Sea of Galilee, where the Christian gospels say Jesus walked on water, 150 Nigerian pilgrims aboard a river boat sing and dance to an African beat. Their pastor, Reverend Samuel Tunde Ogunmodede, said he and his congregation had come to the biblical lake to see what they had, until now, only read about in the scriptures. “We came here to seek the face of God, pray to God as he did in the time of the disciples. We will pray here so that he will do the same in our lives,” he said on board the boat. About one million tourists from abroad visit the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Tiberias or Kinneret, each year, according to the Israeli tourism ministry.

Stretching about 65 sq miles (170 square km) from the foot of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee (actually a fresh-water lake) spills into the Jordan River, where Jesus is believed to have been baptised. On a crisp winter day, worshippers from Singapore, Nigeria and Germany perform their own baptism ceremonies in the waters. The gospels tell of Jesus walking on the lake to comfort and save disciples as their ship was foundering in a storm and miraculously producing huge catches of fish for their nets. But the Sea of Galilee may need a few more miracles these days. A sharp drop in annual rainfall in the northern Galilee region over the past three years has caused the lake’s waters to recede, according to Israel’s Water Authority. It is now at its lowest in five years.

Receding water levels means higher salt levels, which harm the eco-balance and could render the water unusable. In an effort to control the damage, only a 10th of the annual average quantity of water supply has been drawn from the lake this year, a water authority spokesman said. In a complex operation, salt water springs are found and their flow is diverted out of the lake. To better keep the eco-balance and maintain water quality, the lake is stocked with millions of fish every year. The Sea of Galilee has, in the past, provided up to a third of Israel’s water. Israel now relies on the more expensive methods of desalination and recycling for more than half its water supply.

Reuters

The Travels of Marco Polo

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Originally dictated in a Genoese prison cell, ‘The Travels of Marco Polo’ straddles the line between travel literature and adventure story. The teller of the story, Marco Polo, claimed that the work was based completely on fact, compiled from his travels around the world. The book was hugely popular in Medieval Europe, despite being widely referred to as ‘The Million Lies’.

Marco Polo was not the first European to venture into Asia, but he traveled much further to the East than any before him, and, according to the book at least, became much more integrated into the cultures there. The real key to the work’s success is the imagination and energy put into the descriptions of Asia, Africa and the Mongol Empire. The work often seems fantastical, partly because some of the things Polo described were indeed made up, but also because the language used is so colourful it seems unbelievable.

The adventure to the East actually started when Nicolo and Maffeo Polo, Marco’s father and uncle, set off for Constantinople in 1260. From this journey they ventured into the lands of the Mongolian tribes, eventually reaching the court of Kublai Khan. The Polos returned to Europe, eventually arriving in their home city of Venice in 1269. Upon his return, Nicolo discovered he had a son, Marco Polo. The Polos, who had promised Kublai Khan they would come back to Mongolia with Catholic missionaries, eventually set off on their return to Asia with Marco and two Catholic friars, in 1271. Although the friars eventually gave up on the journey, the Polo’s returned to the Khan’s court, where Marco became a confidant of Kublai Khan.

Marco Polo remained in the Khan’s court for seventeen years, and was sent on a variety of missions and errands, allowing him to travel in previously uncharted territories. Through his service he explored much of what is now China, as well as venturing into India, and crossing over to Sri Lanka. A recently revealed map, attributed to Polo and signed for authenticity by his three daughters, is believed to sketch out the coast of Japan and Alaska. The origins and veracity of the map have not been confirmed, but some researchers have claimed that it proves Polo’s travels actually took him as far as the shores of North America.

‘The Story of Marco Polo’ details his experiences in this period of his life. It includes descriptions of the journey from Acre (in what is modern day Israel), through Persia and then onto the Khan’s palace in what is now Beijing. The Polos traveled over a series of overland trader’s routes, what would eventually become known as the Silk Road. As well as providing detailed descriptions of Polo’s experiences in the Khan’s court, the book is just as crucial for its depiction of the journey along the Silk Road, providing information on the cultures and landscapes the Polo family encountered.

Some critics question the validity of the text, pointing out that there is no mention of Polo in the detailed records of the Khan’s court from the thirteenth century. They also point out that despite Polo’s extensive stay and travels in Asia, he never made reference to major landmarks, such as the Great Wall, or distinctive cultural traits, such as eating with chopsticks or foot binding.

Polo himself eventually returned to Europe in 1295. He became involved in a conflict between Venice and Genoa, during which he was captured and imprisoned. While incarcerated he met Rustichello, a writer from Pisa who started to write down Polo’s stories.

Whether these stories were a complete fabrication, or just heavily embellished by Polo or Rustichello, they remain a fascinating document. The book was pivotal in shaping opinions on Asia and the Mongol Empire, long after its publication. Whether the book is factually accurate or not, it cannot be denied that the stories within, as well as the history of Polo himself, make it a fascinating read.

By: Daryl Worthington in newhistorian.com

Acre: The Crusaders’ Last Stand

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Memo to visitors to Israel: If you get a chance, don’t miss the crusader fort at Acre, a ride of about an hour and a half from Jerusalem. You’ll spot it on the map (it’s alternately called Akko) a little north of Haifa on the Mediterranean coast. To understand what you’ll see there, here’s a short history of the port – starting with a meeting in the 11th century thousands of miles away.

Nov. 27, 1095, was a red letter day in medieval history. Actually, it was a red cross day, that symbol having been proclaimed by Pope Urban II as the icon of a planned crusade to retake the Holy Land from its Muslim invaders.

Speaking at the Council of Clermont — a meeting of hundreds of clerics, noblemen and onlookers in southern France — the Pope hoped to recruit fighters with this pitch: “Here (you) are poor and miserable sinners; there, (you) will be rich and happy. Let none hesitate; (you) must march next summer. God wills it.”

So in the fall of 1096 a crusader army of tens of thousands of knights, vassals and serfs went charging off to the Holy Land using “God wills it” as their battle cry. Three years later, after slashing their way across Europe, Constantinople and the Mediterranean coast of the Holy Land, the Christian forces not only took the city of Jerusalem but went on to create the Kingdom of Jerusalem – a 360-mile-long strip of land stretching from Lebanon south through modern-day Israel and western Jordan down to the Gulf of Aqaba – among several crusader states.

Fast-forward two centuries, through seven more major crusades (and several smaller ones) and many more battles. During this period Muslim armies recapture the Kingdom of Jerusalem, then lose part of it again during the Third Crusade led by King Richard the Lionheart. The crusaders carve out another kingdom, but fail to take Jerusalem. Instead, they build a new capital at the Mediterranean port of Acre.

But things go south for the crusaders again, and by the late 13th century the conquest of the Holy Land has pretty much fizzled out. The caped knights have been booted out of just about every place they took, and now they’re down to their last “God wills it” stronghold — at Acre, where the cross of the crusaders had been flying (on and off) since 1104.

The crusaders’ last big holdout crumbled in 1291 when the flag of the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was raised over Acre. Later on, the Ottomans captured the port and held on to it until the onset of World War I, when the Brits took over. The Union Jack flew over the port until the State of Israel was created in 1948.

Visitors to Acre will see the remains of all these cultures – and before them those of the Romans, Greeks and Canaanites, among others – in what’s left of their walls, battlements, churches, mosques, baths and courtyards. Tours of the city typically wind up in an underground labyrinth of domed halls and walkways, once the home of monastic military orders such as the Knights Templars and the Knights Hospitallers.

Among subterranean eye-poppers awaiting tourists is a 1,150-foot-long stone tunnel used by the Templars as a protected passageway between the fortress and the port. Also featured down there is a commercial street that passed through the Hospitaller quarter, high-domed knight halls, a huge dining room and a central courtyard – all painstakingly restored to offer a jump back in time to the days when guys wandering around with crosses on their tunics ruled the roost around these parts.

in Huffingtonpost

Acre is hungry for another crusade, this time against urban decay

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The northern city’s rich heritage is blighted by neglect, casting a shadow on its many gems, including the Turkish bath, Crusader citadel and knights’ dining hall.

Acre is a dreamy, ancient Mediterranean seaside resort. It goes back millennia, which you can see on the spot.

“There are very few cities like Acre – it has a lot of history, a mixture of religions and unusual sites that you can weave a good story around,” says Kawas, manager of the new hostel at the entrance to Acre’s Old City.But Acre is, in many respects, a place that has failed to realize its enormous tourism potential.

In 2001, Acre and Masada became the first two places in Israel to be declared UNESCO World Heritage sites. But there is no comparison today between the number of visitors to Masada – which for several years running has topped the list of the most visited sites [requiring entrance fees] in Israel – and the still meager number of tourists who stroll through Acre. A one-day visit to the northern coastal city reveals why: There is a huge gap between the formal sites, which have been developed over the past few years by various tourism bodies, and everything in between. Wandering through the Old City’s alleyways, I was overcome with sadness. So much has been invested in the city over the last few years, yet these side streets, even the ones closest to the main market street, exude neglect.

The main section of the Old City, which is home to several thousand people,is quite small. It takes no more than 20 minutes to cross from one end to the other, but it lacks signs and is not particularly inviting to visitors. Each official site in the old quarter is a gem, but because these gems are not strung together, they fail to create a single piece of jewelry.

Acre is a fascinating city, but it can and should turn into a place that showcases not only isolated tourist sites, but also one that opens a window on contemporary life in the old quarter. In the meantime, here are a few of the gems worth viewing.

The Hospitaller’s Citadel

Something about medieval knights, who came to the Holy Land during the Crusades, sparks the imagination, conjuring up visions of courage. But the reality of the lives of these men in armor, who passed this way just under a thousand years ago, was apparently less glamorous than what the movies portray. Among other things, they required medical treatment and hostels where they could find refuge and safety in the untamed land on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The Knights Halls in Acre’s Hospitaller Citadel were the jewels in the crown of the city. It is worth coming to Acre just to see them.

The spacious, lovely halls, which were built in the late 12th century and during the course of the 13th century, have high ceilings and thick walls. The lighting adds a fitting dramatic touch to the visit. The Hall of Columns, which was probably the knights’ dining hall, is the most impressive in the fortress, and causes a sigh of renewed wonder with every visit. A beautiful attraction such as would probably draw hundreds of thousands of tourists if it was in a European city.

Arranged around it are the Northern Hall, the Sugar Bowl Hall, the Art Hall, the Beautiful Hall and the Hall of the Imprisoned.

The Templar Tunnel

The 350-meter-long tunnel runs from the fortress to the seashore, adjacent to the port. It opened to the public in 2007, and for the past few months animated clips have been screened on the walls depicting the history of the Templars. Members of the order helped the Crusaders and the sick and moved to Acre from Jerusalem after its conquest by Saladin in 1187.

The Al-Basha Hamam

The 18th-century Turkish bath is probably the most well developed site in Acre’s Old City. It was built during the days of Acre’s governor Jazzar Pasha, when the city experienced its biggest construction boom. It is obvious that much effort was invested in making a visit here into a multidimensional experience: films are screened on the walls, dolls have been placed in the center of the hall, assorted accessories are scattered around the rooms and pictures and sounds enhance the atmosphere. It is even a little overwhelming, distracting from the beauty of the structure.

Khan al-Omadan

The large traders’ khan next to the port is one of the city’s nicest structures and unfortunately has not been developed at all yet. It is neglected and dirty, and visits there are limited to the entrance hall. This beautiful khan deserves better. It was built in the 18th century by Jazzar Pasha, at the same time as the hamam, and when I stood outside it, I tried, unsuccessfully, to understand why such huge sums were put into the hamam, while the khan was left untouched. The Acre Development Company plans to turn the Khan al-Omadan and the adjacent Khan a-Shuneh into a large hotel with 170 rooms, but there are no signs of this happening. In any case, such major plans are always a cause of concern when they involve a designated landmark.

Three museums

The Treasures in the Walls Museum is the most interesting of the city’s three museums. The building located in the eastern wall of the Old City is exquisite, and the display features many items meant to preserve the local history, crafts, furnishings and arts. The collection is not organized or displayed scientifically, giving one the sense of visiting a big antiques shop. Address: 2 Weizmann Street, in the Eastern wall.

The Okashi Art Museum is located in a 300-year-old arched building. It is a fascinating structure, but one that distracts considerably from the works hanging on the white-washed walls. The permanent exhibit includes works by Avshalom Okashi, who lived in Acre for most of his life, and had his workshop in the museum. Alongside them are rotating exhibits of contemporary Israeli art. Currently on display is the “First Exposure 2012,”a photo exhibit featuring the works of 10 young photographers.

The Underground Prisoners Museum depicts the history of the place when it was a British-run jail that housed members of the pre-state Jewish undergrounds who fought to end the British Mandate. It may be a fascinating place, but memories of a long-ago visit during my school days prevented me from properly viewing the current exhibit and led to a hasty exit.

The Al-Jazzar Mosque

The mosque is known in Arabic as the Jama al-Basha (the Pasha’s mosque ) and is another relic of Jazzar Pasha’s extensive building activity 250 years ago. It is the largest mosque in Israel, after the al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, and the biggest one built here during the Ottoman period. The trapezoidal courtyard is a beautifully landscaped garden that exudes great tranquility. Scattered around are benches that allow a visitor rest and contemplation. In the center of the courtyard, there is a covered fountain that was used for bathing. The inside of the mosque is filled with decorative touches, rugs and colored glass windows. It is said that a clipping of the Prophet Mohammed’s hair is stored somewhere in the depths of the mosque and displayed once a year. I did not see it. Address: Al-Jazzar Street. The mosque is open all day and closes for short periods at prayer times.

The port

There is evidence that the Acre port existed over 2,500 years ago. In recent years, extensive excavations next to the southern seawall have uncovered fragments of a stone pier, large stone anchors and clay vessels from the Mediterranean isles. The port reached its peak during the Crusader era in the 12th century. It achieved its greatest notoriety in the 18th century when Napoleon besieged the city and was blocked from reaching the port by ships that had been intentionally sunk.

The old port is now a marina; the main attraction is the Pisani port several dozen meters to the west. Two veteran restaurants, Abu Cristo and Doniana, compete for customers. Both have large balconies with views of the port. Not much has changed here in the last 40 years. The children who, in the 1970s, used to jump into the water from the walls above, are today responsible adults and have been replaced by other youngsters leaping into the sea with the same fervor.

Future facelifts

The sites listed above have been developed over the last few years by various tourism bodies, including the Old Acre Development Company, the Antiquities Authority and the Ministry of Tourism. A glance at the list of projects the Old Acre Development Company is planning reveals how much work still remains. The list includes the Khan al-Shawarda, the city’s largest khan, where a commercial center and hotel are to be built. The small hamam, currently a dilapidated building beside the Khan al-Omadan, is slated to become part of a hotel. A facelift is also in the works for the Burej al-Quraim, an intriguing site northwest of the city that is considered to be the largest and most fortified seaside fortress – and offers fantastic views. All of these projects, if and when they are completed, will increase the number of hotel rooms in Acre, enhance the state of some buildings and further highlight the necessity of developing the alleyways themselves.

Useful information

Getting there: Take Highway 4 from Haifa to Acre. At the Ein Hamifratz junction turn left (west ) and travel along the sea. At the first traffic light turn left, and follow the signs to the Old City.

Entrance fees: the Old Acre visitors’ center is in the Enchanted Garden on 1 Weizmann Street. Joint entrance ticket to many sites listed here (the Knights Hall, the Templar Tunnel, the Okashi Art Museum ) may be purchased. Sites are open from 9:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M. daily, including Saturdays. For more information see: http://www.akko.org.il

in Haaretz.com