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
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.
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
I International Conference of the Temple, Spiritual Chivalry and Templarism in Almourol available in video (full lenght, all conferences and visits, 9h30m)
The Municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha just released the full 9h30m of video that documents the full I International Conference of the Temple, Spiritual Chivalry and Templarism that took place in Almourol, Portugal in October, where the milestone Protocol of Almourol was signed.
The I Conference was the first International Event organized by the CITA (here and here), an Interpretation Center for the Order of the Temple and the Order of Christ that complements the world famous Templar Castle of Almourol.
During the Event the OSMTHU and the OSMTJ, represented respectively by Master Antonio Paris and Regent Nicholas Haimovici-Hastier, signed a Protocol with the Municipality, declaring the CITA and Almourol as an International Place of Templar Cultural Interest. Both branches of the Order also committed to the development of the library and archive available at the CITA and the organization of three yearly Conferences where members of the Order, the academic community, researchers and the general public can come together and celebrate the Templar heritage (here).
Short clip of how the collaboration came to be:
PROGRAM OF THE I CONFERENCE
The released videos extensively document the Guided Tours and the Conferences that took place along three days in October 2019. A large part of the content is in English. The footage will be edited shortly in order to make the conferences more accessible and subtitle in English those that are only available in Portuguese.
The present uncut release is, however, very useful for all those who were not able to attend and want to have access to all the discussions and groundbreaking research presented. Reviewing the videos will also provide almple reason not to miss the II International Conference to be held in Almourol in October 2020. (more info: firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE VIDEOS (Parts 1, 2 and 3)
The beautiful round castle of Arraiolos, Portugal, once held by the Order of Christ, was the centerpiece of the traditional Pentecost celebrations of the Grand Priory of Portugal of the OSMTHU.
Just like the Templar Beauceant, the flag with a white field and black field, the traditional adoubement ceremony takes place in the light and in the dark. It starts during the day but soon it goes into the depthness of night, from an opened enlightened world into a closed tight womb of meditation where the future knight in silent vigil hopes for the deliverance of light. In hope and faith, the knight is delivered.
Study and Instruction time
Time to savor the fruits of fraternal friendship
Preparing for sunset – the light subsides to darkness
In darkness we work in hope of light
Great blessings come to those who wait
“Veni, Créator Spíritus,
Mentes tuórum visita,
Imple suprema grátia,
Que tu creásti, péctora.
Qui díceris Paráclitus,
Donum Dei altíssimi,
Fons vivus, ignis, cáritas
Et spiritális únctio.
Tu septifórmis múnere,
Dextrae Dei tu digitus,
Tu rite promissum Patris
Sermóne ditans gúttura.
Accénde lumen sénsibus
Infúnde amórem córdibus,
Infírma nostri córporis,
Virtúte firmans pérpeti.
Hostem repéllas lóngius
Pacémque dones prótinus;
Ductóre sic te praévio
Vitémus omne nóxium.
Per te sciámus da Patrem
Noscámus atque Filium,
Te utriúsque Spíritum
Credámus omni témpore. Amen.”
Comemorar os 700 anos da Ordem de Cristo é uma alegria sem medida. Não é relembrar um momento no passado, é antes reafirmar um propósito e uma esperança no futuro.
Quero assim agradecer em meu nome, em nome da Ordem Soberana e Militar do Templo de Jerusalém Universal, como seu Chanceler internacional e Prior em Portugal, o convite da Câmara Municipal de Castro Marim – a que respondemos com entusiasmo – bem como a presença e colaboração dos muitos amigos, Irmãs e Irmãs e simples turistas que passavam e vieram saber de que tratava a agitação.
Gostaria de destacar, pelo conteúdo e qualidade, a intervenção do principal autor Português na temática Templária e da Portuguesia, Manuel J. Gandra, que destacou algumas das passagens mais reveladoras e até intrigantes da Bula de criação da Ordem de Cristo, em que se deixa clara a continuidade da do Templo, assunto sobre o qual muitos escrevem, mas poucos de facto concretizam.
Destaco igualmente o apoio permanente e verdadeira militância espiritual das Comendas do nosso Priorado e dos seus membros individualmente, que se viram desta vez apoiados pela visita de Irmãos e Irmãs de outros ramos da Ordem, quer do Algarve, quer mesmo de Espanha, num exemplo de cooperação e convívio fraternal até há pouco tempo inaudito, numa época em que tão facilmente caímos no erro de dividir o mundo em “nós” e “eles”. A todos o nosso agradecimento e aos visitantes, a certeza de que este foi o início de muitos projectos em que com eles contamos.
Sublinho o desempenho exemplar do nosso corpo litúrgico, liderado pelo Comendador de Lisboa e Bispo da Old Templar Church, apoiado nesta ocasião pelo Comendador de Laccobriga, pelos Grandes Oficias Preceptor e Hospitaleiro e demais Irmãos e Irmãs, que ficarão anónimos. Sabemos quem são, sentimos no profundo do coração o efeito do vosso trabalho.
Finalmente, terminando como comecei, sabendo bem o que custa organizar, gerir e montar um evento desta natureza num dos lugares maiores da nossa história, destaco o profissionalismo, o carinho e a paciência como a Câmara Municipal de Castro Marim nos recebeu, Agradeço ao Presidente Francisco Amaral, à sua Vice-Presidente Filomena Pascoal Sintra pela insuperável simpatia e atenção bem como a toda a equipa camarária, cujo esforço e dedicação não passou despercebido. Bem hajam.
Para o ano há que reavivar a memória. Castro Marim e a Ordem de Cristo são património de todos nós, todo o ano, Há que não o esquecer. Possamos ser dignos de tal herança.
Luis de Matos
Once again – too often it seems – a massacre opened the news and grabbed headlines worldwide. The attack of a fanatic on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, left almost 50 killed and many wounded. It was a mad rampage carefully planned and broadcast live on social media for the world to see and discuss.
The fuel of these kind of acts is our attention and the perpetuation of it in time by the outrage for terrorism of any kind, poured by us on social media. Our comments and often polarized remarks prolongue the effect the terrorist had in mind. So, I for one am going to shut it down and extinguish the flame of hatred and bigotry this piece of provocation intended to stir. It won’t feed it with my energy.
The only reason why I see myself compelled to make a statement is simply because – as it has happened in the relative recent past – the name of the Templar Order was used to justify the misadjustment of individuals and the criminal way they decided to adjust reality to their personal illusory self constructed hell. In a document left behind as a sort of “Manifest”, giving the illusion that something deeper than a human free willing sense of pathological narcissism and god-like power over life and death was behind the killing, the attacker says: (quote) “[Before the massacre] I did contact the reborn Knights Templar for a blessing in support of the attack, which was given.”
To this I have 3 short statements that I plea should not even be discussed further:
1 – The Templars do not need to be “reborn”
2 – The Order does not support terrorism in any shape or form, from any group or side, even given the obvious historical anachronism of the quoted line
3 – This is NOT the face of a Templar – It’s the face of human stupidity on steroids
Luis de Matos, Eques a Flamula Veritatis
Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jersusalem Universal
In the close vicinity of the Templar city of Tomar, Portugal, one of the most evocative Templar Castles in the world can be found: Almourol. Situated in a small island in the middle of the Tagus river, overseeing both margins and guarding secret Templar routes from all enemies, Almourol is the subject of legend.
In late 2018 the Municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha opened right in the center of the village, the new Centro de Interpretação Templária (Templar Interpretation Center), a place where the Templar Order and its continuation in the Order of Christ (of Discoveries fame) is celebrated with dedicated exhibitions, conferences, a comprehensive library and multimedia displays available to the public to explore.
The Center had the major backing, apart from the Municipality and the Portuguese Army that currently has jurisdiction over the Almourol castle, of researcher, philosopher and historian Prof. Manuel J. Gandra, the most respected authority in Templar studies in Portugal – not only because of his strong academic background, but also because he has been the most prolific and consistent author on the theme in the last 25 years. The Center and Prof. Gandra’s work have been fully endorsed by the OSMTHU, that plans to promote a few cultural events in 2019 and 2020 and associate the Order to this beacon of Templar history that merits the attention and collaboration of the Templar world.
The Templar Globe is preparing an interview with Prof. Gandra about the TIC. Meanwhile, please take a look at a video about this remarkable place.