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Saturday 25th May, 2013
If you are planning a trip to Portugal, you may want to place Estremoz on your list of must see cities. While you will find enough evidence in this area to understand that there were Roman, Muslim, and Visigoth influences here you will also be interested in knowing that this is a true prehistoric site. However, the city itself only has a population of 7,682, but the municipality has a population of 15,673 with a total area of 513.82 square km.
Estremoz was taken captive during the 12th century by the knight Geraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless) and his army. It was not long though until the Moors retook this region, and then in the middle of the 13th century it was reconquered for Portugal by King Sancho II.
Known for its marble, Estremoz is the largest of what are called the ‘marble towns’ of Alentejo. It is crowned by a castle which was founded during 1258, but that castle has in recent years been converted to one of the finest pousadas in Portugal. This castle was the residence of King Dinis along with his wife Queen Saint Isabel during the early part of the 14th century. You don’t have to be staying in the pousada in order to visit the room in which the queen died. This room was converted to a chapel and is adorned with specially designed paintings and tiles which depict the life of this much loved queen as well as the story about the Miracle of the Roses.
This story tells of how the king did not approve of his queen providing alms for the poor, and out of his suspicions he asked her to lift her skirt to prove to him she was not hiding bread. The miracle was that the bread had turned to roses when he was given a look. You will see a marble statue of Queen Isabel standing on the terrace of this castle.
There is also a marvelous view of the city and the plains that are beyond its limits which is visible when you enter the 13th century keep. On the opposite side of the keep you will find the Municipal Museum which houses its own collection of religious art work and local pottery.
A marble façade of cafes, churches as well as the Rural Museum are on full display in the main square which is a large unpaved marketplace where visitors can find goods that are produced by the locals. The time to be at this, one of Portugal’s largest markets, is Saturday when you will find locally made cheese and earthenware pottery.
Visiting Estremoz can be done as a day trip while you are in the region with daily arrival of buses from Evora, but you are encouraged to spend a luxurious night in the pousada. This will be one of your most memorable experienced during your stay in Portugal.
While you are in Estremoz, don’t forget to take a side trip to Arraiolos which is to the southwest. This town overlooks castle ruins dating back to Celtic times and here you can take a look at the carpets it is famous for which began during Moorish occupation and was later inspired by Indian and Persian influences.