In the Alentejo, you travel naturally with and to History. The abundance and the quality of the Heritage which it expresses become easy for you to discover but, if you are visiting the Region for the first time, you could be spoiled for choice. If this is the case, don’t hesitate: opt for our suggestions and you will discover that the magic of the Alentejo is to be found, with endless pleasure, everywhere.
Everything begins, once more, at the time of the Reconquest, when kings and military religious orders joined forces to put to an end the occupation of the "infidels”. From the origins of Nationality to the 19th century, first with the help of the military, then through the not always pacific mission to civilise, evangelise, educate and, in the dark times of the Inquisition, to defend the orthodox Catholic faith, the Clergy, ordained and secular, have played an important part in Portuguese history.
The Alentejo was no exception: quite the contrary. It is not by chance that a large part of its heritage is of a religious nature and that, for centuries, the church and the religious orders were the major landowners in the Region.
In the 19th century, a major volte-face in the story occurred: the religious orders in Portugal were closed down by decree and their goods and estates were either taken over by the state or were sold by public auction to some of the wealthy families of the time.
As far as the convent and monastery buildings are concerned, the problem soon presented itself: what was to be done with these structures, many with great value in terms of heritage but now lacking their original function?
Two of the responses made are of great interest to those who visit the Alentejo. Some have been adapted as museums, such as the Convento de S. Domingos in Montemor-o-Novo, the Convento de N.ª S.ª da Conceição in Beja and the Convento de S. Francisco in Mértola. Other have been transformed into hotels, initially those of the state – the Pousadas – an experience that, from the end of the 20th century, has served as an inspiration for private initiatives.
It is this history that allows us today, in the Alentejo, to stay in the refined ambience of former convents and monasteries.
The examples are many: in Crato, the Mosteiro da Flor da Rosa; in Redondo, the Convento de S. Paulo; in Arraiolos, the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Assunção; in Évora, the Convento dos Lóios and the Convento do Espinheiro; in Vila Viçosa, the Convento das Chagas; in Beja, the Convento de S. Francisco. Because of the care that has been taken with their restoration, they are all places not to be missed.