It is one of the oldest Portuguese settlements of the southern Portugal, occupied since pre-history. Examples of permanent habitation include hundreds of megalithic monuments. These include the neolithic remains of: Megalithic Monuments of Herdade de Xerez, Olival da Pega Dolmens, Menhir of Bulhoa, Rocha dos Namorados Menhir and Outeiro Menhir. The hill, on which the main settlement is located, was a pre-historic fortification, or castro, that was the basis of pre-Roman occupation and funerary temples, carved from the local rock.
The name Monsaraz originates from the word Xarez or Xerez, the Iberian transliteration of the Arabic Saris or Sharish, for the Gum Rockrose (Cistus ladanifer L.), a plant that still today prospers in poor, dry, acidic slate-based soil that surrounds Monsaraz. The Iberian words Xarez/Xerez latter evolved to the Portuguese Xaraz and to the Spanish (Castilian) Jerez (the Spanish name for the sherry wine). The settlement therefore came to be known as Monsaraz, originating from Monte Xaraz, i.e., fortified hill surrounded by Gum Rockroses. Its naturally prominent position, being the highest hill in the area as well as its proximity to the deep Guadiana valley, made it a location of strategic importance.
- Watchtower of São Gens do Xarez (Atalaia de São Gens/Torre de São Gens do Xarez), a simple, square watchtower oriented to the cardinal points, but in a state of ruin, making reconstitution difficult, likely built in 1646 to guard the Guadiana River.
- Chapel of São Bento (Capela de São Bento/Ermida de São Bento), a rural chapel constructed at the end of the 16th century-beginning of the 17th century, through contributions of many of the local residents of Arrabalde da Vila, that includes frescos in a vaulted ceiling. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake the building was left seriously damaged.
- 1 Xerez Cromlech (Cromeleque do Xerez). A megalithic complex that is believed to date back to the 4th or 5th millennium BCE. The present site of the cromlech is not its original location. Due to the construction of the Alqueva Dam for hydroelectric purposes, which led to the flooding of the original site from 2002, it was transferred from an area that is now under water to its present site close to the Orada Convent. Although it has much in common with megalithic stone circles, the Xerez cromlech is, in fact, square. There has been some dispute about the authenticity of the square layout or even whether it is a cromlech at all. When discovered, the stones had been widely dispersed due to agricultural work and an initial topographical survey only identified 12 stones that could be part of a cromlech, although the present layout has 55. It is acknowledged that the square shape results solely from interpretations by José Pires Gonçalves, a doctor and an amateur archaeologist from Reguengos de Monsaraz, who identified the stones as a cromlech in 1969. The 55 menhirs are of different types of granite of local origin. These are mainly between 0.37 and 2.10 meters in height, with varying shapes (ovoid, slightly flattened, cylindrical, sub-square, conical or polyhedral).
- 2 Menhir of Bulhoa (Menir da Bulhoa) (the road between the villages of Outeiro and Telheiro, on a flat area at the base of Monsaraz hill). Also known as the Menhir of Abelhoa, it is a granite megalithic standing stone. The menhir is thought to date back to between 4000 and 2500 BCE. Overlooked for a long time, it was identified in 1970. At that time it was lying flat on the ground, with the upper part separated from its base, which had been used in a nearby grape press. It was restored to its original shape soon after discovery, with the fracture remaining very noticeable. It has a phallic appearance, being about four meters high and one meter in diameter. The stone is decorated with engravings depicting the sun's rays, a staff, and wavy and zigzagging lines. However, the fact that it lay on the ground for so long has contributed to the erosion of the carvings. It is not known whether the carvings date back to the menhir's origins or were added subsequently, although the motifs are similar to others found from the neolithic and chalcolithic eras.
- 1 Turismo Rural Monsaraz - Casa D. Antónia, Rua Direita, 15, ☏ . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 11:30. In the main street of Monsaraz you will find the Casa Dona Antónia, memorable and unmistakable with its original and highly characteristic features - its main façade, its three broad chimneys and its massive bougainvillea which, when in flower, adds colour to this marvellous building. At the beginning of the 1970s it opened its doors to offer a traditional family welcome to visitors. from €50.