Of very ancient origins, Montemor was first situated inside the walls with it’s Castle, four Parishes and Town Hall. It’s name, Monte (hill) moor (the biggest), it due to it’s geographical location on top of the biggest hill of the Monfurado. It’s streets and houses, that have been unearthed by ten years of archaeological digs, were perfectly adapted to the topography of the hill and they reveal both a very different and a very similar way of live, when compared to ours. One of the most interesting things archaeologists found, was the way people managed the lack of water springs inside the walls, using elaborate piping systems to collect rainwater and cisterns to store it. The houses had, in general, two floors and the streets were cobbled in the same way we see in the historical centre of the present city. Montemor had two charters, granted by the kings Sebastião I (1203) and Manuel I (1503).
The apogee of the village was between the 15th and the 16th centuries due to the long periods of time the king and his court spent in Évora. It’s from this period that date the most monumental buildings in the city, such as the manuelino style portals of Santa Maria do Bispo (inside the walls) and Misericórdia churches, the Nossa Senhora da Visitação hermitage, the cloisters, the church and the principal entrance of the convent of Nossa Senhora da Saudação, among others.
It was in Montemor that, in 1496, king Manuel I made the famous decision, that changed Portugal forever, to send boats to discover the maritime route to India. Also, it was here that the initiative of establishing a portuguese university funded by church money was taken.
In 1563, king Sebastião gave Montemor the title of ‘Vila Notável’ (remarkable village), for it was “an ancient place with great population, surrounded and ennobled by churches, temples, monasteries e many other great buildings and noble houses”.
Despite the ancient origins of the Montemor-o-Novo’s outskirts (with neighborhoods with orthogonal layout, from the 14th century), it was in the late
1500’s that the abandonment of the walled village became more intense. Finally in the 19th century al the official structures were located outside the walls. The biggest hill was deserted (except for the convent of Audacious that was converted in an asylum for disadvantaged children – AMID) and the foundations for the development of the present city were laid.
In March 11th of 1988, Montemor-o-Novo became a city. Today, we like to think of Montemor as a cultural and hospitable town, with all the advantages of an urban centre in perfect harmony with a strong rural component.
Located in the heart of the Alentejo’s Montado, Montemor-o-Novo is a city in constant dialogue with the landscape.
The Alentejo montado is one of the richest ecosystems in Europe, a cross between the presence of man and a rich environmental diversity. Based on the cork oak and holm oak, the agro-forestry system of the Alentejo montage is linked to numerous forms of agriculture, and with a precious presence of a local fauna and flora. It is in this ancestral coexistence in which the presence of man articulated evenly with the presence of nature, that the city of Montemor-o-Novo is located.
Art and culture
Montemor is also a unique cultural ecosystem in Portugal. In addition to its strong historical and environmental presence, the city today has a unique cultural and artistic life, where countless associations, platforms and independent artists coexist and collaborate. It is in this vibrant cultural environment that O Espaço do Tempo places its work, implanting itself in the territory and its social landscape, and radiating its work to the country and the world.
With about 70 residencies annually, countless projects, and a strong presence in the local economy, O Espaço do Tempo is an essential part of the life of this beautiful Alentejo city.
© Montemor-o-Novo municipality