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Discover Santiago do Cacem in the Alentejo Region of Portugal

Oct 10, 2007
Excavations at Castelo Velho (Old Castle) on a hill to the east of the present city, date human occupation of the region to pre-historic times. The settlement, dating from the late Neolithic, was fortified by the Celts (3rd and 2nd centuries BC) and subsequently Romanised.

Under Roman occupation, Mirobriga grew up as an agricultural and livestock centre, complete with its spas, and its importance can be seen, for example, in its large hippodrome used for training and horse racing.

Following the Germanic invasions of the 5th century the region lost importance, and the Moors built a new castle on a hill opposite that they called Cacem, probably in honour of an alcalde or sheriff. The Knights Templar took the fortress from the Moors by in 1157, though they were to retake it and hold on to it until 1217, when Christians took it for good.

King Afonso II confirmed his father's donation of the town to the Order of the Espatarios or Gladiators. Between 1310 and 1336 the castle was in the hand of Queen Saint Isabel's lady-in-waiting and friend, the Byzantine princess Veticia.

It was then handed over to the Order of Santiago until 1594, when Filipe II donated it to the dukes of Aveiro who held on to it until 1759 when it passed into the hands of the Crown. King Manuel granted a charter to Santiago do Cacem in 1510.

SANTIAGO DO CACEM

This land is a blend of maritime roast, pine forest and Alentejan inspiration. It is the country's second biggest municipality and its highest elevation is to be found in the Cercal hills at a height of 346 metres.

From here one can see the vastness of the sea to the West Those travelling in this region who are interested in handicrafts can find chairs and stools made of wood and wicker at sao Bartolomeu da Serra and at Sao Domingos da Serra, saddlery at Santiago do Cacem and at Cercal do Alentejo, ceramics at Santo Andre and Ennidas Sado and woodwork and cork at Cercal do Alentejo.

MIROBRIGA

An old Celtic settlement much Romanised after the 1st century of our era. It is now an important archaeological station essential to a proper under standing of the Roman presence in Portugal.

SANTO ANDRE LAGOON AND BEACH

Where the beach and an attractive lagoon come together to create an ideal spot to rest or to engage in summer activities such as windsurfing and angling.

ABELA

A small village of typically Alentejan architecture, its parish church standing imposing on top of a hill.

CAMPILHAS DAM

A restful stretch of calm water providing excellent conditions for canoeing, windsurfing and angling.

SAO FRANCISCO DA SERRA

A typical Alentejan village marked by its magnificent chimneys. The church and the ruins of Nossa Senhora do Livramento warrant a visit.

ALVALADE

A village with an enchanting landscape located between Campilhas Stream and the river Sado.

CERCAL DO ALENTEJO

A town surrounded by interesting farms and estates. About four kilometres away there is a spot providing excellent views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Serra da Mina.

SANTO ANDRE LAGOON AND BEACHES

Close by the sea lies the Santo Andre Lagoon, an excellent place for windsurfers. In addition to its wealth of fish, a large variety of water birds is also to be found, including duck, godwit, heron and grebe.

Those with a love of beautiful places just to "sit and think", can rest at will in this peaceful spot and enjoy the fish or eel stews which, of themselves, are a promise of marvellous gastronomic holidays.

Then there is the invitation to the beaches, with their fine white sands, to stroll along several kilometres between the blue and the tranquillity.

THE CITY SANTIAGO DO CACEM

The origins of the castle of Santiago do Cacem are rather curious, the result of the victory of a warrior princess over a fierce Moor called Kassen that took place on Santiago's (St James's) day.

She therefore named it Santiago de Kassen, which, over the time, became Santiago do Cacem. Rectangular in shape, ten towers and cubic turrets reinforce the walls. There is a superb view from the castle, whichever way you look.

The parish church stands next to it, with its 19th century cemetery. It was put up on the instructions of the Order of the Gladiators when the settlement was donated to them during the 13th century. Of ancient construction, it has undergone significant alterations.

During the 18th century the orientation of the church was altered and it was given a new facade. The south side still retains its gothic portal. There is an outstanding 14th century gothic high relief depicting Sat James fighting the Moors. Close by the town lies the Roman ruins of Mir6briga.

CASTLE

A fortification of Moorish origin, later rebuilt by the Christians. You can also visit the chapel of St Peter, a 16th century construction standing on the castle slopes.

PARISH CHURCH

A Church of gothic origin rebuilt following the great earthquake of 1755. Don't miss the notable Reliquary of the Holy Cross offered by the Byzantine princess Vetacia, and the gothic low relief offered to the princess by Queen Saint Isabel

RIO DE FIGUEIRA PARK

A park full of attractions for children and adults, laid out on the slopes leading up to the castle Swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball and badminton, swings and roundabouts, multiple sports ground and the pinewoods with their jogging and exercise tracks.
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