I’ve heard of Crato several times, mostly because of the Crato Festival that every year draws thousands of people to that quiet village of Alto Alentejo, Portugal.
So when this year I received the invitation to go there to watch this musical event live, I found a magnificent opportunity to know the location that gives it its name.
Don’t think that Crato is a huge village. It is not. Maybe you can see it all in one morning or afternoon. But if you’re curious, it’s a great addition to your travel plans if you’re visiting the area.
Although small, Crato is surprising in details, often found in the buildings that make up those streets, and even in its people.
In the hours I was wandering around, I had the opportunity to collect some images that I’m sure will conquer you for a visit. Take a look!
The Castle That Doesn’t Exist And The View That Lives Forever
My first stop was at the castle area (Largo do Castelo). I was looking for one of those beautiful fortresses that make up the Alentejo scenery and tell part of its history. However, Crato Castle doesn’t exist. In fact, there are only fragments of what it was once.
“Oh girl, the castle is what you see here, and it’s closed. Not much remains of it,” said one of the locals, who lives in a house nearby.
But if the view of the “castle” is no big deal, the panoramic view from this area doesn’t disappoint.
The Secret Is In The Details
And these are scattered throughout the buildings of the streets of Crato. From the Mother Church to the ancient Jail Chapel, through the coats of arms at the top of the constructions. Look up from the floor or phone, and I guarantee you won’t regret it.
The Crato and the Order of Malta
I confess that my knowledge of the Order of Malta and its presence in Portugal is almost nil. So, it was with curiosity that I saw several marks of this sovereign order in this Portuguese village.
“On May 23rd, 1232, D. Sancho II donates Crato to the Order of the Hospital. Following this donation, Mem Gonçalves, Prior of the Order, recognize it as Vila do Crato, on December 8th of that same year. The castle was immediately built. After the battle of the Salado in 1340, the headquarters of the order is transferred by D. Afonso IV from Leça do Balio to Crato. Thus comes the designation Priory of Crato which has 23 Commendations and the following Portuguese lands and their terms — Crato, Gafete, Tolosa, Alder, Hawk, Belver, Envendos, Carvoeiro, Sertã, Pedrógão Pequeno, Proença-a-Nova, Cardigos, and Alvaro. The Grand Prior of Crato had spiritual and temporal power with episcopal jurisdiction. That’s why he was not subordinate to any prelate,” we can read in the Portuguese blog Ordem de Malta.
The Crato Museum
Part of this history is undoubtedly explained at the Crato Municipal Museum. However, I arrived too late and couldn’t make the visit.
According to the museum’s brochure, “the collection is made up of artifacts and art objects, which illustrate not only the spiritual but also the material life of Crato and its population throughout the ages.”
Don’t do like me. If you want to go there, please take note that it closes at 5 pm.
Modernity in Art Form
Another of the curiosities that I came across in Crato were some forms of street art. On the walls of some more neglected buildings are beautiful paintings that brighten the streets of the village.
And why not do a little dance?
As I told you, my visit to Crato was motivated by the music festival that happens every year in this place.
The Crato Festival began as a major fair for local crafts and gastronomy. The music came after and gained expression. Today, the main stage takes on prominent national and international artists and bands.
This is an event for everyone. You can see young people of all ages as well as families with younger children and even babies.
The atmosphere is relaxed, and the space very pleasant.
When I decided to leave because I still had to do a two-hour night trip back to my Ericeira, I returned to Largo do Castelo to get my car.
I walked the sleeping streets, only disturbed by a few young people who wandered around or the beats of the band still performing on stage.
It was a busy day and I’ll bring with me the memory of the beauty and calmness of this Alentejo village.