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Monsaraz is one of the oldest Portuguese settlements of the southern Portugal, occupied since pre-history, whose examples of permanent habitation include hundreds of megalithic monuments. The hill, on which the main settlement is locate, was a pre-historic fortification, or castro, that was the basis of pre-Roman occupation and funerary temples, carved from the local rock. Monsaraz was reorganized during the Roman occupation, but later successively occupied by the Visigoths, Arabs, Mozarabs, Jews, and, after the Reconquista, Christians loyal to Afonso Henriques. In the 8th century, Monsaraz fell under the dominion of Arab forces who occupied the Iberian Peninsula, becoming known as Saris or Sharish, and following the control of the Taifa of Badajoz. It is a natural defensive position, the highest hill in the area and proximity to the deep Guadiana valley, made it a location of strategic importance. In 1167, the Castle and medina was taken by Geraldo Sem Pavor, in an expedition that came from Évora. After, Afonso Henriques' defeat in Badajoz, Monsaraz was once again taken by Muslim forces. In 1232, supported by the Knights Templar, King Sancho II definitively retook the citadel and town, placing it under the control of the Templars, and obligating them to establish a garrison that would protect the border. The Christian repopulation of Monsaraz ended around the reign of Afonso III, when it was assigned an alcalde, the knight Martim Anes, and first letter of foral. In 1263 it was already an important fortress, being the head of a municipality, with large privileges. The local economy was fundamentally based on agriculture and livestock, existing some small artesnal industries producing terra cotta earthenware and hammered copper. After the Portuguese Interregnum (1383-1385), the town of Monsaraz was integrated into the dominions of the House of Braganza under Nuno Álvares Pereira. By 1412, it is inherited by Fernando, his son, becoming one of the more precious profit centers in the Ducal estates. In 1512, King Manuel of Portugal issued a foral (charter) to the Vila de Monsaraz, reformulating the public and jurisdictional administration of the municipality. The demographic crises created by the plague forced the Duke of Bragança, in 1527 to carry out small land reforms in order to promote the settlement Monsaraz. The small plots were established in the area surrounding this village. Following the Portuguese Restoration War, in 1640, the castle received new tactical defenses, that included a new walled bastion, that allowed the city-fort to be integrated into the system of defences that connected Elvas, Juromenha, Olivença and Mourão. The condition of the walled medieval city, the growth of the farm estates of Reguengos, the richness of the artesnal production and vineyards, and more importantly, the loyalty towards the Miguelist forces during the Liberal Wars were all factors that contributed to the shifting of the municipal seat away from Monsaraz.
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