At the top of a high hill, which was the ideal place for the building of a settlement in the old days, stands the older part of the town of Ourém, founded under the name of Abdegas. The Moorish occupation of the region from the 9th century onwards lies at the origin of the town’s current name, reminding us of the story of the Moorish maiden Fátima, who converted to Christianity because of her love for the Knight Templar Gonçalo Hermingues and thereafter adopted the name of Oureana.
In 1136, the town was conquered from the Moors by Dom Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, who gave it to his daughter. Dona Teresa ordered the Castle to be built in 1178, and granted the town a charter in 1180.
The 15th century was the most crucial historical period for the town’s development, when the fourth Count of Ourém, Dom Afonso, the grandson of Dom João I and Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, settled here. Dating from that time are the reinforcement of the town’s walls which still encircle the old mediaeval centre today, the Count’s Palace, the Igreja da Colegiada, a church that was remodelled in the 18th century, and the Pillory.
Roughly two kilometres away, down in the valley, is the new town of Vila Nova de Ourém, built after the earthquake of 1755 and now the main residential and commercial area. During your visit to the town, make sure to sample the local cuisine, in which the highlights are the dishes cooked with lamb, kid and rabbit, whilst amongst the pastries make sure to taste the famous Bolos de Arco de Ourém. You are advised to accompany your meal with a glass or two of one of the regional wines. Grapevines are one of the oldest plantations in the region, dating back to the time before the town’s actual foundation.
If you’re a devout believer in the Virgin Mary, make sure to visit Fátima close by, where there is a most important shrine dedicated to Our Lady. If you’re a nature lover, then we recommend that you set off to discover the Serra de Aires e dos Candeeiros, a range of hills that marks the municipality’s southern border.