Why haul in building materials for your home when nature has made perfect good ones, and they're free? This seems to be the philosophy behind the jaw-dropping houses in Monsanto, Portugal, where homes are built in, on, under, and around massive boulders. Proof that houses made of stone really can stand the test of time, most of these homes were constructed around the 16th Century, and use the preexisting rock formations as structural building materials. No big, bad beasties will be blowing these houses down anytime soon!
Monsanto’s architecture is utterly unique in the world, as the town rose up in, around, and beneath these rock formations rather than making any attempt to remove or alter them. They’ve proven to be great fortifications in times of conflict, and one can only imagine what memories those boulders hold, having stood as sentinels for centuries. There are even stone coffins around the village church; the boulders were excavated to hold the dead, like miniature crypts.
There’s a house in the village known as “Case de Uma So Telha,” which means “the house with only one tile.” That tile is apparently a single slab of rock that makes up the home’s roof! Other houses have walls of stone, or even staircases: former residents chipped away at the boulders to carve steps into them, and then built second storeys above them. Far from the straight walls and ceilings found in most European architecture, the interiors of these houses are fluid and organic, working with the natural rock shapes rather than changing them too much to suit a particular aesthetic. Warm terracotta tiles and brightly painted doors complement the grey-brown stone hues, and the lush greenery of the Portuguese landscape makes this village even more exquisite to visit.
Monsanto has earned “living museum” status, and the homes can’t be changed or updated without inspection and permission, to ensure that the area maintains its unique, historic charm.