187km (116 miles) SE of Lisbon; 76km (47 miles) S of Évora
Julius Caesar founded Beja, which was once known as Pax Julia. The capital of Baixo Alentejo, the town rises like a pyramid above the surrounding fields of swaying wheat.
Beja's fame rests on what many authorities believe to be a literary hoax. In the mid-17th century, in the Convent of the Conceição, a young nun named Sóror Mariana Alcoforado is said to have fallen in love with a French military officer. The officer, identified as the chevalier de Chamilly, reputedly seduced her and then left Beja forever. The girl's outpouring of grief and anguish found literary release in Lettres Portugaises, published in Paris in 1669. The letters created a sensation and endured as an epistolary classic. In 1926, F. C. Green wrote Who Was the Author of the Lettres Portugaises?, claiming that their true writer was the comte de Guilleragues. However, a modern Portuguese study has put forth evidence that the Lettres Portugaises were, in fact, written by a nun named Sister Alcoforado.