Mosteiro de Alcobaça
Mosteiro de Alcobaça Alcobaca Reviews
Very impressive Jun 03, 2015
Until recently the monastery was behind a controverted garden. Recent and expensive work replaced the garden by a even more controverted desert, but the monument is there in its untouched beauty. To know something about it let's read:
"(...)Is one of the few European monuments that has managed to preserve intact an entire group of medieval buildings and its church is the largest early Gothic construction in Portugal. The history of its foundation in 1153 recounted in the eighteenth century azulejo panels that line the walls of the Sala dos Reis (Kings' Hall). As we ''read'' the story of these panels, we learn that D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, promised St. Bernard his lands in Alcobaça if he managed to capture Santarém from the Moors, which did in fact happen in 1147. The statues of the Kings of Portugal - from D. Afonso Henriques to D. José I (in the eighteenth century) - stand on baroque consoles around the walls of the room. In the centre is a cauldron that is said, according to legend, to have been taken from the Castilian at the Battle of Aljubarrota.
The building of the monastery began in 1178, as did the building of the abbey of Clairvaux, the headquarters of the Cistercian Order in France. Alcobaça is thus connected to the great civilizing project that the white-dressed monks began there: the public school, which was begun in 1269, and the use of the land for farming purposes, providing a genuine agricultural training ground, the fruits of which are still visible today.(...)".
(Part of an excelent description that you may see at: http://www.manorhouses.com/unesco/whalco.html)
The tombs of Pedro and Ines dominate the church of the monastery, but the tomb of Saint Bernardo, telling the story of his death, is also very interesting.
Amidst several royal tombs, two are identified: those of our third and fifth kings - Afonso the 2nd and the 4th.
Peter and Ines
I believe that it is impossible to arrive at the monastery without knowing our "Romeo and Juliet story", but if you do, even the stones will tell it to you.
Ines de Castro was a Galician noblewoman that came to Portugal with the princess Constança of Castilla, the new wife of prince Pedro, the heir to the throne. Peter fell in love with her for the concern of his father, King Afonso IV, worried with the approach of Castilian to the throne. He couldn't stop the romance, and, after Constança death, with Pedro refusing to marry someone else but Ines, the king decided to have her killed.
Pedro reacts starting a civil war until his father death. Becoming king, Pedro announced a secret marriage with Ines, declaring her queen of Portugal. He took is body from the grave, sat her on the throne, and forced all the court to honor her as queen.
Giving her back to the grave, he ordered that he would be buried in an opposite position, so that, after the final judgment, the first thing they would see was each other's face.
The two wonderful tombs may be seen in the Monastery of Alcobaça, in the position ordered by King Pedro.
The legend is specially remembered in Coimbra, where they lived their love, and in Alcobaça, their burial place.
Commemorating 500 years since her death, great festivities took place in both places. A perfect replica of her tomb was used in a funerary parade to the monastery, but the most relevant detail is the position of both tombs - go have a look and you will understand why.
Only a remark to notice that recent works opened the access to a window from where you'll be able to take a picture of the tombs demonstrating how the king decided to be buried, in order to, at the end of the world... No! I promised not to tell the story again.
The monks life
More than a church (a wonderful church), Alcobaça was a school inhabited by dozens of monks.
It´s still very interesting to see their conditions of life, from the kitchen where they could cook three bulls at once, with always running water from the diverted river, to the cellar, dormitory and refectory.
Some recent works have enlarged and enriched the visited area.
The house where the monks had their meetings is now one of the most useful rooms in the monastery. It's shape is a square of 17.5x17.5 meters, big enough to gather 200 monks.
With good acoustic conditions it is frequently used to musical events. In between, it is open to visitors, displaying a few statues of the former abbots.
The richest room in the monastery shows the statues of almost all the Portuguese kings, but more than that, a great set of tiled panels from the 18th century tell the story of the monument's construction.
Very easy to follow and rather interesting!
Entering through the kings room, we access the main cloister, from where we may visit the monks accommodations. It's a very harmonious ensemble, from where we may have the idea of the size of the whole building.
Some recuperation works open the sight to new areas, promising a larger visit able area soon.
Monastery- Later adding
Though being started in the 12th century, some works have happened later, here and there with some different styles signing the dates.
The facade (baroque) and the access to the sacristy (manueline) are good examples.
A large and more recent area, in the back, for many years used as guest house is under recovering and may be seen from the 1st stage.
The south section of the Monastery has an independent access and it is used for different thematic displays. For instance, just before leaving to Croatia I saw there a free exhibition of the wonders of that country. Funny.
Two years after Croatia, many exhibitions passed in the monastery's south wing. It's impossible to get a current information, but the visit to the monastery is also a good opportunity to check what is going on.
To see the scheduled program you may try the Monastery page
Part of the Distrito de Leiria travel blog
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