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Monastery of Alcobaça

The Monastery of Alcobaça is a unique monastic establishment and a masterpiece of Gothic Cistercian art.

It was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history.

The building of the monastery began in 1178, some 25 years after the arrival of the Cistercian monks in the Alcobaça region. Initially, the monks lived in wooden houses, and only moved to the new stone monastery buildings in 1223. The church was completed in 1252. The finished church and monastery were the first truly Gothic buildings in Portugal, and the church was the largest in Portugal.

The church includes Royal Tombs and the Royal Pantheon. The kitchen of the monastery was built and covered with tiles in the mid-18th century. The central chimney is enormous, supported by eight iron columns. Water and fresh fish were diverted from the river Alcoa to the kitchen basin through a specially-built canal.

Map

Visit December 2002

One of my Portuguese favourites, this site is. Two hours by public bus from Lisbon, through continuous rain, took me there.

But the sun started to shine when I arrived in the town of Alcobaça. The Monastery is in the heart of it, so locals are confronted by it every day when they go to the post office or shopping.

While the outside looks massive, the inside is very pretty. I especially lingered in the huge kitchen. This is completely covered with white and blue tiles and has a strangely scaped chimney (see picture above).

Community Reviews


Klaus Freisinger - February 2017

I visited Alcobaca as part of an organized daytrip from Lisbon (together with Batalha, Óbidos, Nazaré and Fatima), so we only had a limited amount of time available there. Basically, we just got a look around the huge main church, but not at the rest of the monastery complex. The church is the largest in Portugal and features the Royal Pantheon where 3 kings of Portugal are buried. The most famous sarcopahagi, and the main reason so many tourists visit the church, are those of King Pedro I. and his mistress Ines who had an ill-fated love story in the 14th century.


Clyde - August 2014

I visited this WHS in August 2014. I spent half a day here after visiting Batalha and on my way to Lisbon. Again the combined ticket I had bought in Tomar turned out to be quite handy although there were less people here than there were in Tomar or Batalha. The highlight of my visit was the recently whitewashed courtyard although on the whole this is the monastery that impressed me the least as a WHS. Perhaps it was just fatigue but apart from being a huge structure with a lovely courtyard I cannot say that I felt it justifies its inscription as it didn't deliver any OUV. Nonetheless it was a pleasant stop on the way to Lisbon.


Frederik Dawson - January 2012

From the lonely train station, I took a taxi to revisit the famous Monastery of Santa Maria of Alcobaça which located almost in the middle of the small town of the same name, Alcobaça. After got information on connecting bus to Batalha from the very friendly tourist information and nice hot chocolate from the lovely café on the monastery square, I was ready to explore the huge monastery again. The first thing I admired was the monastery’s façade and entrance; its perfect proportion with the rest of the complex was really well designed and its lovely sculptures were really supporting the overall ensemble. For interior, at first, I was quite disappointed to the really plainness of the church, but the magnificent tombs of Petro I and his wife, Ines de Castro and their tragic love story colorfully filled the church with romantic theme.

Other highlights were the cloister, the refectory and the monastery kitchen, the cloister was really large with many lovely decorations especially from the second floor, and the fountain hall was one of the best sights of the monastery. The refectory, in my opinion, maybe the most elaborated room of the monastery with many beautiful window channels, and lovely pulpit. The monastery kitchen was quite unique with the really big chimney liked industrial factory. For other parts of the monastery were quite simple with really plain design with some glazed tiles decorated, a very typical Portuguese interior. The tour route inside the monastery was quite well organized and after many rooms, I was back to the church again. Actually only a quarter of the monastery was opened to the public which made me wondered for the rest of the complex that reportedly destroyed and looted by French troop and anti-clerical riot and now are developing to be exhibition gallery.

It was really tempted to compare Alcobaça Monastery with other three WHS listed monastic buildings of Portugal, Batalha, Tomar and Belem. Each had many similarities especially in term of architecture, but each site had unique characteristic enough to shrine by itself; for example, Batalha was so fanciful and load of elaborated details, Tomar was liked a fortress or labyrinth more than convent, and Belem was so stately and well maintained with superb quality. For my opinion, Alcobaça was in the middle of all, the monastery was very large with some acceptable elaborated details with simple but elegant elements of state monument, but one thing really outstanding was the monastery complex surprisingly made a feeling of home with spacious, warm and bright rooms more than other places testifying the perfect living place for generations of monk who called this place as a home.


John Booth - April 2010

The blue and white tile panels at Alcobaca station are also interesting, depicting scenes from the Holy Land.

The station is at Valado, some distance from the monastery. Connecting buses are available during the week, but at the weekend there are only taxis.


David Cris?stomo - June 2008

its a magnificent and beutifull place. It has the large church in portugal and it reprensents a great testimony of the portugal's independence. In fact 3 kings of Portugal, are buried there.


ivan mandy - July 2006

I love the grandeur and simplicity of this place. Reminded me of the design addage "Less is More".


antonio da costa - January 2006

I have visited this site on a family trip some years ago.

It is an overwelming site like many in Portugal large or small.


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Full name: Monastery of Alcobaça

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  • Monastery of Alcobaça

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Architecture

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  • Dynastic Burial Places Kings Afonso II, Afonso III, and their Queens Urraca of Castile and Beatrice of Castile are buried here, as well as King Pedro I and his mistress, In?s de Castro.
  • Glazed tiles In the kitchen of the monastery
  • Tombs 

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