Alcobaça Monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça)

Alcobaça Monastery


Location: Alcobaça, Leiria District Map

Constructed: 1153 by Afonso I Henriques

Tel. 262 505 120

Service: 11:30 am Sun


Apr- Sep: 9am- 7pm daily

Oct- Mar: 9am- 5pm daily

Closed: public holidays


Description of Alcobaca Monastery

Alcobaça Monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça)

Alcobaça Monastery is a Roman Catholic abbey situated in Alcobaça, Leiria District in Portugal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was found in 1153 by Afonso I Henriques as a celebration of successful siege of Santarem (1152) and given to the Cistercian order. The history of the Alcobaca Monastery is closely related to the history of monarchy in Portugal. The abbot of the monastery was appointed by the king and many rulers were buried here in elaborate coffins. The most sophisticated is probably that of Dom Pedro (king Peter I). Alcobaça Monastery was badly damaged by the earthquake of 1755, but it was French invasion in the early 1800's under leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte and his brothers that caused major damage to this splendid religious compound. Library and tombs of old monarchs were robbed, magnificent library was looted and remaining monks were forced to abandon their former home. The monastery ceased its existence and later was turned into a national museum of its history.


At the end of the tenth century in Cluny, Burgundy, a new Benedictine monastery was organized, which with zeal followed the rules of St. Benedict. However, over time, this fervor disappeared, the "Rule of St. Benedict" was "facilitated," and in 1098 some monks left their Molesme monastery, which was also in Burgundy, to establish a new monastery in Sister, south of Dijon. Religious Cistercians sought to follow the Rules of St. Benedict, and wanted to live for their ministry, and not for the accumulation of wealth. Bernardo de Claraval, who resigned in Sister in 1112, from where he left in 1115 to establish the Claraval Abbey, strongly supported this reform, which returned to its original system of government Benedict.

While Afonso Henriques was engaged in the Reconquest, Cistercian monks arrived on Portuguese territory, who founded the monastery of St. John the Baptist Tarouk around 1140.

Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, donated and gave S. Bernardo a lot of land in the Alcobas region, fulfilling the promise made in 1147, when Santarem was conquered. Around 1152, the temporary construction of the monastery began, and in the same year his abbot was sent into exile.

The first monks of Alcobas, known as white monks, brought with them many of the benefits of civilization. They also carried out charity work, they had their own doctor, a pharmacy, and they also helped the poor.


Alcobaça Monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça)

Monastery plan
The monastery consists of a church near the sacristy, and in the north there are three monasteries in a row, each of which is completely surrounded by two floors, as well as a wing in the south. Monasteries, including the oldest, also have two floors. The buildings around the new monasteries are three-story. Between 1998 and 2000, a fourth monastery was discovered on the south side of the church. This monastery was probably destroyed after the devastation caused by the earthquake of 1755 and the severe flood of 1774. It is also possible that the remains of the monks of the southern wing were destroyed in 1834. The current building still has an area of ​​27,000 m² and a total area of ​​40,000 m². The building area along with the southern cloister has a size of 33,500 m². The main facade of the monastery, the church and the north and south wings has a width of 221 m, on the north side about. 250 m. The church and the first monastery were built between 1178 and 1240 in the Gothic style of the Romanesque passage, and the church was opened in 1252 - this was the first completely Gothic building erected on Portuguese soil. Buildings on the south side were probably built in the 14th century. At the end of the 16th century, the construction of the Levada monastery began, which was connected with the northern medieval monastery. Finally, between the 17th century and the mid-18th century, the construction of the monastery and library was completed.

The architecture of the church of Alcobas is a reflection of Benedictine rule. In search of modesty, humility, isolation from peace and service to God. The Cistercians carried these ideas into their work, simply and economically decorating and building the structure of their churches. Despite its enormous size, the building stands out only thanks to the necessary structural elements that reach the sky. This became clear after the buildings were restored as a result of the restoration carried out in 1930. In the same year, it was decided to restore the medieval era, destroying many structures that have arisen over the centuries in this place. As a result, limestone-based stones making up a wall containing many carver symbols became visible. 16th-century choir chairs burned down in 1810 during the third French invasion. The main facade of the monastery in the west was changed between 1702 and 1725 by elements of the Baroque style. From there, the facade of the church is surrounded towards the square by the wings of two floors with a length of 100 m each. The church itself acquired two baroque spiers and has a 43-meter-high facade decorated with various statues. Entrance staircase with baroque ornaments also dates from this time. It is difficult to understand what the original facade looks like, because it was destroyed in 1531. The church probably would not have spiers, which would be consistent with the Cistercian ideal of simplicity.

The medieval sacristy of 100 m² in size, which was located on the upper north side, was replaced during the time of King Manuel I (1495-1521) with a new sacristy of 250 m² in size, on the southeast side of Charola. On the other side of the entrance hall was built the chapel of Senhor dos Passos. Both the sacristy and the chapel were destroyed during the earthquake of 1755. During their reconstruction, the limits of Manuelino, which are one of the few building elements of this style in Alcobas, were preserved. At the end of the sacristy is the Chapel of the Relics.


Alcobaça Monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça)  Alcobaça Monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça)

First royal tombs
Inside the church are the tombs of King D. Afonso II (1185-1223; tomb of 1224) and D. Afonso III (1210-1279). The graves are located on both sides of the chapel of St. Bernard (with the image of his death) in the southern transept. In front of these tombs in the side room are eight other tombs, including D. Beatrice, the wife of D. Afonso III and his three children. Another sarcophagus belongs to D. Urraca, the first wife of D. Afonso II. The history of other sarcophagi is unknown, and now they are empty after excavations between 1996 and 2000. The side building in which these sarcophagi are currently located was built after the damage caused by severe flooding. Since the 16th century, sarcophagi have been in the southern transept

Interesting about the tombs
The graves of Pedro I (1320-1367), nicknamed O the Cruel and Inesa de Castro (1320-1355), which are now on both sides of the transept, are still of great importance to the church and give some splendor to these places. The graves also belong to one of the largest sculptures of the Middle Ages. When Pedro I ascended the throne, he ordered the construction of these tombs in order to bury his great love, Inesa, who was cruelly sentenced to death by the father of Pedro I, Afonso IV. (1291-1357). He also intended to be buried there himself after his death. The drawings depicted in the tombs illustrate scenes from the history of Portugal, are of biblical origin, or simply resort to folk tales. We can say that on the one hand, this iconography is quite extensive and illuminates many historical events, but on the other hand, much of this is very controversial.

Tomb creation
Pedro I married in 1336, his second marriage to Constanta Manuel (1318-1345), the Princess of Castile. Due to several wars between Portugal and Castile, Constanta could not arrive in Portugal until 1339. In her entourage she brought the maid Inesa de Castro, who came from an old and powerful Galician noble family. Pedro I fell in love with her. In 1345, Constanta died fourteen days after the birth of her son Fernando I, Pedro began to live in public with Inesa, three children appeared from these relationships, but the father of Pedro I, Afonso IV, did not accept these relations, and struggled with them in every possible way in 1355 Mr. Ines sentenced to death for treason. After ascending the throne, Pedro I avenged the death of his beloved. Arguing that he secretly married her in 1354, he decided to honor Inesa as the Queen of Portugal. When the sarcophagi were ready in 1361, Pedro I placed them in the southern part of the transept of the church of Alcobas and moved the remains of Inesa de Coimbra to Alcobasa, in front of the majority of the nobility and population. , In his will, Pedro I bequeathed to be buried in another sarcophagus, so that when the couple resurrected on Judgment Day, they looked into each other's eyes.

Fate of graves
On August 1, 1569, King Sebastian I (1554-1578), whose uncle was Cardinal Enrique, opened these graves and according to the reports of the two monks present, when the tombs were opened, the king told the texts, telling about the great love of Pedro and Inesa. During the French invasion of 1810, two graves were not only irreparably damaged, but were also desecrated by soldiers. The embalmed body of Pedro was removed from the coffin and wrapped in purple cloth, and the head of Inesa, who still had blond hair, was thrown into the next room to other sarcophagi. Later, the monks collected parts of the tombs and reprinted them. After 1810, the tombs were placed in different places of the church in order to return to their original transept face to face in 1956.

Medieval monastery
The first monastery and church, according to some sources, were completed in 1240. However, it is likely that the monastery was destroyed. Between 1308 and 1311, it was replaced by the still existing Monastery of Silence, which he received this name because of a vow of silence, at that time. The length of the monastery is about 203 m, and the ceiling height is 5 m. By order of King Manuel I (1469-1521), at the beginning of the 16th century a second floor was added above the monastery. Access to the upper floor of the monastery is via a spiral staircase on the wall connecting the kitchen to the bedroom.


Abode of reading
The southern monastery, or the monastery’s monastery, runs parallel to the church without covering other parts of the building. In the mid-15th century, monks sat on stone benches, listening to readings. In the middle of the monastery is a chapel in honor of the Virgin Mary, which corresponds to the long tradition of Cistercian monasteries.

Monastery Head Monastery
The eastern monastery, the monastery of the head, begins on the south side behind the church gates through which the monks passed into the church and covers the medieval sacristy, the monastery of the chapter had a staircase to the bedroom and access to the room of the monks. Access to the Chapter Room indicated a particularly spectacular facade due to its chess posts. The room of the Head served for the meetings of the monks and was, the most important room of the Monastery after the church itself,. Its name is associated with readings that were made from the chapters of the Benedictine rule. On the other hand, this room was a place of voting and other similar actions performed by monks.