Alcobaca Monastery

Alcobaca 400
Alcobaca Monastery
Photo by: Rui Ornelas, Creative Commons

In 1147 when King Alfonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was battling in Santarém against the Moors, he took a vow before God. He promised that he would build a great monastery if God would give him and his troops the victory. After winning and becoming the leader of the country, he kept his pledge. He founded Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça or simply the Alcobaca Monastery. This is a medieval monastery found in Alcobaca, a town in central Portugal. This was the first-ever building in Portugal that adopted the Gothic style of architecture.

The King gave the monastery to Bernard of Clairvaux, a Cistercian abbot who strongly promoted the Crusades during that period. However, the monastery was also primarily built as his strategy to consolidate his authority in the new kingdom. It was also meant to promote colonization of the territories he had just taken from the Moors.

Till date, Alcobaca Monastery is still the largest church in the country. People love visiting this place because of its enormous size and the magnificence of its architectural design.

On the outside, this monastery has a great mix of styles. The church in the middle is sandwiched by two baroque-style wings. Above are the portal and the rose window which are part of its original structure. It was in the 18th century when architect João Turriano added two flanking towers and statues by its main entrance.

Inside, this Cistercian Gotchic church stretches up to 327 feet. The interior decoration is minimal, which is in accordance with the strict Cistercian principle. The minimalist style allows maximum appreciation of the vertical lines soaring to the roofs.

The church is not the sole thing you can enjoy in Alcobaca Monastery. You can also find here the royal tombs (where the remains of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines de Castro lie), the chapel of Saint Bernard, the Sacristy, the Room of the Kings, and the Royal Pantheon. Visiting the monastery is definitely worth your time, especially when you remember that this enormous building is a simple realization of a king’s vow.

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