Take A Walk Around Alcobaça Monastery

Explore and discover one of the most important monasteries in Portugal

By Google Arts & Culture

The Monastery Complex
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The complex of the Alcobaça Monastery is the most notable and best preserved example of Cistercian architecture and spatial philosophy. Alcobaça was the last abbey founded in St. Bernard’s lifetime and the first wholly Gothic building in Portugal. The abbey was founded in 1153, when King Afonso Henriques donated the land to Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard).

The Church
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Consecrated in 1252 the Monastery Church was the first Portuguese Gothic religious building. It's large-scale remarkable elegance of proportions make it consummate contrast effects of stone and light. 

Inside the Church
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The church, 100 meters in length, its Latin cross layout features an ambulatory with 9 side chapels. The accentuated height of the church’s interior (more than twenty metres) gives it unmatched grace. The nave is divided into three isles: the central aisle, and the side halls, which serve mainly as passageways.

Celestial Light
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The light is provided by the large rose window and two side windows on the façade, the narrow slit windows on the sidewalls, and also the rows windows, windows at the two ends of the transept, and the high windows in the apse. 

The High Altar
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Particularly noteworthy is the use of flying buttresses around the high altar. 

Inês de Castro and Pedro I
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Transept currently houses the tombs of King Pedro and lady Inês de Castro decorated in the gothic style. The coffins are opposite to each other. 

King D. Dinis' Cloister
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This is the nerve centre of the whole Monastery and obligatory stop on the way to all the monastery rooms, the Cloister was also a place for reading and meditation.

This is the only mediaeval cloister in Alcobaça Monastery. Built during the reign of King Dinis, most likely between 1308 and 1311, it was designed by Domingo Domingues and Master Diogo. It is one of the most beautiful Portuguese Gothic cloisters.

Refectory
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Located next to the kitchen, the refectory is an impressive space thanks to its dimensions, architecture and complexity. It has 3 vaulted naves divided by 2 rows of 4 columns. It is noteworthy the pulpit on the western side, from which one of the monks would read from the Holy Scriptures during the meals. The pulpit is accessed through an arched staircase. There are 2 other passageways: 1 providing access to the kitchen, which no longer exists; and another to the patio.

Reliquary Chapel
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This chapel was built into the New Sacristy between 1669 and 1672. It has an octagonal layout and its interior is covered in gilded wood carving. The diffused light accentuates the theatrical ambience of the chapel. The Baroque polyptic in gilded and polychromatic carved wood features 89 reliquary sculptures housed in niches distributed on six levels. The chapel’s Baroque gilt carved wood structure is crowned by the ceiling made of carved and polychromatic stone.

Desterro Chapel
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A small, elegant rectangular building from the 18th century, the Desterro Chapel presents a typically Baroque retable façade featuring a portal flanked by four Solomonic columns on top of which is a pediment with an oculus in the centre. This group is crowned by an aedicular sculptural group depicting the Annunciation to Joseph.

The altar is profusely decorated in gilded carved wood and houses the remains of the Dona Constança, Virgin and Martyr.

Azulejos
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The interior walls are covered in glazed tiles attributed to António Vital Rifarto and dated 1720-23. The main theme in the tile panels in the Holy Family’s flight into and return from Egypt.

Credits: Story

Text: Monastery of Alcobaça

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