UNESCO World Heritage Challenge: Monastery of Alcobaça

I recently had the chance to visit another two UNESCO World Heritage site, this monastery and also the Monastery of Batalha, both in central Portugal.

Monastery of Alcobaça

The Monastery of St. Maria de Alcobaça was founded in 1153. The construction lasted several centuries resulting in a hybrid of building styles evident around the monastery. The first church, Alcobaça I, was Bernadine style. Alcobaça II, which was erected on the foundations of the former chruch, was strongly influenced by Clairvaux III and, as a consequence, was closely connected with the art of Burgundy and Northern France. The existence of this monastery is related to a legend, which attributes the the building was the result of a promise made by the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. on the top of the mountain of Albardos he promised to his cousin Berard, Abbot of Clairvaux, that he would donate all the fields that could be seen from there to the Cistercians, if he won tha battle of Santarém , which was in the possession of the Moors.

Front entrance to the monastery

The abbey recieved the first monks in 1223, but it was only consecreated in 1252. It was the first Gothic monument in Portugal in which flying buttresses were used. The abbey church has the shape of a Latin cross. The magnificent facade is Baroque and was made in 1702 by Father João Turriano.

Two magnificent twoms are placed in opposite wings of the transept. They belong to Pedro I or Portugal and Inês de Castro. The story of Pedro and Inês, considered to be one of the greatest love stories ever told can be found here.

Tomb of Inês de Castro

The right sides of Inês’s tomb show scenes of Jesus’s life and death (seen above). The head side represents the Calvary and the feet side the Doomsday. This is a representation of the moment in which the two lovers would meet again and live together for eternity.  Pedro’s tomb shows St. Bartholomew’s life. Its most beautiful part is the rose window at the head side, which represents the Life Wheel of the Lovers. Legends states that the tombs are placed opposite each other so that they will meet in the very moment that they wake up from death on Doomsday.

Life Wheel on the Tombo of Pedro I

The cloister in the monastery is square shaped and named after King Dinis who was responsible for its construction. As it is open on the top, it represents the union of heaven and earth. It is designed to represent an image of paradise.

Cloister of King Dinis

Overall, an impressive UNESCO site. You can view more images from this visit on Flickr here.

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