Must See Sight within Alcobaca Monastery, Portugal

My curiosity about the story of must see sight within Alcobaca monastery made me add it to the itinerary of Portugal tour.

Most monasteries have stories within their mighty walls, some known some unknown. There are some more that are charming while some dramatic and gruesome. Alcobaca monastery is one such monastery that has all history, charm, drama, a sad and romantic story! I researched about the place before my visit and I read this gripping story of this Portuguese King, a lover. Alcobaca Monastery went into my itinerary in bold letters. Read on to know more about rhese legendary ill fated Portuguese lovers.

This monastery forms a part of the triangle of UNESCO heritage sites in that region of Portugal. The other two are Tomar and Batalha. I visited Batalha Monastery and Tomar Monastery too. From Sintra, we proceeded northwards, our first halt at Alcobaca. Alcobaca in Portugal is reputed to have the largest church of Portugal!

Alcobaca Church and Monastery

History

King Afonso in 1138AD built this monastery to commemorate his victory of Santarem from Moorish control. It was completed in 1223AD. (This reminded me of Kirti Stambh in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan. Rawal Kumar Singh (1179-1191) built this for the glory of Jainism. King Rana Kumbha built Vijay Stambh in 1448 to commemorate his victory over the combined armies of Malwa and Gujarat led by Mahmud Khilji. Probably building commemoration monuments was the order of the day then.)

must see sight within Alcobaca monastery Church

Interiors of Church

Alcobaca church is famous because of the monastery. It is a beautiful medieval structure, the facade has designs like icing on a cake, only they looked old and worn out.  During 17th and 18th centuries the original Gothic facade was altered. Time for a new facelift I guess. The doorway and rose window exist from the time it was built. Interiors are even more impressive with many parts to tour. I just melted at the sight of gothic vaulted ceiling there. I explored some important parts like the cloisters, seven dormitories, a library, and a huge kitchen. The kitchen is most noteworthy here. And the gigantic tiled chimney in center too is impressive.

Some of the cloister rooms are open to public. There is a story of a thin door on one wall: the monks apparently had to fit and pass through in order to gain access to the dining room. Don’t miss to see it and assess yourself may be!

I find it difficult to explain the feeling of calmness I experienced as I walked down the long nave. The huge soaring columns and the ribbed roof patterns are simple yet stunning.

UNESCO mentions…

Alcobaça Abbey was declared a World Heritage Site because:
“Its size, the purity of its architectural style, the beauty of the materials and the care with which it was built make this a masterpiece of Cistercian Gothic art.”

must see sight within Alcobaca monastery church interiors

Alcobaca Monastery

The monastery is an impressive example of Cistercian and Gothic architecture. The whole building is intact. It is the burial place of many Portuguese kings and queens. Monks resided here from 1178AD and dedicated their lives to religious meditation, creating illuminated manuscripts. They produced an early authoritative history on Portugal in a series of books. The library at Alcobaça was one of the largest Portuguese medieval libraries. But sadly enough, in 1810 the invading French pillaged it. Some remnants of the manuscripts are preserved in National Library, Lisbon. Consequently, monastic life here ended in 19th century.

The story behind must see sight within Alcobaca Monastery

Tombs of Pedro and his lover

Finally we were at the must see sight within Alcobaca monastery. The ornate tombs of King Pedro and Ines, who became queen posthumously, are the most photographed objects inside the church. The tombs are built with their feet facing each other. The King believed when they both wake up afterlife they should see each other first.

The story is a sad one:

Pedro, son of Afonso IV, was in love with Ines de Castro, a lady in the court. Because of pressure from state he married Costanza. After his wife Costanza died, Pedro went to live with Ines in Coimbra.

 

Meanwhile Afonso IV, Pedro’s father was convinced that Ines’s family was dangerous. He hired henchmen and murdered her. After Afonso IV died Pedro searched out the 2 killers. He killed them in the most gruesome manner by tearing out their hearts.

 

Pedro then exhumed Ines’s corpse, crowned her, declared that he had married her. The courtiers were compelled to kneel and kiss the Queen’s decomposed hand.

Most tourists make a beeline to photograph these tombs. And there is good understanding not to enter the photo frames of other photographers. There are magnificent carvings on the stone coffins with many angels and carvings of human and animal figures, each with detailed features. The near perfect figures of the angels around the statues of king and queen is most touching!
must see sight within Alcobaca monastery Pedo Ires tombs

Opening Hours of Alcobaca Monastery

October to March
From 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. (last admission at 5.30 p.m.)
April to September
From 9.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. (last admission at 6.30 p.m.)
The ticket office is closed 30 minutes before the Monastery’s closing time.
And it is closed on 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 20 August and 25 December

Travel tip 1: The visit is free on Sundays till 2pm.

Travel tip 2: While it may not be possible to plan a Sunday visit always, you can purchase 15euros ticket that enables entry to all 3 monasteries. There is more information at: About Portugal.

Tickets to Alcobaca Monastery

Individual ticket: €6
Ticket to the sacristy: €2

Road Trip Sintra to Tomar, Portugal
Drive from Sintra to Alcobaca, Portugal

64 Responses to “Must See Sight within Alcobaca Monastery, Portugal

  • Hello Indrani, I do enjoy your travels. You see the most interesting places and do wonderful posts and photos. Great shots of the Monastery and the tombs. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

  • Oh God what love! Where do you get all these ? Portugal has its fair share of crazy history huh 😀

  • sylviakirk
    2 years ago

    A terrific post for the day, as always, and such fascinating history!! I love the detail of the cathedral and you’ve captured it so beautifully,. as always!! I hope you have a great new week, Indrani!!

  • This story proves that a king’s life is not always a happy one.

  • Nice place with beautiful sculptural work. To me also it reminded the the resemblance to Indian history.

  • Thank you Indrani

  • Amazing , Wonderful photos.

  • Such stunning shots and sights.

  • vatsala mallya
    2 years ago

    Wonderful heritage structure with amazing architechture ! Fascinating love story of the King is the reminder of our ancient history where the Kings had to struggle.

  • What a lovely craze to have visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites – such a smart move, love this idea and might just copy you for a fabulous edition to my bucket list – how many do you get to in a year?!
    Love the contradiction of your craze to visit many World Heritage sites and your calmness on getting there, walking down the nave.
    Great post Indrani!
    Wren x

  • That is certainly a beautiful monastery, excellent photos.

  • Fascinating post and photographs.

  • Wonderful photos. Indrani! I particularly enjoyed the first one with the azure skies.
    Have a Beautiful Day!!
    Peace 🙂

  • I am in love with UNESCO World Heritage too! If I visit Portugal, I am interested in visiting the monastery you have presented here, Tomar and Batalha. Fingers crossed that I can go next year.

  • Yogi saraswat
    2 years ago

    So erect palaces and fort after victory was not limited in India , it was in Europe also !! you said right that Kirti stambh and Vijay stambh was made after victory in Chittorgarh. Good Historical place to visit with great pictures Indrani ji .

  • wow superb post 🙂

  • Love is crazy after all…a great read indrani di 🙂

  • The story moves me… wow, amazing intricate on the tombs! The church looks simply marvelous on both the sides.

  • What a great idea to go visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Then you should visit our windmills in Kinderdijk too. You can stay at my place!
    Have a wonderful bright month of December.
    Wil, ABCW Team

  • wow. incredible detailed work. i love the arches, too.

  • Nice, beautiful work by whoever built the monastery. Good captures!

  • The tombs look beautiful.

  • Nice piece of information dear.. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • beautiful place In… and the pictures are terrific…

  • Lovely interior, Indrani. Another great account on monument in Portugal 🙂

  • vow wonderful!!

  • Brilliant pictures…Looks so regal. 🙂

  • Beautiful architecture and as always your bful photography adds charm to the monastery 🙂

  • Marvelous Architecture.. Well presented, Indrani!

  • I can see why the tombs of King Pedro and his Queen are the most photographed. Lovely write up…

  • Such an interesting place. Enjoyed reading about the monastery and captivating pictures, as always 🙂

  • I loved the architecture here, agree with what UNESCO said 😊

  • Such intricate work!

  • Great architecture & beauty !

  • Aww you’ve been to Portugal too. The church’s architecture is really stunning and I really love seeing gothic structures. It gives me an impression of hard work and elegance in detail plus the rich history that it covers. Great post!!

  • The history of the monastery is fascinating and the story was kind of tragic. Although, the monastery is absolutely stunning. The details in the sculptures and walls is a must see and is absolutely lovely.

  • When we visit a specific church, we always get the feeling of taking a photograph of a certain object or the most photograph one. This church looks mysteriously beautiful to me. In the Philippines, we also have some old and big churches that are mostly visited by tourists even locals. I love the love story. Even after life, they still want to be with each other.

  • Wow this monastery is so intricately beautiful! The story is a sad and interesting bit of history that adds some good context. We hope to see this one day.

  • Oh my at the time that must’ve been spent carving those tombs. Years and years, I bet…I have never heard about anyone being buried feet to feet. It is amazing to me the thought and planning that went into the deaths of the important. The fact that she became Queen posthumously is quite amazing too…

  • Woah. First of all I love how the Monastery looked! I don’t know where I could find a place like that here in the Philippines. Secondly, the Architectural structure is on point! I can see how well maintained this monastery was. Lastly. Wow. That backstory was a big “wow” for me. I guess the saying is right, “If you are destined for each other, you’ll end up together” though they had a sad ending… but their love for each other is a wow!

  • So, do you think the story is true? If it is, could it be as gruesome as how it was told centuries later?

    On one hand, it is possible that the story is absolutely not true. Even when retelling stories from one child to another in a classroom, isn’t it the story ends up being different from the first one?

    But here, we are talking about events that happened centuries ago.

    On the other hand, it the truth is anything near the story as it is told today, then Pedro was, indeed, madly in love with Ines. Perhaps that love was so great that her murder drove him to madness.

  • I have mentioned many times that I love architecture! I must say that this monastery are one of the beautiful ones I see on the internet! That’s thanks to you! I so love the intricate carvings on the tombs, it must have taken a lot of hard work and focus to come out so beautifully! From the outside facade to its interiors, I love how this monastery turned out!

  • I was recently in Portugal but just for a week so not nearly enough time to explore. I alao love visiting UNESCO sites so will save these three cities for next time.

  • Not so intrigued with the story but rather intrigue with the architecture of the monastery. Our last photo trip, which I organized focused on the heritage churches on Cebu. Its an unusual feeling when you’re into a place that witnessed stories from centuries ago. I cant imagine myself being in this monastery.

  • Wow! Talk about undying love. The monastery is indeed very beautiful and intricate- but what makes it interesting for me is the story behind it. It made the place more alive for me. King Pedro and Ines’ “love” story is so intense that no Hollywood script can hold a candle. It’s almost as if Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King collaborated to make a movie. :p But seriously, thanks for sharing – by far one of the most fascinating historical tales I’ve heard in a while. Hoping I could visit Portugal too so I can see it for myself.

  • The church is so beautiful! And as for the story, it’s truly a tragedy. I’m currently planning a trip to Portugal and i’ll try not to skip this place.

  • I can imagine that Portugal has several monasteries and churches like this one. They do add a nice touch to the landscape, usually due to their high towers sticking up in the skyline. Not to mention the history they add to an area. 🙂

  • Enjoyed reading about the story…presented very well by you. Nice Pics!

  • This is a really beautiful and elaborate structure! But what struck me the most was the story of King Pedro and Ines de Castro. I was heartbroken just reading it! so sad. I wish I could go to Portugal one day. It’s so gorgeous and fascinating, and the language is also very beautiful! I lived in Macau for 6 months and Macau has a large Portuguese influence, and a lot of Portuguese were living there at that time and I would hear them speak. It’s lovely!

  • This post brought back great memories of my visit to this triangle of UNESCO sites. It truly is an amazing site to behold. Up to today, even though it has been years since my visit, I am still in awe at the grandeur of that kitchen! Alcobaca is definitely a must visit when in Portugal.

  • In Catalonia we have many cistersian monasteries so I would visit it for the tombs of Pedro and his lover! The inside looks very beautiful but in my opinion the new facade designers spoiled the monastery external appearance.

  • It’s nice to read the backstory about that. I’m not sure if we have monasteries here in this country. We have churches though which can’t compare to the grandoise of Alcobaca. I’m thoroughly impressed with its architecture and design. Thanks for sharing.

  • I would love to spend some time in Portugal! The story of waking up facing each other is so romantic! And the intricate detail on those tombs is amazing!!!

  • The monastery’s exterior alone is so nice. How much more the inside. And i can see why people fall in line just to take a photo of the tomb. The details are very intricate. How did you know about this place btw? We dont have monasteries here but im sure each place is deifferent.

  • I couldn’t visit this monastery when I was in Portugal. The tombs are actually quite unique. What a gruesome and sad love story.

  • Wow, the monastery is so gorgeous and intricate, and I love that you included the back story of it. I’d love to get to Portugal in the next couple years, and will add this to the list. Beautiful design and architecture!

  • Interesting, thats love. I wonder how you got all these as I truly admire you for that, its amazing to know some other parts of Portugal and its way more interesting. Your photos captured the best there is.

  • Oh My God! What a heart touching story. This is the actually insane example of love. The architectures are really beautiful and you have presented the whole picture in a perfect way. I will surely love to visit it someday myself.

  • I feel like that church resembles so many around Europe. They all look the same to me haha. I like how you always include all the specs to each place on how much it costs etc!

  • Wooh.. The story is interesting! All in the name of love… The architecture and the ceilings are too good. I really like that no one can get into others photo frame. How I wish people have the same unsaid rule everywhere.

  • That was a crazier story than I expected with a decomposing Queen and all. It kind of sounds like mental illness was involved because that’s really out there. Those carving do look amazing so I can see why everyone beelines to them.

  • This is hell of a beauty. I would love to visit this place when I travel to Lisbon next month. It was not in my list but now after reading this is certainly going to it. Cheers

  • Another wonderful church from Portugal! Some of these sculptures look so alive that can almost see them moving. A pretty morbid story but I like it… just my kind of morbid… he he

  • The love story of the king buried in this monastery reminds me of the story behind the Taj Mahal. However, the details are a bit crazy…. The tombs of the two lovers are so beautifully carved, the details on them are so elaborate and perfect.

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