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The reconquest of the Portuguese territory to the Moors was assured by the help of Christian military groups, generally associated with religious orders. As a reward for his participation in the conquest of Santarém, Cistercian religious order received from King D. Afonso Henriques a vast territory extending from the sea to the Candeeiros mountain range, known as "Coutos de Cister". Couto's donation letter dates from April 8, 1153, but it was only in 1178 that the construction of the Abbey began under the guidance of Bernard of Clairvaux, later sanctified.
It is the first monument of Gothic architecture in Portugal, which earned it recognition as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983.
The Abbey was an important pole of colonization, functioning as a school of agriculture, and around it were born several settlements, based on the flourishing agricultural activity.
The Monastery remained the epicenter of all activity around, until 1833, when its position alongside the faction defeated in a civil war, led the monks to flee, a situation confirmed the following year with the official extinction of religious orders in Portugal.
The monastery survived, passed to state property, and regained its determining place in the local economy, now through tourism.
The passage of the years provoked some changes and additions, very visible to the visitor.
The most notable of these changes was the inclusion of two royal tombs, by D. Pedro I and Inês de Castro, perpetuating the Portuguese "Romeo and Juliet". Equally striking is the alteration of the facade, badly damaged in the mid-16th century, and whose final reconstruction only happened in the early seventeenth century, with the inclusion of baroque elements.
As a detail, the sacristy, added in the reign of King Manuel I, fell with the Lisbon Treaty in 1755, but its reconstruction preserved some Manueline details.
The entrance to the church is free, but the visit of the rest of the monument requires a ticket, with some alternatives of exemption or discount, which can be consulted in the official page.
It is almost impossible to arrive at the monastery without knowing Portuguese "Romeo and Juliet story", but if you do, even the stones will tell it to you. Ines de Castro was a Galician noblewoman that came to Portugal with the princess Constança of Castilla, the new wife of prince Pedro, the heir to the throne. Peter married Constança but kept a secret love with Inês, contested by his father, King Afonso IV, worried with the risk of the Castilian approaching the throne.
The king couldn't convince him, and, after Constança death, with Pedro refusing to marry someone else but Ines, the king decided to have her killed. Pedro reacts starting a civil war until his father death. Becoming king, Pedro announced a secret marriage with Ines, declaring her queen of Portugal. He took her body from the grave, sat her on the throne, and forced all the court to honor her as queen. Giving her back to the grave, he ordered that he would be buried in an opposite position, so that, after the final judgment, the first thing they would see was each other's face.
The two wonderful tombs may be seen in the Monastery of Alcobaça, in the position ordered by King Pedro. The legend is specially remembered in Coimbra, where they lived their love, and in Alcobaça, their burial place. Commemorating 500 years since her death, great festivities took place in both places. A perfect replica of her tomb was used in a funerary parade to the monastery, but the most relevant detail is the position of both tombs - go have a look and you will understand why.
Only a remark to notice that recent works opened the access to a window from where you'll be able to take a picture of the tombs demonstrating how the king decided to be buried, in order to, at the end of the world... No! I promised not to tell the story again.
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This important natural park covers part of six municipalities of the districts of Leiria and Santarém, and presents many attractions, mainly in the geological plane.
Situated close to several top tourist destinations, the park complements the historical and urban wealth with an interesting set of visits and activities, which deserve to be highlighted:
- The many wonderful caves ( Alvados, Mira de Aire, Santo António are the most touristy, but Algar do Pena, discovered in 1985 and with the biggest room in Portugal - 125.000m3 - "joined the club")
- The salt mines in Rio Maior, more than 200 m above sea level
- Trekking routes along the best landscapes
- The springs of Olhos de Água and Arrimal
- The Natural Monument of Dinosaur Footprints
Lodging in the park is possible, but people use to stay in one of the touristy points nearby.
Detailed information (in Portuguese only) in PNSAC
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Do you know of anything else about the enviroment that makes you happy to come to Alcobaça Monastery? If it's a city or neighbourhood are there any climatic, or microclimatic features that you could tell others about. If the location is a building or place, then can you describe it maybe as "sun-lit", or "cold in the mornings". We'd love you to contribute - why not let us know in the drop box below
Graphic showing average weather in Alcobaça Monastery in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
|Month||Temp °C||Rainfall Cm||Temp °F||Rainfall Inches|
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