The monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As soon as you enter the church’s immense nave - the largest built in Portugal in the Middle Ages - you feel a sense of spirituality that’s typically evoked by early Gothic architecture.
In the transept are the most beautiful medieval tombs in Portugal. On the right you’ll find the resting place of Inês de Castro and on the left, that of King Pedro I. The King himself ordered them to be placed opposite one another, so when the day of resurrection arrived he would be facing the woman he loved, who was brutally murdered. Pedro’s tomb is decorated with delicate sculptures, retelling the story of this tragic love affair.
The layout of the monastery follows that of the Cistercian Order founded in France. Walk through the austere chambers where monks lived for almost 800 years: the refectory, the dormitory, the chapter house, the cloisters, and the monumental kitchen where fish were cooked fresh from the river. On tiles lining the walls of the Kings’ Room, read the story of the founding of the monastery in 1153. You’ll learn that Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, promised to give St. Bernard the lands of Alcobaça if he captured Santarém from the Moors. Consequently, monks settled here, establishing an agricultural college on the fertile land that is still productive today.