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Cister in the North of Portugal

Cister in the North of Portugal


The Northern region constituted the gateway to Portugal for the Cistercian order during the first half of the 12th century. The Abbey of São João de Tarouca, to the South of the River Douro, was the first institution to begin to observe the Order in a consistent manner, in 1144. Portugal played an active role in the success of this extraordinary European-wide spiritual and economic movement, that established many branches throughout the country during the 12th and 13th centuries.

The Order aggregated vast land and buildings in the regions where it was installed, and had a civilising effect on the local populations, leaving a legacy in terms of heritage and culture that we can now rediscover today. The austerity and singularity of the monastic buildings exhibit innovative architectural solutions that also marked the passage from the Romanic to the Gothic style.

Many monasteries were enlarged and renewed in the 18th century, and a Baroque movement was initiated that had a decisive impact on the interior of their churches and in certain cases added decorative elements to the façades, although sometimes thereby reducing their primitive purity. An important set of monasteries is distributed across two main geographical nuclei: one in the Alto Minho region – next to the course of the main rivers - Minho, Lima and Cávado, penetrating to the heights of the Gerês mountains. The other in the region to the South of the River Douro, located close to the river, from the coast to the frontier with Spain, to the East.

For all those who are fascinated by discovering the distant past, or appreciating spectacular settings, these two routes will reveal landscapes that you never dreamed even existed.

Cister in the North of Portugal
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