Tale of two monasteries, Portugal

In En-Route, Europe, Our Journeys, Portugal, Trip-Types, Unesco by JanisLeave a Comment

Alcobaça and Batalha

While we were road tripping around Portugal, we wanted to visit two very historical monasteries in the heart of Portugal, which have both been designated UNESCO sites.

The entrance to the Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal
The main entrance to the Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

The first being the Monastery of Alcobaça, founded in 1153 by Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal.

The second is the Monastery of Batalha, which was built to celebrate the victory in 1385 of the Battle of Aljubarrota by King John I of Portugal.

Monastery of Alcobaça

When we approached the Monastery of Alcobaça, I couldn’t believe the size of it, it’s quite imposing, the façade is amazing. Although, I have since found out that it is Portugal’s largest church and one the first Gothic buildings in the country.

Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

As you step inside, you are immediately hit with the incredible size of the nave and the soaring columns that your eye follows along.

The nave, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal
The Tomb of Pedro I, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

Within this ancient Monastery is the tomb of Pedro I & his mistress Inês de Castro, who was murdered under the instructions of Pedro I’s father Afonso IV.

Point to Note

If you just want to take a look around the church it’s free of charge; however, the €6 to stroll around the whole monastery is undoubtedly worth it.

Room of the Kings

The first room we wandered into was the Sala dos Reis (room of the Kings), which was encircled with 17th-18th-century statues of Portuguese Kings. And a historical depiction in the traditional blue and white azulejos so synonymous with Portugal.

The Room of the Kings, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

A reference guide

Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.

Cloister of Silence

From here we walked through to the large tranquil cloister built in 1308 by order of King Dinis, which is in keeping with the simplicity of the Cistercian style.

The Cloister of Dom Dinis, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal
The Cloister of Silence, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

Within the cloister is the octagonal lavabo, although, quite simple on the outside, within is an elegant Renaissance water fountain, where monks would have washed their hands.

The octagonal lavabo, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal
The Fountain, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

Our favourite travel reads

Tempted to?

Discover more of Portugal and its UNESCO World Heritage sites, this country just cries out for a road trip. You can do it all with, SIXT car hire they cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

How big?

What astounded me within the monastery was the size of the kitchen and more so the incredible size of the chimney which funnelled up from the fire below.

The Chimney in the kitchen, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal
Inside the kitchen, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

Next to the kitchen is the Refectory where the Monks ate in silence, while they were read to from a pulpit above them.

The Refectory, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal
The pulpit, Monastery of Alcobaça, Portugal

Did you know?

That the Monastery of Alcobaça has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1989 & the Monastery of Batalha has been listed 1983.

Monastery of Batalha

The eye-catching Gothic Batalha Monastery was built to commemorate the victory of the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota. It took over a century to build, although part of it is actually known as the ‘Unfinished Chapels’ since it was never really finished.

Outside the Monastery of Batalha, Portugal
The nave, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal
The stained windows, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

The monastery sits proudly in a large open square in Batalha and is really quite striking. As you stroll in, once again it’s the enormity of the nave and the pillars that lead your eyes down to the stained-glass windows.

Point to Note

It’s free to visit the church; however, like Alcobaça Monastery the €6 is undoubtedly worth it to tour the rest of the Monastery.

Founder’s Chapel

Just in the entrance of the church is the Founder’s Chapel which houses the joint tombs of King John I of Portugal and his English wife, Philippa of Lancaster.

The founders chapel, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

In the Founder’s Chapel, the King’s four sons are also entombed one of which is Henry the Navigator. Henry is believed to have been one of the initiators of the Age of Discoveries if you’ve visited Belém (in Lisbon) you will have seen the Monument to the Discoveries, which was built to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Henry’s death.

The tomb of Henry the Navigator, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

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Royal Cloister

We stroll through into the Royal Cloister, and it is beautiful, Gothic arches supported by spiralling carved pillars, and all surrounding the manicured gardens in the centre.

Inside the Royal Cloisters, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal
The intricate detail of the Royal Cloisters, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

It was charming and serene, sit down and enjoy the tranquillity or just take a slow amble around, you can take as long you like.

The Gothic Arches, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

When we entered the Chapterhouse, there’s an incredibly moving vigil taking place. Two sentries are standing guard over the Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers from WWI.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal
The Eternal Flame, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

The remains of a soldier from the Flanders Battlefields and one from Africa were entombed in April 1921. Not only are they protected by the two sentinels there is also the Eternal Flame flickering above, which is lit by olive oil.

Unfinished Chapels

To enter the Unfinished Chapels, you exit the church and wander around to the octagonal building, erected on the church’s outer wall.

The Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

It’s quite amazing when you wander in, as it is all open air and it feels like it’s just missing the roof, it’s so symmetrical. However, work was halted on this mausoleum as King Manuel I favoured the Jerónimos Monastery in Belém.

Inside the Unfinished Chapels, Monastery of Batalha, Portugal

Have You?

Visited Portugal and discovered any historical buildings that we can add to our ‘must see’ list, for when we to start planning our next road trip

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Inspired to visit Alcobaça & Batalha?

Not only have they got incredible monasteries, take a stroll around their historical towns, for a little bit more of a taster.

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Tale of two monasteries, Alcobaça and Batalha, Portugal

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About the Author


Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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