Estabished in 1153 to commemorate the victory over the Moors at the Conquest of Santarem, the Monastery at Alcobaça is the finest example of Cistercian gothic architecture in Europe. Construction of the monastery complex began in 1179 and ran through the end of the 13th century, with significant later Baroque additions, notably to the facade.
The nave and side aisles typify the clean lines and elegant simplicity of the Cisterians. Emphasis is on the vertical and on light. Alcabaça is approximately 348 feet long and 56 feet wide. Aisle vaults are the same height as the nave. The only decorations are the column capitals.
The monks were famous for their terracotta sculptures, many of which are still in the monastery. The Chapel of St. Bernard shows the death of the saint.
Two ornate sandstone tombs, one in each arm of the transcript, document the ill fated love story of King Pedro I and his mistress, Inês de Castro. Following the death of his wife, Pedro and Inês lived as a married couple and had several children. They may have secretly married. Inês was assisinated by the Pedro’s father to end the relationship. Pedro had their ormate tombs placed with feet facing each other so they would be together in eternity. Pedro posthumously crowned her queen. Legends say he exhumed her body, dressed her, then sat her a throne for the coronation.
The Royal Pantheon (Room of the Tombs) is adjacent to the transept. It is an 18th-century addition to the church. It houses several 13th-century royal tombs, including that of Queen Urraca, who died in 1220. Her Romanesque tomb is decorated with carvings of the apostles.
The Kings Room joins the church to the Cloister of Silence. Terracotta statues of Portuguese kings circle the upper walls while 18-century tiles illustrating the founding of the monastery cover the lower walls.
The two-storey Cloister of Silence dates to the 14th century.
The monks living quarters open onto the cloister, including dormotories, the chapter house, and the kitchen. A 60 ft high 18th-century chimney dominates the kitchen, which also included a fish pond.
Rooms are in the elegant Cistercian style. The refectory, or dining room, includes a unique pulpit from which the bible or other lessons would be read while the monks dined.