Alcobaça, Batalha, Jerónimos and Mafra

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça, commonly know as Alcobaça Monastery, is the first edifice of the gothic style in Portugal and it is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The monastery began being built in 1178 and served as an abbey for the Cistercian Order. The lands were given to the first king of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, as a promise for the victories in the conquest of the Santarém city. It is in this monastery that lay the tombs of Dom Pedro I and of his lover, Dona Inês de Castro. Both are involved in a tragic love story.

In Batalha, in the place where the Portuguese defeated the Spanish to secure their independence, was raised the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, a convent whose construction was ordered by Dom João I in 1396. The Dominicans inhabited the monastery and the construction works would continue during two centuries and knew seven Portuguese kings in the meanwhile. The monastery was, in fact, never finished, and the pantheon of Dom Duarte is still there, better known as the Unfinished Chapels. The central vault has never been concluded. A huge statue of Nuno Álvares Pereira honours this battle’s hero, praised by the Catholic Church.

The Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon, is a Manueline style monument built by Dom Manuel I after the arrival of Vasco da Gama from India. The profit obtained through the commerce of spices financed the constructions for the monastery, which started in 1502. The edifice was given to the Order of Saint Jerome and this is origin of its name. There can be found the tombs of D. Manuel, Vasco da Gama, of the poets Luís Vaz de Camões and Fernando Pessoa and of the writer Alexandre Herculano. This is one of the Portuguese Monuments considered World Heritage.

The striking Convent of Mafra, located in the proximity of Lisbon, is one of the most important buildings in Baroque style in Portugal. There is a popular belief that it was ordered by Dom João V to express gratitude to his wife for she gave the king a heir (another version of the tale suggests that it was due to a disease the king had). The discovery of gold in Brazil, at the time in the possession of the Portuguese, financed a better project for the convent that started being built in 1717. As there was not any shortage of financing it ended up being a sumptuous convent, with great deals of marble and the most luxurious furniture. It was from this convent that the last king of Portugal left for the exile in 1910, first for the royal yacht in Ericeira, and later abroad.


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