That’s right! In one day of touring we visited four different World Heritage Sites. Three were medieval monasteries and the last was a college. We got a hotel in Coimbra so we could spend some time in the central part of Portugal and use it as a hub to visit some of the historic sites around the area. It might seem like a lot, but each town is within 30 minutes to an hour of each other. In fact there are several tours companies offering all three monasteries in a day.
Our first stop was in Tomar to see the Covent of Christ, which I think was our favorite of the three monasteries. This one started as a castle in 1160 for the Templar Knights. The introduced the concepts of a keep and round out towers to Portugal. This castle was successful in holding of the Moorish invasion. The church was built next and was very cool due to it being round with a round alter in the center of it. In 1319 the Templars were disbanded and the structure was given to the Knights Order of Christ and they built 8 cloisters (4 long building around a square courtyard) in the next two centuries. Some of the other features that I loved were the roofless chapter house (meeting room), the refectory (kitchen and dining room), dormitory with tiny rooms and central heat, spiral staircases, and the Manueline windows and architecture.
Our next stop for the day was the Batalha Monastery (meaning Monastery of the Battle). It was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. The monastery consists of a church and two cloisters. In 1437 the last part was started, but was never finished. It is called the Unfinished Chapel and was to be a second royal mausoleum for King Edward. In my opinion, this Unfinished Chapel and unbelievably detailed Manueline architecture are the reasons to come here.
The final monastery for the day was Alcobaça Monastery, which was founded in the 12th century by King Alfonso I. It was the first gothic building in Portugal and was the most important monastery. In the church there are the tombs of several kings from the 13th and 14th centuries including King Pedro I and his mistress, Inês de Castro, who was murdered on the orders of his father. After being crowned King, Pedro commissioned two magnificent Gothic tombs for him and his mistress and they sit across the church from each other. While this was least favorite of the three monasteries we saw this day, I am still glad we came and loved the kitchen and cloister which had a staircase built in the wall so a monk could get to the pulpit and read scripture as the others ate.
For the final World Heritage Site we drove back to Coimbra to see the University, but we arrived less than 30 minutes before they closed at 7pm. This actually turned out to be a lucky thing because we were forced to get the nighttime tickets. This was so awesome and will be the subject of the next blog, so make sure you come back. ????