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Alcobaça cloister (UNESCO WHS) | by uempe (only sporadically here)
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Alcobaça cloister (UNESCO WHS)

Cloister of Silence of Mosteiro de Alcobaça (Alcobaça Monastery), full name Real Abadia de Santa Maria de Alcobaça (Royal Abbey of Saint Mary of Alcobaça), Alcobaça, Portugal.


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The Alcobaça Monastery (Portuguese: Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça) is a Mediaeval Roman Catholic Monastery located in the town of Alcobaça, in central Portugal. It was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history.

The church and monastery were the first Gothic buildings in Portugal, and, together with the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, it was one of the most important of the mediaeval monasteries in Portugal. Due to its artistic and historical importance, it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1989.


Art and architecture

The Alcobaça Monastery was built following an early Gothic style, and represents the arrival of this style in Portugal. The church and other main buildings were constructed from 1178 until the end of the 13th century. The church was consecrated in 1252. Following the precepts of the Order of Cistercians, the original monastic buildings were built under clean architectonic lines, without any decoration apart from some capital sculpture and a statue of the Virgin Mary.


Cloister of Silence

The cloister of the monastery was built during the reign of, and sponsored by, King Dinis I. It is one of the largest mediaeval Cistercian cloisters in Europe. Its columns are decorated by capitals with animal and vegetal motifs. The builder was the Portuguese architect Domingo Domingues. The Gothic Fountain Hall has an elegant early renaissance water basin inside, decorated with renaissance motifs including the coat-of-arms of the monastery and reliefs of gryphs. The second floor of the cloister, in manueline style as revealed by its typical twisted columns, was built in the early 16th century.

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Alcobaça monastery is inscribed in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.

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By virtue of its magnificent dimensions, the clarity of the architectural style, the beauty of the material used and the care with which it was built, the Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria d'Alcobaça is a masterpiece of Gothic Cistercian art. It bears witness to the spread of an aesthetic style that developed in Burgundy at the time of St Bernard and to the survival of the ascetic ideal which characterized the order's early establishments such as Fontenay. The tombs of Dom Pedro and Doña Inés de Castro are among the most beautiful of Gothic funerary sculptures.

The monastery is also an outstanding example of a great Cistercian establishment with a unique infrastructure of hydraulic systems and functional buildings. Deservedly renowned, the 18th-century kitchen adds to the interest of the group of monastic buildings from the medieval period (cloister and lavabo, chapter room, parlour, dormitory, the monks' room and the refectory).

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Natur und Kultur in Mittelportugal (Nature and Culture in Mid-Portugal), Wikinger-Reisen, September 2011

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Taken on September 18, 2011