This last ‘garden’ from our recent trip to Portugal, is a bit of a cheat. The main attraction is the gothic splendour of the monastery and associated cathedral, but there are some wonderful outdoor spaces too, so I think its worth sharing.
The monastery was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and has maintained a close association with the Kings and Queens of Portugal throughout its history, housing several royal tombs and the national pantheon.
The church and monastery were the first gothic buildings in Portugal, and, due to its artistic and historical importance, was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1989. The Cathedral is the largest church building in Portugal and has a relatively simple undecorated interior- I was fully expecting golden baroque splendour on entering, but was pleasantly surprised.
The Cathedral is perhaps most famous for housing the tombs of King Pedro I and his mistress, Ines de Castro, assassinated, in 1355, under the orders of Peter’s father, King Afonso IV. After becoming King, Pedro ordered the remains of his beloved to be transferred to her tomb in Alcobaça and, according to a popular legend, had her crowned as Queen of Portugal and ordered court members to pay her homage by kissing her decomposing hand.
This pair of Royal tombs, of unknown authorship, are among the best works of gothic sculpture in Portugal. The tombs are supported by lions, in the case of the King, and half-men half-beasts, in the case of Ines, and both carry the recumbent figures of the deceased assisted by a group of angels. The sides of Pedro’s tomb are magnificently decorated with reliefs showing scenes from Saint Batholomew’s life, as well as scenes from Pedro and Ines’ life. Her tomb is decorated with scenes from the life of Christ.
The monastery complex provides an interesting, and, as expected, relatively simple series of rooms and spaces where the monks went about their everyday business.
Outside, the cloister is a most inspiring space, simply furnished (and with some sympathetic conservation) with a few trees and close-cut box bushes- I was fortunate to capture it in the afternoon sun. The monastic gardens- not open to the public- are a fine example fo box edged parterres enclosing a series of beds that once were used for growing food and herbs. This important site lies about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon and is an area I hope to visit again as there are other landscapes and historical sites nearby, that we didn’t have time to visit.
Source and further information: Wikipedia