The Alcobaca Monastery – tragic love and the fat check myth

This will be a short one, as the blah-blah will not do any justice to all these wonderful photos taken of an amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of Portugal. Afonso, the first king of Portugal, established the monastery almost nine hundred years ago and gifted it to the Cistercian Monks as a thank you for defeating the Moors in Santarem. The monastery and the church were the very first Gothic structures built in Portugal. The church is still the largest Cistercian Gothic Church in Europe.

Walking through this imposing structure can be quite jaw-dropping. The pillars, the arches, the domes, the windows, the rooms. Oh, and the kitchen. The monks did not have a dining room, so had their meals here. There’s a ginormous chimney in the middle of the room, like geez, what were they cooking there, and a very large basin is on the other side. The basin is more like a pond. At first we thought that it was for washing feet or for something else that we won’t tell, yep, imagination running wild, but nooo, it’s just a basin. They’d channeled water directly from the river into it. So not only did they have an abundance of fresh water, but plop-plop, fresh fishies! There’s also a funny story, myth, or whatever about this kitchen. Apparently there was only one way in, through a narrow door. Narrow, as if you-don’t-fit-then-you-starve kinda narrow. It has since been closed off, so no thoroughfare, but you can still stand in the opening. Did that! Would definitely have starved to death. Bums and boobies. Whoops!

Below are some photos of the altar depicting the Death of Saint Bernard, Gargoyles, intricate carvings and a renaissance water basin which is also mentioned in the Internet as “fountain where monks washed their hands before meals”.

The most famous tombs are that of King Pedro I and his mistress Ines de Castro. Pedro, the only surviving son of King Afonso IV, had an arranged marriage to Constanza, a Spanish royal. She was married before but it was annulled after only two years because her then husband, Alfonso XI of Castile, wanted to marry someone else. It has to be said that this first marriage was on paper only because she was still a minor when the powers that be married her off. The marriage was never consummated. Her second marriage was more a “revenge alliance” between her father and King Afonso IV. Her and Pedro were married by proxy and it took quite a while before she was able to travel to Portugal. Politics. Kidnapping. Man ego. Constanza arrived in Portugal with her lady-in-waiting, Ines. Ines, the daughter of an affair between her father and his mistress, descended from very influential Spanish and Portuguese noble families and was also related to Constanza. It was not long before Pedro fell in love with Ines. This affair lasted for many years and caused quite a scandal. After Constanza’s early death due to complications after childbirth, Pedro asked, expected, wanted, Ines to now become his wife. His father refused and tried to match him with other eligible partners. Pedro was having nothing of that. He wanted Ines. End of story. They were already living together, with their children. Afonso IV feared for the future of the monarchy, so took matters into his own hands. About nine years after Constanza’s death, Ines was murdered. Pedro raged and went into battle against his father. He lost, but not long thereafter his father died, so he ascended to the throne. Now that he was King, he exhumed the body of Ines and declared her as the Queen of Portugal. Apparently he dressed her up in finery and jewels and placed her on a throne. He then forced everyone in the royal court to kiss her hand. Apparently. He had two tombs made, one for Ines and one for himself. They are facing one other so that they will see each other on the Day of Resurrection. Constanza is buried in Coimbra,

Constanza and Pedro had four children, two of them died not long after birth and their only surviving son later became King Fernando I. Ines and Pedro also had four children, one of whom died after birth.

Just thinking. Romeo and Juliet was written two centuries later. Okay, it’s not exactly the same, but did Shakespeare know about Pedro and Ines? And…a personal opinion…the story of Constanza is more intriguing. Watch this space!

Amazing sculptures and artwork!

Look at the beautiful azulejos, typical Portuguese blue tiles.

The town, Alcobaca, is very vibrant and oozes history.

Street art in Alcobaca.

The name of the town derives from the Alcoa and Baca rivers.

Even the birds are in love in Alcobaca. Kiss-me-baby!

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2 thoughts on “The Alcobaca Monastery – tragic love and the fat check myth

  1. WOW! Hard to find words for the stunning architecture and intricate details considering when it was built. Best wishes in your new (warmer) home

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