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Explore what's inside Alcobaca Monastery | Main highlights & attractions

What is Alcobaca Monastery?

Inside the impressive Alcobaça Monastery in Portugal lies a treasure trove of history and architecture. As one of Portugal's most significant medieval monasteries, it showcases stunning Gothic and Baroque elements, alongside poignant stories of love and tragedy. Let’s delve into the depths of this iconic landmark and uncover its captivating secrets.

What’s inside Alcobaca Monastery?

1. Tombs of Pedro I and Inês de Castro

The most famous attraction in the monastery is the Royal Tombs, where King Pedro I and his mistress Inês de Castro are buried. The tombs are side-by-side, and they are elaborately carved from white marble.

2. Chapel of Saint Bernard

The Chapel of Saint Bernard is a small but beautiful chapel that was built in the 13th century. It is dedicated to the founder of the Cistercian order, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The chapel has a simple and elegant design, with a vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows.

3. Royal Pantheon

The Royal Pantheon is a 16th-century addition to the monastery that contains the tombs of several Portuguese kings and queens. It is a large and impressive space, with a high ceiling and ornate decoration.

4. Sacristy

Explore the Sacristy, a room filled with religious artefacts and ceremonial objects. This sacred space is a repository of faith and tradition, housing a treasure trove of religious relics, ornate vestments, and ceremonial vessels. It provides insight into the religious practices and rituals of the monastery, offering visitors a deeper understanding of the spiritual life that once thrived within its walls.

5. Room of the Kings

Portraits and memorabilia of Portuguese royalty adorn the walls of the Room of the Kings. This room was once used by the Portuguese kings when they visited the monastery. It is decorated with beautiful azulejo tiles

6. Dormitory

The Dormitory is a large room where the monks used to sleep. It is a simple and unadorned space, but it gives you a sense of the monastic life. The room offers a great way to envision the quiet hours of contemplation and prayer that filled these halls, as monks dedicated themselves to lives of devotion and service.

7. Refectory

The Refectory is the room where the monks used to eat. It is a large and impressive space, with vaulted ceilings and Gothic windows. It served as a central gathering place for the monastery's community, where monks came together to nourish their bodies and spirits. Take a moment to appreciate the simple beauty of communal dining and the timeless rituals of shared meals.

8. Cloister of Silence

This peaceful cloister was used by the monks for meditation and contemplation. It is a beautiful space, with a central garden and Gothic arches. Listen to the soothing sound of trickling water from the central fountain as you wander through the cloister's arcades, soaking in the peaceful atmosphere.

9. Kitchen of the Monastery

The Kitchen is one of the most interesting parts of the monastery. It is a large and well-preserved space, with a huge fireplace, water cisterns, and a complex system of pipes that brought water and fish from the nearby river. Explore the large hearths and massive cooking pots that were used to prepare meals for the monastery's inhabitants, offering a glimpse into the culinary practices of centuries past.

10. Chapter House

The Chapter House was the room where the monks met to discuss important matters. It is a large and impressive room, with a vaulted ceiling and Gothic windows. The Chapter House served as the heart of the monastery, where decisions were made, and community bonds were strengthened through shared purpose and collective action.

Is there an 'Anti-Gluttony' door at Alcobaça Monastery?

The so-called "anti-gluttony door" at the Alcobaça Monastery in Portugal is a popular myth rather than a historical fact. While there is a narrow doorway in the old refectory (dining hall), it wasn't designed to restrict the monks' access to food based on their size.

Here's the truth behind the story:

Origin of the myth:

  • The myth about the "anti-gluttony door" emerged in recent times, gaining traction through social media and online articles.
  • The story often features an image of a man supposedly stuck in the doorway, falsely reinforcing the narrative.

The "myth":

  • The narrative claims the door, measuring only 32cm (12.6 inches) wide, functioned as a way to monitor the monks' weight.
  • It says monks who gained excess weight wouldn't be able to fit through the door and access food, essentially forcing them to fast until they lost weight.

The debunking:

  • Actual size: The door is actually much wider, measuring approximately 50 centimeters (1.6 feet), wide enough for most people to pass through comfortably.
  • Real purpose: Historical evidence suggests the door was likely used as a serving hatch for passing plates of food from the kitchen to the refectory (dining hall).
  • Misconception origin: The "anti-gluttony door" narrative likely originated as an unsubstantiated explanation for the narrow doorway, gaining traction on social media.

Visitor tips

  • Start with the church: The church is free to enter and is a stunning example of Cistercian architecture. Be sure to pay attention to the intricate details, such as the stained glass windows and the tombs of King Pedro I and Inês de Castro. Church in Alcobaca monastery
  • Don't miss the cloisters: There are two cloisters at the monastery, the Claustro do Silêncio (Cloister of Silence) and the Claustro de D. Dinis (D. Dinis Cloister). The Claustro do Silêncio is smaller and more peaceful, while the Claustro de D. Dinis is larger and more ornate.
  • Be careful: If you're visiting in the summer, be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat, as it can get quite hot.
  • Consider a guided tour: This is a great way to learn about the history and significance of the monastery, especially if you're short on time. However, if you prefer to explore at your own pace, you can skip the tour and still enjoy the monastery.



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Frequently asked questions about what’s inside Alcobaça Monastery

What is inside Alcobaça Monastery?

Inside Alcobaça Monastery, you'll find a wealth of historical and architectural treasures, including the Royal Pantheon, the Tomb of Pedro I and Inês de Castro, the Cloister of Silence and more. Explore its rich heritage and breathtaking beauty.

Can I go inside Alcobaça Monastery?

Yes, Alcobaça Monastery is open to visitors. You can purchase tickets online in advance to explore its fascinating interiors here.

Can I take a tour inside Alcobaça Monastery?

Absolutely! Guided tours are available, offering insightful commentary and a deeper understanding of the monastery's history and significance. Book your tour in advance to ensure availability here.

What are some must-see highlights inside Alcobaça Monastery?

Don't miss the Royal Pantheon, the Tombs of Pedro I and Inês de Castro, the Cloister of Silence and the Sacristy. Each offers a unique glimpse into the monastery's heritage and architecture.

Do I need a ticket to go inside Alcobaça Monastery?

Yes, a ticket is required for entry into Alcobaça Monastery. You can purchase tickets here.

Can I take pictures inside Alcobaça Monastery?

Photography is allowed inside the monastery, but please be respectful of any designated no-photography areas and refrain from using flash to preserve the artefacts and artwork.

Is there a dress code I should follow to go inside Alcobaça Monastery?

While there isn't a strict dress code, it's recommended to dress modestly out of respect for the religious nature of the site. Avoid wearing revealing clothing and consider covering your shoulders and knees.

Is going inside Alcobaça Monastery worth it?

Absolutely! Alcobaça Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site with centuries of history and breathtaking architecture. Whether you're a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply seeking cultural enrichment, a visit to the monastery is a rewarding experience.