Monasteries are great places to visit, especially if you’re someone traveling for the sheer purpose of getting inner peace. They can be found everywhere in the world and there is no denying the fact that a countless number of them are not only calm and serene just as they are intended to be, but also extremely beautiful and admirable. One of the oldest countries in Europe, Portugal also boasts a good number of gorgeous monasteries, which some say are as old as the country itself. Portugal is actually not quite known for its monasteries, which is why we believe that adding these magnificent sites to your itinerary will make your visit more interesting. Read on to learn about the must-visit monasteries in Portugal.
1. Alcobaça Monastery
About 75mi (120km) north of Lisbon, this Roman Catholic monastery is located in the central Portuguese town of the same name. Commissioned by King Afonso Henriques in 1153, it is regarded as one of the most important medieval monastic complexes in Portugal. A classic example of Gothic architecture, the church and the monastery were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1989. The complex underwent numerous modifications from its inception right till the 18th century. The transept of the church has royal tombs, which are worth seeing. Visit the monastery’s Chapter House that’s full of beautiful Baroque statues, and the kitchen, which has an enormous central chimney. The Cloister of Silence that contains highly embellished columns is also very admirable.
Address: 2460-018 Alcobaça, Portugal
Website: Alcobaça Monastery
Opening hours: 9am - 7pm (daily)
2. Batalha Monastery
This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site designated in 1983. Officially the ‘Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory’, this is one of the best-preserved monastic complexes in Portugal. It was built in the 14th century to commemorate the Battle of Aljubarrota; however, from the 15th century onward, it became the burial church for Portuguese royalty. From embellished columns and vaulted ceilings to cloister windows and flying buttresses, this complex has all the design elements, making it not only noteworthy but also study-worthy. In the older Manueline cloister, there’s a beautiful fountain that will instantly catch the eye. There’s also a special room containing the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI.
Address: Largo Infante Dom Henrique, 2440-109 Batalha, Portugal
Website: Batalha Monastery
Opening hours: 9am - 5:30pm (daily)
Also known as Jerónimos Monastery, this is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 1983. Located in western Lisbon’s parish of Belém, this complex was commissioned by King Manuel I in the early 16th century at the site of the former church of Santa Maria de Belém. This monastic complex spans approx. 55sq m (592sq. ft.) across, and it has two stories. The lower story was designed by Diogo de Boitaca, an influential Manueline architect, and features broad arcades adorned with finely decorated Gothic and Renaissance-style colonnettes. The upper story was designed by the Iberian architect, João de Castilho, and it has a chapter house containing the tombs of poet Fernando Pessoa and novelist Alexandre Herculano.
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4. Monastery of the Saviour of Travanca
The Monastery of the Saviour of Travanca was built in the 13th century under the patronage of the Portuguese nobleman, Garcia Moniz. Even today, it is regarded as one of the most important Benedictine temples in Portugal. Lying right on the Portuguese-Romanesque route, the monastery also enjoyed being in a strategic location during the Middle Ages. However, after the crusades, the Order seemed to have fallen into darkness until in the early 20th century, when its restoration was undertaken, and later on, it was declared as the Portuguese National Monument. In February 2020, it was declared that the monastery will be converted into a hotel by the French businessman Jean-Claude Frederic Frajmund, which will be open to tourists by 2023.
Monastery of the Saviour of Travanca
Address: Rua do Outeiro, Travanca 4600-222 Portugal
5. Monastery of São João de Tarouca
Located about 9mi (15km) southeast of Lamego in northern Portugal, this was perhaps the country’s first monastery of the Cistercian Order. The monastery stands against a picturesque backdrop of terraced hills. However, it is today in a state of decay. Until about the 17th century, the church and monastery were in their full glory. But after Portugal abolished the religious orders in 1834, the complex fell into ruins. Today, although the monks’ quarters are in a dilapidated state, the church stands a bit intact with its gilded choir stalls and 15th-century painted tiles, thanks to the restoration efforts made in the 17th century.
Monastery of São João de Tarouca
Address: São João de Tarouca Serra de Leomil, Sao Joao de Tarouca 3610-082 Portugal
6. Monastery of Saint Mary of Pombeiro
This Romanesque-style monastic complex is believed to have been founded in 1059 by Dom Gomes Aciegas and completed in 1102. It was one of the important Benedictine monastic complexes in Portugal, at least until 1834 when the Benedictine monks were expelled and their religious orders were abolished. Post that, the entire complex fell into ruins. In 1910, it was classified as a national monument and was officially opened to the public. Between 1958-1987 and 1993-2006, the church was also renovated. It features beautiful Romanesque sculptures and murals belonging to the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.
Monastery of Saint Mary of Pombeiro
Address: Lugar do Mosteiro, Felgueiras 4610-637 Portugal
7. Pedroso Monastery
Built in the 11th century, this is yet another magnificent Benedictine monastic complex in Portugal. This monastery is located in picturesque Vila Nova de Gaia in the northern part of the country. This impressive Romanesque-style complex comprises a church and convent. The church has been designed in the shape of an irregular polygon with a deep chapel and two soaring bell towers. The monastery itself was in full glory until 1560 when the Jesuit monks were expelled from the religious orders. After that, the property was razed to the ground. Later on, in 1803, the church and the convent were separated by a high-rising wall. In 2014, the entire complex was designated as the Property of Public Interest, and ever since, tourism has gained a lot of impetus on this site.
Address: Largo Mosteiro, 4415-254 Pedroso, Portugal
8. Monastery of Celas
Founded in 1221 by Princess Sancha, daughter of King Sancho I of Portugal, the beautiful Romanesque monastic complex is situated in the historic city of Coimbra. The complex began as a humble church surrounded by a cloister of small cells that housed the sisterhood of nuns. Over a period of time, it grew to become one of the most significant monastic complexes in Portugal. However, much like most other Portuguese monasteries, after the religious orders were extinguished in 1834, this monastic order was also dissolved, but the nuns were allowed to stay. The current ensemble features several 16th-century elements such as the noble portal on the façade and the choir door to the antechamber of the chapter room.
Monastery of Celas
Address: Av. Bissaya Barreto 105, Coimbra, Portugal
9. Monastery of Lorvão
Also known as the Abbey of Our Lady of Lorvão or simply Lorvão Abbey, this 6th-century monastic complex is in the civil parish of Lorvão in Portugal’s Coimbra District. As per historic records, this complex flourished in the beginning, owing to it being a major point of trade between the northern Christian inhabitants and southern Muslim rulers. In fact, in the 12th century, this monastery’s workshops were known for their glorious illuminated manuscripts. However, this complex couldn’t resist the fall that most Portuguese monasteries had to suffer after the dissolution of religious orders in the 19th century. Interestingly, at the dawn of the 20th century, the buildings were transformed into a psychiatric hospital. At the same time, it was also declared a national monument. In 2012, the hospital closed down and since then, the complex has been home to a museum displaying sacred arts.
Monastery of Lorvão
Address: R. Evaristo Lopes Guimarães, 3360-106 Lorvão, Portugal
10. Monastery of Saint Peter of Cête
This 10th-century monastic complex is located in the civil parish of Cête in the municipality of Paredes in northern Portugal. Although most of the complex is built in the late-Romanesque style, there are certain attractive Gothic elements too, such as the church’s bell tower. Initially commissioned by the Portuguese nobleman Gonçalo Oveques, the complex was later restored between the 12th and 14th centuries under the patronage of the abbot D. Estêvão Anes. After these restoration efforts, some elements of the Manueline period were added, which can be seen in the chapter hall and the main cloister. The interior of the monastery contains beautiful limestone reliefs of Saint Peter, Saint Lucia and Our Lady of Grace, and a mural of Saint Sebastian.
Monastery of Saint Peter of Cête
Address: Largo do Mosteiro Cete, Paredes 4580-312 Portugal
Beautiful Portuguese monasteries
Most of these monasteries were abandoned and fell into ruins after Portugal dissolved the monastic orders in the 19th century. Owing to this, some of them might give an eerie vibe when you look at them from a distance. But once you set foot into these spaces, you cannot help but marvel at the calm and serenity they emanate. So, if you travel to Portugal this vacation season, don’t forget to add these magnificent complexes to your itinerary.
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