The monasteries and convents are unique. They all have their own architecture and history behind them. In fact, they make us dream almost as if we were going back in time.
In the Centre of Portugal there are sublime monuments that are worth a visit. In this article I'll introduce you to three of them that are roughly close to each other and that you can plan for a one-day visit - a day to dive into Portuguese history and get lost in architecture and art.
Monastery of Batalha
For those who love Gothic art – this is Portugal's masterpiece and one of the most beautiful monuments in the country and is classified as a UNESCO World heritage site.
If you ever pass by the national road (IC2), don't be surprised to see this huge monument in the middle of a small village. That's how I felt the first time I saw this monastery - I wasn’t expecting it at all – but I wanted to go in and so I did.
The facades are such a wonder, leaving no one indifferent. Then, the main entrance to the church is via the porch on the west façade. Upon entering, the ceilings are high making visitors feel small, something very characteristic of Gothic architecture, which in the past was designed to make the faithful feel the greatness of God when entering the cathedral.
The Monastery of Batalha, also known as the “Templo da Pátria”, was constructed by King João to celebrate the victory over the Castilians at Aljubarrota, in 1385. Winning this battle assured him the throne and guaranteed the independence of Portugal.
For this reason he and his wife, Filipa de Lencastre, are buried in the monastery, as well as other Kings and Queens of Portugal.
This splendid monastery took several generations to be built - more than 150 years to be precise- , in a process that was divided into three phases. All this time spent in construction resulted in a wealth of architectonic styles, such as the Gothic, Manueline (also known as Portuguese late Gothic) and some Renaissance traits. The design has been attributed to the British Master Huguet.
During the centuries that have passed through this building, ecclesiastical authorities have done their best to preserve it, by using the church for religious ceremonies. At the moment, the monastery of Batalha preserves its authenticity by maintaining of its original materials.
When it comes to visiting the inside, the ticket costs €6 for an adult and allows you to visit all ‘available’ spaces. However, there are a lot of enclosed rooms inside, which can be disappointing for those who were expecting to get a more complete visit.
Monastery of Alcobaça
This is another masterpiece of Portuguese architecture in the country, located in the small town of Alcobaça, some 120 km north of Lisbon. It is also listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
This construction marked the beginning of the Portuguese kingdom as it was built by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, the one who conquered Portugal, when the Portuguese identity was first formed.
It began to be built in the 12th century and ended 100 years later, in a work that crosses different architectural styles. The façade is marked by the Baroque style, but inside you will find a predominance of others main styles, such as Gothic style, especially in the church, refectory, dormitory and cloister, and manueline.
In relation to the second, in my opinion, it was a more complete visit because there were more open spaces than in the previous monument, allowing a better experience of the past.
At the end of the visit, the famous tombs of Inês de Castro and King Peter I can be found, which the story can be read at: https://www.theportugalnews.com/news/2021-07-23/holy-schist/61233
Convent of Christ (Tomar)
The Convent of Chris has also been on the UNESCO World Heritage sites list since 1983.
It was built in 1160 by the Knights of the Order of the Templars. However, the convent already had a high mythic behind as it was an ancient place where Romans have been. However, it was during the reign of D. Afonso Henriques that a connection was made to the Templars.
Its centuries of life combined different architectural styles - Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque. The main attraction is the golden oratory filled with paintings, as well as the Manueline window.
This is one of the buildings with the most cloisters in the world. In addition, the charola – one of the best amongst the examples in the world – symbolised the medieval European world of the Portuguese crusades and the defence of catholic faith.
Convent of Christ is a place that I truly recommend to visit as it allows you to look up many things inside. This one will not disappoint.
If you are interested in visiting these three sites, you can purchase a full ticket to visit them and get a discount (€15 in total instead of €6 each).