Rent a car and make a day trip of Alcobaça and the nearby monastery in Batalha, along with Porto de Mós and its rebuilt castle
Alcobaça is a small city that has grown along the valleys of the rivers Alcoa and Baça, from which it takes its name. It shot to fame when the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, elected to build a church there to commemorate the Conquest of Santarém (now Lisbon) from the Moors in 1147. The church later became a monastery, and one of the finest Gothic buildings in the country.
The monastery is enormous, containing five cloisters, seven dormitories, a library and a vast kitchen, described the the 18th century traveler William Beckford as “the most distinguished temple of gluttony in all Europe.” However, the church itself is the highlight: it’s Gothic grandeur makes the perfect resting place for one of Portugal’s great couples.
Portugal’s Greatest Love Story
Within the monastery are the tombs of Pedro I of Portugal and his murdered mistress Inês de Castro. Although Pedro was in love with Inês, as heir to the throne he was obliged to marry Princess Constanza of Navarre. Years later, when Constanza died, he was at last free live with Inês. However, his father saw her as a threat to the throne and had her murdered. Heartbroken, Pedro silently harboured his grudge for years.
When he finally succeeded to the throne he took revenge on the two men who killed Inês, having their hearts torn out. He then revealed that he had actually legally married Inês before he married Constanza, and had her corpse exhumed and crowned as Queen. Every member of the court then had to kneel before her and kiss her decomposed hand.
Now, the two lovers are buried in the Alcobaça monastery where they stand foot to foot, so that when they rise on Judgement Day the first thing they will see will be each other. Each tomb carries the inscription “Até ao fim do mundo” — “until the end of the world.”
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