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The Alcobaça Monastery is one of the first foundations of the Cistercian Order in Portugal. The foundation of the monastery was part of the strategy off Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. In this way he consolidate his authority in the new kingdom and promote the colonisation of areas conquered from Moorish hands during the Reconquista.
The building began in 1178, some 25 years after the arrival of the Cistercian monks in the Alcobaça region.
Initially, the monks lived in wooden houses, and only moved to the new stone monastery buildings in 1223.
The church construction ended in 1252. The finished church and monastery are the first truly Gothic buildings in Portugal. The last touch in the mediaeval ensemble dates from late 13th century, when King Dinis I ordered the construction of the Gothic Cloister of Silence. The church is the largest one in Portugal.
The library at Alcobaça Monastery was one of the largest Portuguese mediaeval libraries, but was pillaged by the Napoleonic troops in 1810. By 1834 Portugal dissolved the religious orders and many other manuscripts disappeared also at that time. . The remnants of the library, are kept today in the National Library in Lisbon.
Here in the church lays the tombs of Ines de Castro and Pedro I. Inês was a Galician noblewoman born of a Portuguese mother. She was the lover of King Peter I of Portugal.
The circumstances of her relationship with Peter I, and her murder, at the orders of the King Afonso, Pedro´s father are just the beginning of this drama.
After his father dead, Peter’s started a bloody revenge on Ines material killers, at the same time he forced the coronation of Ines exhumed corpse in a formal ceremony. This legend made Inês de Castro a frequent subject of art, music, and drama through the ages.
Today, the Monastery is a main historic touristic attraction together with the nearby Batalha Monastery.