The Monastery of Alcobaça

The monastery of Alcobaça, located in the district of Leiria, the mother house of the Order of Cistercian in Portugal dates back to the genesis of its existence in the middle of the 12th century. It owes its unique evolution with regard to the extent of its cost with the work done by religious, called here as agronomical monks due to their wisdom in this area. Over the centuries, they carried out an intervention in the landscape that completely transformed it into uses, passing from land often invaded by the sea to land with an unparalleled productive capacity.

Of the many operations that were intrinsic to him, the one that perhaps brought the most benefit to his religious and civil community was the intentional creation of a levada in the eighteenth century, which led the generosity of the water of the Alcôa River to pass through the monastic complex and thus allow all its extraordinary evolution.

More than a monastic complex, its size and what it housed made it unique at European level, being recognized by its peers for its grandeur and productive capacity. From seaports that were on the Atlantic coast at its western limit to the numerous agricultural farms, support structures and hydraulic mills that allowed the transformation of many of the raw materials produced under monastic rule.

Alcobaça serves as an example to the scientific and technical ingenuity of a community that for centuries had the tenacity and resilience to transform and adapt the landscape so that it became an ally.

Primary Sources

Santos_1710_Alcobaça Illustrada.pdf

Alcobaça Ilustrada

Illustrated book of Alcobaça, by Manoel dos Santos, Coimbra, 1710

Murphy_Travels in Portugal.pdf

Travels in Portugal

Travel book by architect James Murphy, London, 1795


Map and location