“In this area lived a couple of lovers who loved each other madly. She was called Baça and he was called Alcoa. One day, the boy was visited by a strange figure, which made him change his character and behavior. He became extremely ambitious, and ended up abandoning Baça . She cried so much that her tears formed a river. Hearing this, the young man Alcoa fell into terrible despair and, due to his regret, he cried all day and night to the point of creating a river of tears that murmured in the moonlit nights. ‘Baça, my love… forgive me, I beg you to forgive me!’ Baça forgave him and, on this exact place, joined Alcoa, flowing into the left side, which is where the heart is placed.”
— 18th century legend about the forming and joining of the Alcoa and Baça rivers.
The charming village of Alcobaça lies where the Alcoa and Baça rivers join and is most visited for the Monastery which prominently rests in the center of town. The Monastery is an UNESCO Heritage Site and tickets can be purchased for just this one site or for it plus the other two nearby UNESCO sites in Batalha and Tomar as a trio.
The monastery was established in 1153 by the first King of Portugal, Alfonso Henriques. The library of the monks at Alcobaça was one of the largest medieval libraries in Portugal before being pillaged by the French in 1810. The remaining items were mostly stolen in 1834 during the anti-clerical riots in the wake of religious orders being dissolved in Portugal. The church itself has 20 meter high ceilings, is 100 meters long and is slender at only 17 meters wide, but after 800 years remains the largest Portuguese church.
But there’s more to the town than just a visit to the Monastery, which is magnificent. We found the town itself to be quite charming and stayed on for two nights. We ate first at Restaurante Antonio Padeiro, a Michelin rated but not snooty or upscale, very popular (reservations a must, even on a Monday night) but preferred the more casual Pratu’s we chose on night two.
Alcobaça is also the final resting place for King Pedro and lover Ines, the Romeo and Juliet of Portugal. Ines de Castro was a Galician noblewoman who came to be a maid to Dona Constança Manuel, who was engaged to Pedro I, son of the King, Afonso IV. Pedro and Ines fell in love and the romance was scandalous. To discourage the it, D. Constança made Ines godmother to one of her sons which would make the romance incestuous since becoming godmother would promote Ines from maid to family. Following the death of D. Constança, Pedro brought Ines back from exile to start a family in Coimbra, to the displeasure of Afonso, since the children of Pedro and Ines would give more power to the Castro family. He ordered Ines executed by three assassins. Pedro, none to pleased with pops, started a four year civil war and following the subsequent brief peace, Pedro ascended to the throne following the death of Afonso. He posthumously declared Ines Queen with a royal procession with Ines being brought to Alcobaça for entombment. Pedro ultimately caught two of the three assassins and legend has it ripped out their hearts himself. Pedro lies entombed across from Ines in the chapel of the Monastery of Alcobaça, where the lovers now lay for all eternity.