I promised some here, so here it is. This is really really different from what you see normally. be patient. Thanks and enjoy..
Get ready for a real long post but I want to share with you guys)
In 1098, a group of 20 Benedictine monks, unhappy with the outcome of the principles of the order they belonged to, created a new order, called the Cistercian Order, with the aim of reforming the Benedictine order.
By 1162, they had spread all over Southern Europe and mostly in Portugal, with 750 male Monasteries and 900 feminine Convents.
In the mountains on the North of Portugal, near Santa Maria do Bouro, there was already set a hermit community that had joined the Benedictine order, and accepted the new Cistercian order fully.
The principles of this order were simple, austerity and asceticism. Silence was the rule, as well as abstinence. The rigid rules, however forced each Monastery to have a self sufficient capability in order to support and sustain life of the Monks without exterior help. A key factor in this was choosing a ground that was fertile, and had enough water, but was also secluded and far away from contact, to help in the hermit rule of the order.
Each monastery had to have enough ground for agriculture, water mills, workshops iron mongers etc….
As the time passed and the order grew, more land was given to the order and the Monasteries grew accordingly requiring more staff to work on it. Since the monks had religious duties 24/7 they were not allowed outside the Monastery, a new category of monks or friars was created, they were known “converses” and since they had no religious duties, they did the farming and all the outside the monastery work. To be identified as Converses priests, they wore a brown vest and beard, whereas the original religious Cistercian monks had white vests and shaved their heads and faces.
The Cistercian order was also innovative, as they rules were simple, each abbey was independent, and were ruled by a Monk that was elected for life by the whole community.
In Portugal, the Cistercian Order established the first Monastery in 1144, in St João da Tarouca, and the order spreads well in Portugal and in 1153, the Alcobaça Monastery was built, the “head” of the order and the Key Stone of my Country, Portugal.
Many Monasteries in Portugal and their origins are very mysterious and to that helps the fact that in 1834 the orders were ruled extinct by the Liberalist Kings and a fire in the Viseu library destroyed all documents. Also riots and pillage in that time destroyed much of the evidence. In 1834, the King ruled that the Church patrimony belongs to the Country and not to the Church..The Orders died…
The Santa Maria do Bouro Monastery is not exempt from this mystery and uncertainty.
According to the tales, 2 hermits that lived in the area saw at night a glare and lights coming from a rock…they investigated and saw a statue of Our Lady Mary, that had been hidden by other Christians from the Moors, (remember that the Moors - Arabs – invaded Portugal and Spain in 700 and stayed for many Centuries), in a place.
They built a small shelter for the image and the word spread so it became a place for religious functions, and attracted many pilgrims.
In 1162, the Monastery appears in a document from the first King of Portugal, King Afonso Henriques, (written before he became a King and started expelling the Arabs), that mentions it. By 1182 the Monastery is known as a Benedictine Order monastery and by the end of 1199, it becomes a Cistercian Monastery.
The Bouro abbey is prosperous and in 1208 the Abbey is the number 1 Cistercian Abbey in the Country.
During the 1383 -1385 crisis, when Castilla Kingdom (now Spain) tried to invade Portugal, the Abbey of Bouro armed themselves and armed with 600 men stops the Castilians (Spanish) trying to invade from Galicia. The success was great and the abbey boss was commended by King John I and given the right to call up on an Army…at that time, that was like owning an America’s cup boat!!
In the Century XV to the end of Century XVI, the monasteries enter a decadency status, because the orders made a bad political decision and gave the management of the until then autonomous abbeys to the “converses” priests, that were dependent from Cardinals or bishops, (the Church)…it was the end….many monasteries disappeared or were sold to corrupt auctions…that’s why some real rich people here own monasteries, or part of them…corruption is not a thing from now…
Anyway, since the management now was done by the Church via Bishops or Cardinals, these demanded more and more money from the monasteries, until they ran dry.
To help reduce the problem, the Church makes an even worse move. Stops new monks from admitting into the monasteries and limits the number of monks living in them. They did not even had money to buy food or clothes…the conventual’s system enters a decline it will never return from.
In 1533 the monastery is visited by the head honcho of the order, Monsignor Edme Salimeu, that seeing the disgrace the monastery was, walls broken, naked monks, no images, nothing, declared that this had to stop.
In the early XVII century he ordered all monasteries given back to the orders and the management removed from the church, and each monastery to be autonomous again, managed by a priest elected as before. A good move.
By the end of the XVII century the monastery was back on its feet, regaining its splendour, and a new section built. By then the Monastery had 33 monks! Yes!!
Unfortunately as I said before, in 1834, the religious orders were extinct by the liberal King, and the monastery sold in auction. It decayed rapidly and only the church was maintained as it in the mean time, became parochial.
Anyway, recently, the Monastery was salvaged by archaeological entrepreneur by a Portuguese University and declared National Patrimony. To help preserve the Monastery, it became “Pousada”. (see note in the end).
This is where we, the Giulietta family spent 5 days and our New Years eve. (I will post those at a later occasion).
Ladies and Gentlemen, I proudly present you the:
Mosteiro de Santa Maria do Bouro, Minho, Portugal.
As we get there, the Monastery is behind the trees
in this beautiful valley
There is the Church, the Monastery is on the right
The entrance to the Pousada / Monastery
Statues like this adorn the monastery all over.
Beautiful let me tell you…if you’re into this….you will get lost here, but wait..it gets better, much better…
So we enter the main door, you’re no longer in 2007, that I can tell you
This is the old fruit garden, still with orange trees
Then you climb these stairs, you’re inside the Monastery. The Pousada has only 25 rooms, 3 are suites.
The corridors to the rooms, modern mixed with old…amazing
Incredible furniture everywhere. This box is from 1430!!!
Then…the rooms, they were the actual cells (rooms of the monks) complete with retreat cell…check this out…
This is Fred’s room, a real isolation cell with a small square shrine thing and a bowl for water!!! He was soo happy…he said he felt like a real monk..
Dramatic view from my bed room sun set..
And more from my window
From the corridor windows…you can see this…just wait till you see the photos from downstairs….
So downstairs we go, into the cloister, which was the centre of the monastery, like an inside garden really, but no dirt floor. Please note that the whole monastery is built of granite.
Fred said he was inside Harry Potters school!! Dumb child ehehehe
So my friends, here is the cloister…breath taking stuff…I had tears in my eyes.. I was here for a whole 5 days, we’re alone here, as the Pousada only takes 25 guests, or better, up to 50 guests as each room is double. But we had the whole thing for ourselves…sit and read, relax and meditate about life
Above Fred, there was originally a wooden floor, and stairs and that is where in the original monastery built in the 1200’s that they monks slept. You can see the windows still there.
The newer walls etc. all around, were built after the reform, in 1500’s when the monastery was returned to the orders. The bed rooms are in that “new” section. The old section was wood and its gone.
The Cloister…this is where they passed most of the time praying.
That square hole in the ground is a small levy, and the water passed from outside, thru the centre of the Cloister, where they could dip their feet, while meditating, but I doubt as the water is extremely cold, to a water mill on the outside of the monastery (see further ahead).
The place has the water running a few hours of the day on certain days.
Tell me, Isn’t this pretty??
A view of the Church, but from inside the Cloister
God knows what it means…
An old water spout
These inscriptions were everywhere, hardly readable, but touching that, that someone carves 900 years ago….is something..make you feel humble and small.
Then on the South side, opposite side from the entrance and church, the “backyard” if I may is the water mill, and the gardens, all these buildings (except the mill) are from the 1500’s after the reform.
The water mill
And the back balcony.
That rectangular thing in the end is the old chimney that you can see bellow from the inside.
Bellow looking the other way(our bedroom was on the corner of that first building, that is shaped like a question mark.
They also had a fish tank, believe it or not.
In the dining room there is a balcony (the rails were gone as they were wood), where the selected monk would pray during the meals.
This image of Jesus is dated from year 1200. The arms are gone as is the cross, but can you imagine??? An 800 year old piece of wood still intact? This is the dining room.
In the dining room the monks had running water all the time, remember all the water channels etc. outside?? The monastery was built over a creek. There are sinks like this everywhere, (see one behind the kitchen table bellow), and you get to drink the water. as it is fountain water..100% pure, no Coca Cola hand here guys…
A view from the room that precedes the dining room, when you enter from the cloister. Here the monks would sit and wait for their turn into the dining room, and would pray.You can see the dining room thru the door.
As I was having dinner, one night, I started looking at what seemed mildew stains in the walls…I got curious after all people left and went in to look…they are 1300’s frescos. And you can touch them. There are many…I did not touch, but I could if I wanted to…
This is a detail of the kitchen, that part in the end was the chimney as they had a large fire there all the time. This is a XVII kitchen table guys…the real deal.
The dining room was to my back.
By the way, that’s me and Fred at the bar…yes I took him to the bar, we have no alcohol laws here, but he only drinks water. That was New Years Eve. The Bar, is behind me. Self service.
This was a great experience, where else can you live inside a 900 year old museum?? And touch things?? Where??
Portugal, that’s where…
I have more posts to do, such as the Roman road of Bracara, that dates to the year 1000 B.C. and we drive on it, and the beautiful Geres Mountains, breath taking photos.
(Pousada is a Portuguese word a Pousada is like a 10 star Hotel, really luxurious and exclusive, with top notch service and locations)