São João de Tarouca Monastery
With construction beginning in 1154 this was the first Cistercian monastery to be built in Portugal. As with most sites of such antiquity there are a mix of architectural styles reflecting development over the centuries; from Romanesque through to Baroque.
Unlike most other Cistercian monasteries, São João de Tarouca is dedicated to St John as opposed to the Virgin Mary. This is probably due to the fact the monastery was established before this became the tradition. An other unique feature of the monastery is the large dormitory which is constructed over two stories. This was built in the 17th century when the monastery underwent a series of expansions.
From the beginning this was a wealthy monastery. Initially funded by Portugal's first king -D. Afonso Henriques - further generous endowments and efficient management ensured the funds flowed in. Some of this wealth can be seen in the fine azulejos, ornate gilded woodwork and fine art that adorns the church. This is also the site of the tomb of Pedro Afonso, Count of Barcelos. With its recumbent statue of the duke atop and sculpted detail on the sides it is well worth a look.
With the Portuguese dissolution of the monasteries in 1834 the Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca became a parish church whilst much of the complex was left to decay.