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Alcobaça, Abbey of


Former Cistercian abbey, once the greatest in Portugal, two miles from the Atlantic, near Leiria. It was founded in 1153 by King Alfonso Henriques after the reconquest of Estremadura and settled from clairvaux, but it had to be rebuilt after a Moorish raid in 1195. The church, consecrated in 1252, was modeled after that of Clairvaux. The abbey, which reached its peak in the 14th century with 300 monks, founded many daughter houses in Portugal; its possessions included 13 towns and three seaports. The abbot belonged to the Cortes, was Grand Chaplain of the court, and had spiritual jurisdiction over the orders of christ and of aviz. Alcobaça was of major importance in the cultural and economic history of Portugal. Besides promoting the foundation of the University of Lisbon, it established the first public college (1269), the first pharmacy, and one of the first printing presses in Portugal; it maintained an agricultural school and model farms, opened mines, and pioneered in metallurgy, ceramics, glasswork, weapons manufacture, and other industries. From 1475 the abbatial title, with some of the revenue, was granted in commendation to Portuguese nobles, while monastic life was directed by triennial abbots. In 1567 Alcobaça became the head of the Portuguese Congregation of St. Bernard with its own abbot general and triennial chapters. It lost its moral leadership in the 17th and 18th centuries but prospered until the Napoleonic invasion. After a Liberal revolution the abbey was suppressed and sacked (1834). The buildings were unharmed, but the rich library and archives suffered irreparable damage. Most surviving MSS are in Lisbon's National Library. Alcobaça is now a national monument; the medieval cloister is a tourist attraction, the vast baroque complex is a home for the aged, and the church serves a parish.

Bibliography: vieira natividade, O monasterio de Alcobaça (Porto 1937). a. gusmÃo, A Real Abbadia de Alcobaça (Lisbon 1948). m. cocheril, "L'Ordre de Cîteaux au Portugal. Le problème historique," Studia Monastica 1 (1959) 5195. u. chevalier, Répertoire des sources historiques de moyen-âge. Topobibliographie (Paris 18941903) 44. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés (Mâcon 193539) 1:5051. r. trilhe, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 2:2529. m. hartig, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 1:297298.

[l. j. lekai]

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