The Monastery of Tibães (officially, Monastery of Saint Martin of Tibães) is one of the most beautiful and important monasteries in Portugal. In fact, I think it’s a pity that this monument hasn’t been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (yet), like the Monastery of Batalha, the Jerónimos Monastery (in Lisbon), the Monastery of Alcobaça, or the Monastery of Serra do Pilar (in Vila Nova de Gaia).
If you’re thinking of visiting Braga, then I recommend that you spend one first day exploring its historic center and a second day discovering the religious heritage on the outskirts of the city – namely the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro and, of course, the Monastery of Saint Martin of Tibães!
So, do you want to know How To Visit The Monastery Of Tibães In 2024? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the Monastery of Tibães
- How to Get to the Monastery of Tibães
- What to See at the Monastery of Tibães
- More Posts about Portugal
- More Posts about Religious Temples
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Brief History of the Monastery of Tibães
The origins of the Monastery of Tibães date back to the 11th century, when a group of Benedictine monks from Cluny (in France), decided to create a group of monasteries in the historic provinces of Minho and Douro (in Portugal).
Between 1070 and 1077 the “first” Monastery of Tibães was founded, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. This medieval monastery was of pre-Romanesque construction, although elements of Romanesque and Gothic architecture were incorporated over time.
Over the centuries, the political, economic, and social conflicts that erupted in Europe affected the functioning (and the “importance”) of monasteries. But in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Monastery of Tibães was completely renovated, becoming one of the most stunning and influential monastic ensembles in Portugal!
How to Get to the Monastery of Tibães
The best way to get to the Monastery of Tibães is by car. From the historic center of Braga, it is about 6-7 km and the route is very well signposted! If you prefer to travel by public transportation, you can opt for the TUB – Transportes Urbanos de Braga bus 50, which takes 30 minutes.
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
The Monastery of Tibães is open every day, except Mondays and on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, June 24th, and December 25th. The opening hours are from 10 am to 7 pm (April 1st to October 31st) or from 10 am to 6 pm (November 1st to March 31st).
The normal ticket costs €4 and gives access to the entire monastic complex, but there’s a special ticket for €1.5 if you prefer to just visit the Conventual Fence. You can check all discounts and special conditions on the website of the Monastery of Tibães.
What to See at the Monastery of Tibães
Monastery of Tibães
Cloister of the Cemetery
After a brief exhibition of archaeological remains, the visit to the interior of the Monastery of Tibães begins at the Cloister of the Cemetery. Its name comes from the dozens of numbered graves, which can still be seen on the floor of the surrounding gallery today!
The Cloister of the Cemetery was built in the first half of the 18th century in Baroque style, even though it underwent several reforms and alterations in the following decades. Among them, the fountain (from 1757) and the rococo-style tile panels, portraying the life of Saint Benedict (from 1770), stand out.
The Church of the Monastery of Tibães was built between 1628 and 1661, on the site of an old Romanesque church. Its plan in the shape of a Latin cross features a single nave with a series of chapels on the sides, as well as two altars at each end of the transept.
The Church of the Monastery of Tibães was conceived as a mannerist temple but received decorative elements from other styles – baroque, rococo, and neoclassical – over time. Here, the main attraction is the fantastic altarpiece in gilded woodwork, designed by the architect André Soares and the carvers José Álvares de Araújo and Frei José de Santo António Vilaça.
Contrary to what is usual, this Sacristy is separated from the Church by a small atrium, erected on the ruins of the Romanesque church. Built between 1680 and 1683, it also includes a rococo altarpiece by André Soares and Friar José de Santo António Vilaça.
It’s a relatively small room, but very rich in terms of decoration. The floor is made of stone from Montes Claros (a city in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais), not to mention the painted granite coffered ceiling!
On the walls of the Sacristy, it’s also possible to admire a sculptural set of twelve religious figures, created by Friar Cipriano da Cruz. Standing on pedestals all around the room, the images represent the four holy Benedictine kings, the seven virtues, and an allegory for the Church.
The High Choir of the Church of Tibães was built in a mannerist style, between 1665 and 1668. The space consists of two rows of wooden seats and is richly decorated with paintings and reliefs of Benedictine monks and of Saint Benedict himself.
It’s estimated that the monks of the Monastery of Tibães came here to pray and sing songs of praise eight times a day! In the center, there’s a monumental choral stand where the antiphonary was placed. And next to the railing, stands a rococo oratory from 1758-1760, with the image of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Chambers of the Abbot General
The Abbot of Tibães, as the Abbot General of the Congregation, was a man of great power and influence. For that reason, his rooms were spacious and ostentatious, especially in the eighteenth century. At that time, the Chambers of the Abbot General consisted of a waiting room, living room, sleeping office, chapel, and even a private garden – named the Garden of Jericho!
As you’d expect, the furniture was just as sumptuous – exotic woods and high-quality finishes – and the decoration included paintings, pictures, crockery, silverware, linen curtains, and woolen carpets. Today, it’s still possible to see one of the original paintings – a portrait of Pope Pius VII.
Gallery of the Abbots General
The Gallery of the Abbots General was built between 1686 and 1689 but underwent some renovations in the following century. It’s a long corridor of cells, where the former Abbots General and other figures at the service of the Congregation slept – such as the Secretary and the Spender.
At that time, the Gallery of the Abbots General was exquisitely decorated, with blue, white, and gold-painted ceilings and a variety of paintings of Royalty and Church members covering the walls. As for the cells themselves, they were equipped with a panoply of furniture made of the best wood.
The Monastic Inn is also a long corridor of cells, in this case with sixteen in total. As you can see from the name, all guests and pilgrims visiting the Monastery of Tibães were housed here – even because receiving guests was considered an act of faith by the Order of Saint Benedict.
The furniture in the cells was simple, but it included the essentials: a bed with a headboard, a table, and some chairs. At the back of the Monastic Inn, were located the “Secrets” (the toilets) and a space called “Barbershop and Pharmacy”.
Barbershop and Pharmacy
As a self-sufficient institution, the Monastery of Tibães was endowed with a Barbershop and a Pharmacy, which functionated in this same space.
According to the records found, the barber went to the monastery every 12 days. However, he didn’t just shave and cut hair: he was responsible for extracting teeth and providing other health care!
In 1797, the Pharmacy was included in a corner of the Barbershop. And it was equipped with all kinds of drugs and medicinal herbs, as well as utensils for their preparation and application.
Many of these remedies and ointments were created by the monks themselves (with the help of specialized books) from herbs cultivated in the Fence of Tibães.
In my opinion, the Chapter House is the most stunning and interesting room in the Monastery of Tibães. Its original construction dates back to 1700, although it was almost entirely reworked between the years 1783 and 1786.
The Chapter House is full of incredible details, waiting to be unveiled by its visitors: from the rococo tile panels narrating the life of Joseph of Egypt to the series of monumental paintings of personalities from the Church and the Portuguese Crown (Saint Benedict, Saint Scholastica, Sebastian I, Henry I, etc.).
The Kitchen of the Monastery of Tibães was built at the beginning of the 17th century. Nevertheless, it was subject to several changes, the last one dating from the beginning of the 19th century (more specifically from 1813 to 1816).
Located on the ground floor, it consisted of three distinct spaces – Kitchen, House Ovens, and House of Stone Stoves – in addition to pantries where food, crockery, and other utensils were stored.
Right in front of the Kitchen, stood the Refectory and the Cloister of the Refectory – both completely destroyed in a violent fire, which broke out on July 11th, 1894. Just for comparison, the Cloister of the Refectory was identical to the Cloister of the Cemetery, with a gallery of arches all around and a stone fountain in the middle!
Fence of the Monastery of Tibães
The Fence of the Monastery of Tibães has about 40 hectares and is bounded by a stone wall almost 3 km long. And although a large part of the Fence is a forest area, it’s also made up of gardens, vegetable gardens, orchards, cereal fields, vineyards, pastures, etc.
This is because the Benedictine monks who inhabited the Monastery of Tibães during the 17th and 18th centuries tried to develop not only forms of self-sustainable agriculture and pastoralism but also a place for meditation, learning, and leisure.
Nowadays, there are two walking routes to visit the Fence of the Monastery of Tibães:
- Green Route (or Route I), lasting 45 minutes
- Red Route (or Route II), lasting 90 minutes
Fountain of Saint Benedict
The first stop on the two walking routes through the Fence of the Monastery of Tibães is the Baroque-style Fountain of Saint Benedict.
Constructed in the first half of the 18th century, the Fountain of Saint Benedict served as a place for prayer and worship as well as for recreation and relaxation.
You can find it at the beginning of a path of dirt and stone, which used to separate the gardens from the orchards – now converted into cornfields.
Interestingly, there’s a replica of this same fountain in the gardens of the Nogueira da Silva Museum, in the historic center of Braga!
The Staircase of the Monastery of Tibães was built in just three years: from 1731 to 1734. And each flight of stairs is punctuated by a fountain, in a total of ten: nine fountains and a water tank, to be more precise.
The first is followed by seven other fountains, representing the seven virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance (the four cardinal virtues); Faith, Hope, and Charity (the three theological virtues). According to historical records, each fountain had a small terracotta figure, on the pedestal in the center.
At the top of the Staircase of the Monastery of Tibães, there’s also a water tank of considerable dimensions, which supplies the water for the remaining hydraulic structures. On it is engraved a coat of arms of the Benedictine Congregation of the Kingdoms of Portugal.
Chapel of Saint Benedict
The long Staircase of the Monastery of Tibães led the monks to the Chapel of Saint Benedict, which is complemented by a yard with a fountain in the middle.
This chapel dates from the first half of the 18th century, but it isn’t the original chapel. The first was built between 1553 and 1565, at the request of Friar Bernardo da Cruz.
The Chapel of Saint Benedict that we can visit today is a reconstruction, carried out by the Abbot Frei Paulo de Assunção between 1725 and 1727.
In addition to having been decorated with an altarpiece, Joanine tiles, and paintings on the ceiling, it was at this time that it gained the fountain and the water tank with the coat of arms.
The Lake was one of the last structural additions made to the Fence of the Monastery of Tibães. Built between 1795 and 1798, it has an elliptical shape – a typical Late Baroque characteristic.
Initially, the Lake of the Fence of the Monastery of Tibães had two main functions: a water reservoir for irrigation and a place for meditation.
In addition, it was an important source of energy, associated with the production of oil, wood sawing, and the operation of two old mills.
This site also has three trees classified as Trees of Public Interest: a maritime pine and two deodar cedars.
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