As we were leaving the lovely country house in Soutullo, our host suggested we visit one of the last working monasteries, the Monastery Oseira, the place of the bears. We didn’t know what to expect as the Capucian monastery was a ruin in the mountains above Sintra, Portugal.
Following signs for miles it seemed through tiny village after tiny village, we finally turned a sharp corner for an amazing sight, an enormous, fortress like structure surrounded by gardens and fountains. We managed to make the 11:00 tour with three ladies from Toronto who were walking the Camino from Seville and two couples from Spain.
The tour guide was gracious and I managed to get off two photos before he informed me they were not permitted. A jolly short monk sold us tickets. The tour was incredible, through door after door, courtyard after courtyard, like a major palace. Founded in the 11 century, 150 monks once lived here, only 14 monks remain. The place was confiscated by the government in the 1850ies and rebuilt by the same group of monks in 1929, an amazing feat when one considers the size of the undertaking.
Rain poured down but we saw grand staircases, halls with garanite carved palm tree supports, chapels, a huge church with an impressive arched ceiling held up by outer flying buttresses. Everything was carved of local granite then painted to resemble marble. On display were many sections of carved granite water pipes from the 12 century, mythical animals and carved keys from the middle of ceiling sections.
In the gift shop we bought chocolate and a guide with pictures. It was one of the most memorable places on our trip and all due to our host in Soutullo.