Close to the Jardim do Morro metro station and the south end of the top tier of the Ponte Luis I bridge, perched on top of the Serra do Pilar hill is the old monastery that bears its name. Commanding a bird's eye view over the red roof tiles of Gaia, across Porto and past the bridges to the Atlantic, the Monastery of Serra do Pilar is the architectural landmark of Gaia.
Monastery of Serra do Pilar
The Monastery of Serra do Pilar was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in December 1996. It has stood in its advantage point since construction was completed in 1670 and has experienced much the slings and arrows of Portugal's fortunes. Construction began in 1538 by the Order of St. Augustine to re-house the friars from the Monastery of Grijó. However, from the outset, it became clear the monastery had to be enlarged. Successive construction phases were not completed until the end of the 17th century.
The accompanying church is most unusual for its perfect circular shape, supposedly a replica of the Church of Santa Maria Redonda in Rome. Constructed in the 16th century it took over 72 years to complete dues to political complications caused by the Spanish rule of Portugal. It's topped by a domed cupola with a narrow viewing balcony running around the perimeter and the vista which awaits you from here is well worth the small entrance fee.
Inside, the Church features some impressive carved gold leaf altars with Solomonic columns. There are also 18th century, polychrome wooden carvings of the saints Eulalia, Apollonia and Augustine. Before going inside however it's well worth taking in the incredible views from the front terrace. Alongside the church is a 17th-century addition, its circular cloisters which contain 36 Ionian columns, a design which is unique in Portugal.
Albeit being constructed for religious use, the monastery has spent most of its existence as military barracks. During the war with Napoleon, the site was commandeered by the Duke of Wellington in 1809 to prevent the French troops from crossing the Douro River.
During the Liberal wars (1828 - 1834) Porto found itself the centre for the rebellion against the absolutists and once again the Monastery of Serra do Pilar was converted into a makeshift fort. It came under constant bombardment and was badly damaged. After being acquired by the Royal Brotherhood of Our Lady of Pilar the site was rebuilt in the early 20th century however it still remains in the hands of the Serra da Pilar Artillery Regiment of the Portuguese army.
Low season: 09h30 - 17h30, High season: 09h30 - 18h30
Patrimony Room, Cloister & Viewing platform: €3.00
Patrimony Room & Cloisters: €1.00
Largo de Avis, Santa Marinha 4430-329, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
41° 08′ 18″ N | 08° 36′ 27″ W | +351 223 795 385
Monastery of Serra do Pilar
General Torres (Linha de Aveiro - urban) | Train Timetable | CP Website
Bus: 10M, 904, 905 | Timetable | STCP Website
Metro: Jardim do Morro (Line D) | Timetable | Metro do Porto Website
Rua de Ferreira Borges, 4050-253 Porto, Portugal. | 41° 08' 36.8"N | 08° 36'52.1"W
+351 223 399 000 | firstname.lastname@example.org