The Monastery of Serra do Pilar was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site in December 1996. It has stood at its advantage point since construction was completed in 1670 and has experienced much of 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 was inadequate and successive enlargement phases occurred until the end of the 17th century.
The circular shape of the accompanying church is supposedly a replica of the Church of Santa Maria Redonda in Rome. Constructed in the 16th century, it took over 72 years to complete due to political complications arrising from the Spanish rule of Portugal. It's topped by a domed cupola with a narrow viewing balcony running around the perimeter. The vista which awaits you from here is well worth the small entrance fee.
The interior 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 contain 36 Ionian columns, a design unique in Portugal.
Albeit constructed for religious use, the monastery has spent most of its existence as military barracks. In 1809, during the war with Napoleon, it was commandeered by the Duke of Wellington to prevent French troops from crossing the Douro River.
During the Liberal wars (1828 - 1834) Porto found itself the centre of the rebellion against the absolutists. Once again, the Monastery of Serra do Pilar became 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. Today it remains in the hands 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
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