The granite walls of the Santa Maria do Bouro Pousada belong to a Cistercian monastery built in 1162 by the first king of Portugal. They aged perfumed by incense and lulled by religious chants.
The monks enjoyed their meals sitting around an imposing stone table. The kitchen had two fountains that supplied water, several wood-fire stoves and a fireplace used for roasting. A large chimney released the appetizing food aromas to the skies above. Perhaps the monks wanted to advertise their talents, in case there were opportunities for good cooks in heaven.
This golden age gave way to an era of slow decline. Eventually, the monks moved out. Wild animals and vegetation moved in.
Just when the old monastery had gotten used to oblivion, a small group came for a visit. They wanted to turn the ruins into an historical hotel. Among them was a quiet man who stared in silence at the granite walls. He is an architect called Eduardo Souto de Moura who would one day win the Pritzker prize.
In his reconstruction plan, Souto Moura left the walls exposed to showcase their beauty. He avoided imitating the old, so he complemented the granite with new materials. The ivy that embraced windows and columns was allowed to stay and a green roof was built to welcome the vegetation back to the building.
Everything in this beautiful hotel breathes harmony and tranquility. The rooms have expansive views of the surrounding mountains. And there are many spaces, indoors and outdoors where we can enjoy a glass of wine or a cup of tea.
The kitchen was transformed into an elegant dining room and the large chimney became a skylight. The ancient stone table is still there, covered with irresistible desserts that would make the old monks proud.
Today, the walls of Santa Maria do Bouro stand with the confidence they will be beautiful in the light of eternity. And we think they’re right.