UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monastery of Batalha
The Monastery of the Dominicans of Batalha was built to meet a vow by King João, the Master of Avis & the future king of Portugal, to celebrate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. This victory brought to an end the dynastic crisis which had dragged over two years.
The Monastery of Batalha has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983 and is one of 13 UNESCO sites in Portugal.
The gothic masterpiece was then to be the Portuguese monarchy’s main building project for the next two centuries, & King João dedicated it to the Virgin Mary, whom he had called upon to appeal to god to grant him victory. The size of the monastery’s church was enough to confirm the importance in which King João regarded the monastery, being over 23m wide & 35m in height, was something unheard of in medieval Portuguese architecture.
Batalha Monastery, tomb of King Duarte and Queen Leonor. Image Source: wikimedia
By 1416 the church, built in the shape of a Latin cross had been completed, & the royal cloister, chapter-house, & funeral chapel of the founder were beginning construction work.
The main entrance of the church is through the porch. On either side of this portal entrance are sculptures of the twelve apostles standing on consoles. In the center is a tall statue of Christ in Majesty surrounded by Evangelists, frames by six covings & decorated with sculptures of biblical kings & queens, prophets & angels. This set of sculptures is made complete by the crowning of the Virgin Mary.
The church’s interior dates back to the period of Gothic majesty which has remained untouched with further additions of the time. The nave & aisles are separated by thick pillars crowned by capitals with plant motifs. The chancel windows are decorated with amazing stained class from the sixteenth century representing the visitation, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt & the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The chapel’s floor plan was made up of an octagonal space inserted inside a square & the ceiling consists of an eight point star shaped lantern. The center of the chapel was later handed to the medieval tomb of King João & his wife Queen Philippa of Lancaster. These tombs were the first made for husband & wife in Portugal, on which a coat of arms of the Houses of Avis & Lancaster are carved. The bays within the chapel walls contain the tombs of their sons.
The detail given to the monastery is incredibly intricate, the doors are flanked by the twelve apostles & above the door there are a wide collection of figures which represent the kingdom of Heaven. The archivolts contain figures from the New Testament & the Old Testament, as well as prophets & patriarchs, Angelic figures & a figure of god.
The convent of Batalha was the great workshop of the Portuguese monarchy for over two centuries. The root characteristic features of a national art were determined there during both the Gothic & Renaissance periods of the monarchy. If you would like to make a visit to the Monastery of Batalha, compare travel deals at Dealchecker, to save money.
Now, the monarchy is known as the most fascinating Gothic monuments in Europe. Tours take place regularly as a guide will take you around the Founders Chapel where King João & his wife & Sons are buried. You will see the Royal Cloisters with its arches carved with intricate detail with images of leaves, flowers, fruit, as well as many symbols used by King Manuel including the cross of Christ & the armillary spheres in the typical Manueline style. You would then move onto The Chapter House giving you the opportunity to see its amazing vaulted ceiling. Without any central support, it is one of the most daring examples in Europe Gothic architecture. According to legend its architect, Alfonso Domingues, slept under it for three days to prove that it would not fall down.
Behind the church, you will see the unusual, incomplete chapels, extending high above you. This is just another example of Manueline style; with a doorway built in a succession of arches & slender columns which are meticulously decorated.
Monastery of Batalha location