Batalha Monastery (World Heritage)

The Dominican monastery with the church of Santa Maria da Vitória was built in 1385 as thanks to the Virgin Mary for the victory of the Portuguese in the battle of Aljubarrota. According to jibin123, Portugal was able to maintain its sovereignty by defeating the Kingdom of Castile. The masterpiece of Portuguese High Gothic is considered a prestigious building of the Avis dynasty newly founded by Johann I.

Batalha Monastery: facts

Official title: Batalha Monastery
Cultural monument: Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória in the Gothic-Manueline style; Symbol of the independent former kingdom of Portugal; Tomb of the Portuguese kings, including João I, Alfonso V and João II; Monastery church with a height of 32 m, founder’s chapel, tracery in the Claustro Real (royal cloister) that looks like stone bobbin lace; Chapter house with the dimensions 19×19 m and the roof, which resembles a pointed tent
Continent: Europe
Country: Portugal
Location: Batalha, north of Lisbon
Appointment: 1983
Meaning: Cradle of an independent Portuguese Gothic and a reminder of Portugal’s victory over Castile

Batalha Monastery: History

08/14/1385 Battle of Aljubarrota on the day of the Assumption between Castilian and Portuguese troops
1388 Start of construction of the »monastery of the battle«
1433 Death of the monastery founder, King João I.
1434 Completion of the founder’s chapel with a double sarcophagus for the donors
1438 Completion of the church, the royal cloister, the dining room and the chapter room
1530 Almost complete cessation of construction activity, the octagonal pantheon as “Capelas Imperfeitas” remains unfinished
1810 Looting of the tomb of King João II.
1921 Tomb of the Unknown Soldier decorated in the Chapter House
since 1980 The monastery becomes a museum

Pledge in stone

If the name Batalha, which literally means “battle”, is mentioned, Portugal remembers one of the great moments in its history. Embroiled in a seemingly hopeless dynasty dispute with the eternal rival Spain, King João I vowed in 1385 to give the Virgin Mary a Dominican monastery if she would help him against the opposing forces on the battlefield of Aljubarrota. Maria was gracious, the triumph on the side of Portugal.

Zealous architects soon designed a magnificent work of art that would mark the military victory over Spain and remind the world of him forever. The groundbreaking ceremony was held three years after the king’s pledge. But the “Victory Monastery” of Santa Maria da Vitória, simply called “Batalha”, remained a construction site until the middle of the 16th century. Obviously, time did not matter at the time when the mighty erected a monument to heaven. Lack of money, plague and wars slowed down the progress of construction activities. More than a dozen builders worked here on behalf of six kings. Under her leadership, in this most magnificent monastery complex, Portugal’s High Gothic, Manuel style and Renaissance merged into one unit.

Most of the Gothic monastery complex was built during the lifetime of the donor king – the church, the royal cloister, the chapter house, the two royal burial chapels, the “founding chapel” and the “unfinished” ones. The simple clarity and the dimensions of the church take your breath away: the interior is 32 meters high, 88 meters long and 22 meters wide. The completely unsupported vault in the chapter house still amazes engineers today. In the early 15th century, the chapel wreath and the imposing west portal with the exciting figure decorations, followed by the second cloister.

At the end of the century, João II quickly lost interest in his great-grandfather’s vows, because he was more moved by the discovery of the sea route to India, African gold and black slaves. It was not until his heir to the throne, Manuel I, that the building continued. With a pronounced penchant for detail, decor was now carved into the marble of the tracery in the cloister. Exuberantly decorated with maritime symbols, the new style documents Portugal’s discovery of the world over the course of the century. The armillary sphere, a measuring device for determining the astronomical coordinate systems, the cross of the Knights of Christ and the lotus blossom appear again and again as a symbol of a world power. When he saw Batalha in 1928, the historiographer Reinhold Schneider wrote enthusiastically about the cloister: “What a dream made of stone and light. Veils of stone waft in the arches; they slide in front of each other, lattice over the nave, spin with its ornaments up to the tower. “In the end, Batalha reminded him far less of a place of worship than of an” order castle, a dream palace between Orient and Occident “.

At the height of his power, Manuel I set a breathtaking monument for himself and the seafaring nation with the royal cloister and the “unfinished chapels”. Under João III. the father’s work was initially continued, but then completed unfinished, so that the chapels rightly bear their name, the “Unfinished”.

Two additions in the 20th century are particularly awkward: In 1968 the dictator Salazar had the successful general Nuno Álvares Pereira, who secured Portugal 200 years of independence, erect a martial equestrian statue on the forecourt of the filigree monastery; A few steps further, ruthless traffic planners finally brought the most beautiful thing Portugal’s architecture has to offer, without batting an eyelid and considering the consequences, a busy expressway.

Batalha Monastery (World Heritage)