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Batalha Monastery stands as magnificent example of Gothic architecture

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 7th, 2011
Catholic Online (

In 1385, Portuguese King João I made a sacred vow. He offered petition to God that if his outnumbered army defeated the Castilians at the important Battle of Aljubarrota, he would build a magnificent monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The king was victorious. Portugal was freed from Spain, and the great Batalha Monastery was built. The Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória de Batalha today remains a magnificent example of medieval Portuguese architecture.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The king gave the monastery to the Dominicans. The monastery was constructed over the next two centuries in the classical Gothic and Manueline styles.

Along with all other monasteries in Portugal, Batalha was dissolved in 1834. Added to the UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1983, because it commemorates an important historical event and "here a highly original, national Gothic style evolved, profoundly influenced by Manueline art, as demonstrated by its masterpiece, the Royal Cloister."

The monastery remains breathtaking today. The west façade is covered in lacy stonework, filled with Gothic windows and overlooks a spacious plaza. The building is illuminated at night to spectacular effect.

At the west portal of the church, the arc-shaped tympanum depicts Christ in Majesty with the Evangelists, while angels, saints and biblical figures look on from the six archivolts.

The doors are flanked by free-standing statues of the Twelve Apostles. The top of the facade contains the largest stained-glass window in Portuguese Gothic architecture.

Inside, the three-aisle nave has the soaring vertical lines of the pure Gothic style. The stained-glass windows of the chancel, depicting the Visitation, the Adoration of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt and the Resurrection - have been carefully restored to their 16th-century Manueline form.

The Founder's Chapel, completed by English architect Master Huguet in 1434 features an octagonal structure lit with tall stained glass windows and topped with a star vault.

Containing the tombs of King João I and his English queen, Philippa of Lancaster, their stone effigies lie in repose with their hands entwined. The tomb of their famous son, Prince Henry the Navigator, is nearby.

Also notable is the finely sculpted Gothic lavabo in front of the refectory. The Afonso V Cloister, by contrast, is remarkable for its simplicity and lack of ornamentation.

The chapels are one of the finest examples of the richly ornamental Manueline style. The huge coral-stone portal by Mateus Fernandes, in particular, is one of the great masterpieces of Manueline architecture.

The seven chapels radiate from an octagonal rotunda with massive stone pillars that would have support a great vault. Left unfinished, they provide an interesting glimpse into medieval construction.

Batalha is located 73 miles north of Lisbon and not far from Fatima and Alcobaça.

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