In august 14th of 1385, 6500 Portuguese (and English) defeated 31000 Spanish (and French) in Aljubarrota.
To celebrate the victory, king João I decided to build the most precious gem of Portuguese architecture - the monastery of Batalha.
Started in 1388, the work took centuries and was never finished, but the results are superb.
The first and most known architect, Afonso Domingues, planned a risky vault to the room of Capitulo, without any other support than the walls.
Tradition says that he opposed the critics that said it was going to fall, by sitting under it, and there dying of starvation.
The whole place is an harmonious combination of several styles, excellent to understand the evolution of art in Portugal, during the medieval ages.
The monastery was built to celebrate a great victory against the Spanish, that saved our independence.
The hero was Nuno Alvares Pereira, that later, distributed by the poor the whole of his great fortune and became a monk. He was, recently proclaimed saint by the Pope, under the name of Nuno de Santa Maria.
In Batalha he is still remembered by his military role.Not far, in S. Jorge, there's a new complex called "Centro de interpretação da Batalha de Aljubarrota" where the battle is explained in detail.
Portugal has an exclusive style, a sort of Gothic variation with the adding of nautical elements, that is present in many buildings, including some of the top monuments.
Batalha shares with Jerónimos in Lisbon, and Christ convent in Tomar, the fair reputation of being... only the best.
Don't miss the fabulous cloister!
A lateral door is generally skipped by the visitors, that, after watching carefully the main door, and exiting to visit the unfinished chapel, consider that everything was seen.
It's a bad idea. This lateral door is important to compare with the main one, since it exemplifies perfectly the differences between flamboyant Gothic in Portugal and central Europe.
The front door
In 1402 the direction of the construction was assumed by the Flamand Huguet, who introduced several diferences in the architecture, started as Portuguese Gothic and finished as flamboyant Gothic. It's interesting to compare the two main doors, the front one conceived by Huguet.
Portuguese style, this door was still made by Afonso Domingues, and evidences the diferences of both styles.
The Royal Chapel
Entering the monastery, at your right, stands the royal chapel, with the tombs of the king Joâo I and most of his family (his son, king Duarte, is in "Capelas Imperfeitas", an adjacent mausoleum that you should not miss for any reason).
A very delicate room, it's a festival of light and fine details, making it a real royal place.
The visit of this chapel and the church is free, but the cloisters and unfinished chapels do deserve the 4 € for the ticket.
Most people visiting kings chapel, in Batalha, are impressed by the games of light produced by the stained glasses, and risk to dedicate less attention to the tombs. It's a pity, because they are wonderful, and help to understand the importance in Portuguese history of all this royal family.
The Founders Chapel was the first Portuguese pantheon, and has in the centre the tombs of king João I and his wife, Filipa from Lancaster, surrounded by many other tombs of the king's sons and their family.
Henry, the navigator is one of them, and only Duarte is missing (he is buried in another space in the monastery, maybe the most beautiful - the Unfinished Chapels
The Royal cloister was made by Afonso Domingues and Huguet, and it's interesting to observe the coexistence of both styles.
In the XVI century, Manueline elements were added.
From the Cloister you may access the Capitulo room, where is the tomb of the Portuguese unknown soldier. The exit will be through the Afonso V Cloister (unfinished) and the dining room, used as a small museum.
Don't forget to enter the unfinished chapels, with a separate entrance a few meters at your right.
Unfinished chapel - Capelas Imperfeitas
Accessible from outside but sharing the ticket, in the back, the Unfinished Chapels are a unique marvel. Dom Duarte, eldest son of João and Filipa de Lencastre, was the second king of Avis dynasty, and commissioned a royal mausoleum in the church that was the family’s masterpiece.With an octagonal shape, the chapel were never finished, which did not prevent his burial in place.With the works lasting for centuries, the original design was transformed by
Dom Manuel’s architects, and evidence clearly the several styles (Gothic, and Manueline). One late balcony in Renaissance style, flags the end of the works, already in the 17th century.
Inside the monastery, in the "Capítulo" room, there is the tomb of our unknown soldier, always with a military guard.
Close to it, there's a small museum remembering our sad participation in WW1.
Not remarkable, but interesting and free to those who entered the cloisters.
Note: If you want to see more about WW1, visit Military Museum in Lisbon, with a larger and better display
Church "Exaltação da Santa Cruz"
In Batalha, people only has eyes to the monastery, however, close to it, the parish church also deserves a look. Built by demand of local people some years after the monastery (maybe they didn't feel at ease in the monastery, or had restrictions to enter), this church also includes Manueline ornaments. Damaged by Lisbon earthquake, it was reconstructed higher than its original size.
There it is, just across the street from the monastery, deserving a quick look to its Manueline door, and... back to the monastery, of course.
Ponte do Boitaca
Diogo Boytac was a French artist that worked in the construction of the monastery (and in Jeronimos too).
This medieval bridge, recently restored, gets his name, supposedly because he has been its builder.
Facing the monastery, it is, now, a well maintained construction, balancing and enhancing the ambiance in the valley frontal to the monastery.