Founded in thanksgiving for a major military victory in 1385, Batalha Monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória de Batalha) is a magnificent example of medieval Portuguese architecture.
History of Batalha Monastery
In 1385, King João I vowed 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, resulting in the independence of Portugal from Spain and the great Batalha Monastery.
King João I gave the monastery to the Dominicans and the splendid edifice was constructed over the next two centuries in the Gothic and Manueline styles. Along with all other monasteries in Portugal, Batalha was dissolved in 1834.
Batalha Monastery was added to 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."
What to See at Batalha Monastery
The west facade, covered in lacy stonework and filled with Gothic windows, overlooks a spacious plaza. The building is illuminated at night to spectacular effect. The octogonal building attached to the right of the church is the Founder's Chapel.
The west portal of the church is decorated with a riot of Gothic sculpture: 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, each one with a unique appearance. The top of the facade contains the largest stained-glass window in Portuguese Gothic architecture.
There is plenty of room to walk around to the east end of the monastery, where there is a good view of the apse and Unfinished Chapels (on which more below). At the southeast corner is an equestrian statue of Nuno Alvares, who fought with João I in the battle of Aljubarrota. The modern monument was unveiled in 1968.
The three-aisle nave has the soaring vertical lines of the pure Gothic style. The monastery's windows are of exceptional beauty and, of course, best enjoyed on a sunny day. 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.
On the right just inside the entrance is the beautiful Founder's Chapel, completed by English architect Master Huguet in 1434. The octagonal structure is illuminated with tall stained glass windows and topped with an exquisite star vault.
It contains the tombs of King João I and his English queen, Philippa of Lancaster (daughter of John of Gaunt), whose stone effigies lie in repose with their hands entwined. The tomb of their famous son, Prince Henry the Navigator, is nearby.
The lovely Royal Cloister was built during the reign of João I, with embellishments in the Manueline style added to the interior arches later. It includes a square Chapter House (19 meters long on each side) with a huge Gothic vault that is remarkable for having no central supports.
Also notable is the finely sculpted Gothic lavabo (used for ritual washing) in front of the refectory. The Afonso V Cloister, by contrast, is remarkable for its simplicity and lack of ornamentation, reflecting the particular taste of its architect, Fernao de Evora.
At the east end, a richly ornamented portal leads to the seven Unfinished Chapels, built to house the tombs of the first kings of the Avis dynasty. Construction was abandoned when the workers were called away to Lisbon to build the Jeronimos Monastery for Manuel I.
Open to the sky, 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 octogonal rotunda with massive stone pillars that would have support a great vault. Left unfinished, they provide an interesting glimpse into medieval construction.
In one of the chapels, the tomb effigy of D. Duarte lies hand-in-hand beside his wife, Leonor of Aragon. In the center of the rotunda are . The upper level is home to a beautiful Renaissance balcony.
From Lisbon, trains run to Valado dos Frades (€7.30 to €8.50 one-way) and buses continue from there to Batalha.
Six expresso buses run from Lisbon to Batalha daily (2 hours; €7.80 one-way). From Nazaré, seven buses go to Batalha daily (1 hour; €2.25 one-way), with a change at Alcobaça.
By car from Alcobaça, take the N8 northeast for about 20 minutes.
Most visitors to Batalha choose to stay in Fátima or Nazaré, which have more hotels and restaurants. However, there are some places to sleep and eat in Batalha.
Quick Facts on Batalha Monastery
|Names:||Batalha Monastery · Santa Maria da Vittoria na Batalha|
|Categories:||monasteries; World Heritage Sites|
|Dedication:||Virgin Mary (Victorious)|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||39.658769° N, 8.825862° W|
|Address:||Praça Mouzinho de Albuquerque|
|Hours:||Oct-Mar: daily 9am-5pm;|
Apr-Sep: daily 9am-6pm
|Lodging:||View hotels near Batalha Monastery|
- Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória - Frommer's Portugal, 20th edition
- Batalha: Planning a Trip - Frommer's Portugal, 20th edition
- Monastery of Batalha - Portuguese Tourist Office
- Monastery of Batalha - UNESCO World Heritage
- Batalha Monastery Reviews - TripAdvisor
- Batalha, Monastery Santa Maria da Vitoria - Impressions of Portugal
Map of Batalha Monastery
Below is a location map and aerial view of Batalha Monastery. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.