Batalha Monastery (Mosteiro Santa Maria da Vitória)

Batalha Monastery


Location: Batalha, Leiria District    Map

Tel. 244 765 497


Apr- Sep: 9am- 6pm daily

Oct- Mar: 9am- 5pm daily

Closed: 1 Jan, Easter, 1 May, 25 Dec


Description of Batalha Monastery

The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, better known as the Monastery of Batalha and also known as the "Templo da Pátria", is a former Dominican monastery located in the village of Batalha, in the district of Leiria in the Centro region, province of Beira Litoral, in Portugal.

It was built in 1386 by King João I of Portugal as a thank you to the Virgin Mary for the victory against Castilian rivals in the battle of Aljubarrota. This monastery of the Order of São Domingos was built over two centuries until around 1563, during the reign of seven kings of Portugal, although the first Dominican friars lived there since 1388.

An example of Portuguese late Gothic architecture, or Manueline style, it is considered a world heritage site by UNESCO, and on July 7, 2007 it was elected as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It has been classified as a National Monument since 1910.

It has, since 2016, the status of National Pantheon.



At the start of the work on the Monastery of Batalha, a small temple was built, whose traces were still visible in the early 19th century. It was in this building – Santa Maria-a-Velha, also known as Igreja Velha – that mass was celebrated, giving support to the shipyard workers. It was a poor work, done with few resources.

In schematic traces, the evolution of the shipyard itself and the degree of progress of the works are known. It is known that the initial project corresponds to the church, the cloister and the inherent monastic dependencies, such as the Chapter Room, sacristy, refectory and annexes. It is a model that is similar to that adopted, in terms of internal structure, by the great monastery of Alcobaça.

The Founder's Chapel, a funerary chapel, was added to this initial project by King D. João I himself, as was the funerary roundabout known as Capelas Imperfeitas, on the initiative of King D. Duarte.

The smaller cloister and adjacent dependencies would be due to the initiative of King D. Afonso V, with D. João II's lack of interest in the building being noted. He would receive royal favors again with D. Manuel I, but only until 1516 or 1517, that is, until his decision to decisively favor the Jerónimos Monastery factory.

The monastery was restored in the 19th century, under the direction of Luís Mouzinho de Albuquerque, according to the design of Thomas Pitt, an English traveler who had been to Portugal at the end of the 18th century, and who had made the monastery known throughout Europe through of your engravings. In this restoration, the Monastery underwent more or less profound transformations, namely the destruction of two cloisters, next to the Imperfect Chapels and, in a context of the extinction of religious orders in Portugal, the total removal of religious symbols, seeking to make the Monastery a glorious symbol of the Avis dynasty and, above all, its first generation (the so-called Ínclita Geração de Camões). The current configuration of the Founder's Chapel and the popularization of the term Batalha Monastery (celebrating Aljubarrota) to the detriment of Santa Maria da Vitória dates from that time, in an attempt to definitively eradicate the designations that recall the building's religious past.

National Pantheon
In 2016, the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, in Batalha, gained the status of National Pantheon, without prejudice to the practice of religious worship, together with the Monastery of Jerónimos (Lisbon), similar to what happened in 2003 with the Monastery de Santa Cruz (Coimbra) in relation to the original National Pantheon since 1966 in the Church of Santa Engrácia (Lisbon).

In the Monastery of Batalha are buried D. João I, D. Filipa de Lencastre, the infant D. Henrique, the infant D. João, D. Isabel, D. Fernando, D. Afonso V, D. João II, D. Duarte and also the Unknown Soldier.

main chapel
The chancel appears to be of a later finish, with its crowned triumphal arch, and the work phases of the side chapels can also be considered two. In the area of ​​the cloisters, it is possible that the work had progressed more quickly than in the body of the temple. The north and west galleries would have already been raised, but it was Huguet who finished those on the south and east sides (all of them with seven spans), respecting the previous layout, however, with vaults in cross with large keys joined by a longitudinal chain, without corbels. , resting in thin columns on either side of the walls.

Chapter Room
It was up to the same master Huguet to finish the famous Chapter Room where, since 1921, it is permanently evoked the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Portuguese hero, illuminated by the “Flame of the Fatherland” of the Monumental Lamp, executed by Lourenço Chaves de Almeida and designed by the Master Antonio Goncalves.

Its architecture, with a square plan, is covered by a single-flight star vault. This vault is, in fact, a work of remarkable Gothic construction technique, being formed by sixteen radial ribs, eight launched from the walls, the remaining ones launched from the exterior secondary keys, converging on a large central key of vegetal decoration, developed in two crowns. The exterior face of this room, facing the cloister gallery, is formed by a central portal with a deep tear – with five archivolts on the outside and four on the inside –, the opening decorated with radiant mushrooms. On each side there are two large broken openings, each filled with two twin windows with a flag cut and laced according to flaming Gothic precepts. They are overshadowed by an eyepiece.


The chapter room has figurative ornamentation worthy of note: the dominant program is Mariological, with the representation of an Annunciation on the right and the angel on the left in the south window facing the crast in two capitals. Our Lady holds a bowl with her right arm ― her neck is decorated with a necklace of pendants in the shape of a hand (apotropaic signs) ― and the angel the typical phylactery wrapped around her body.

Another well-known iconographic element is the representation, in one of the corbels, of what is supposed to be, with good reason, the master stonemason, in a portrait formula (the expression of the face is notoriously individualized). Dressed in an early 15th century costume, a tunic belted with a sash, a turbaned hat and a pendant, he holds a ruler in his left hand and the other hand rests on his right knee.

Founder's Chapel
One of the most important buildings adjacent to the monastery and which indelibly marks its «royal» character, being very enlightening as to the intentions involved, is precisely the so-called Capela do Fundador. It is a construction located to the right of the temple, leaning against the outer flank of the south nave, through which the entrance is made. It has a square plan, in which an octagon is inscribed in the center, which develops in volume upwards, at the level of its second floor – an octagon that also functions as a lantern. This chapel was designed by Master Huguet and was still under construction in 1426, being completed shortly after the death of the monarch, who was transferred there, along with the queen's body, a year later (1434).

From the outside, it imposes itself as a homogeneous mass, accentuating the horizontality of the frontispiece of the temple. It offers three free faces, each of which is rhythmic by two buttresses, and where three large windows are torn, with which the axis is wider than the others. At the top, the exterior of the central octagon stands out, from which eight arched flying buttresses start, supported on the exterior buttresses, which extend in pinnacle piers beyond the terrace. The ensemble is finished off by a frieze of flaming gratings. Originally, the octagon was crowned by a large needle spire, which fell in the 1755 earthquake.

Inside, light bursts in from the large windows on the façade and from the crevices of two fires on each face of the central octagon. It is a diaphanous light, which particularly shines on the center of the monument, where the mausoleum of the king and queen stands. The vault is complex, formed by crossing arches that, starting from drumsticks embedded in the walls, intertwine in central keys, from which the ribs dump their weight on the drumsticks on the outer face of the central octagon, thus composing a kind of ship or ambulatory.

The octagon itself, in the center of the building, is formed by eight composite pillars, with stacked columns and opens through eight pointed arches with a soffit decorated with trilobed cairels. Its interior has «two floors»: the lower floor corresponds to the pillars and arches, while the lantern windows are on the upper floor. The vault of this central body is also starred, with eight main arms, eight terceles and sixteen secondary ribs, supported by eight radial keys and a central key of large diameter, showing the lacework, in the middle of which the arms are inscribed in relief. real. Solid arches are ripped from the walls that house the tombs of the princes of Avis: D. Pedro, his wife and D. Fernando. The tombs inside the broken back niche with countercurve exterior archivolt, have fronts in relief decorated with the coats of arms of the princes, framed by floral ornamentation, being in its entirety one of the first and most profuse sets of large family heraldry existing in Portugal. , in accordance, by the way, with schemes certainly imported from England. Other empty solid arches provided for more tomb depositions, but they were discarded given the decision of D. Duarte to build a new pantheon, being filled only in 1901.

Pantheon of D. Duarte
The Pantheon of D. Duarte, also known as Capelas Imperfeitas, was planned taking into account a rigorous reading of the will of D. João I, with that monarch choosing to create his own funerary space. Thus, D. Duarte began the construction of a roundabout behind the chevet. In any case, the works, also carried out by Huguet, were not completed, since its construction began roughly in 1434, the monarch having died four years later, leaving them incomplete. But the route was certainly outlined and the works of the following reigns were slowly trying to finish the building, but the main thing remained to be done: the launch of the large central vault. Contrary to what one might think, this operation would not raise major technical problems since the gap to be covered was a little larger than the one existing in the Chapter Room.

It was, in fact, a building with an octagonal central body and an axis entrance (articulated with the transept by a vaulted atrium), around which seven radiant chapels were arranged. Arising from the large polystyles that make up the structure, an octagonal body would rise with large windows, vaulted and properly supported by flying buttresses, intended to configure a wide space with a completely unified centered plan. The existing chapels open onto the precinct through large, broken arches, each with a straight choir and a three-sided prismatic top, with a single window with two lights on each face and a ribbed vaulted roof. Between the chapels, serving as reinforcement, there are six small areas of triangular plan, without access, lower than the chapels and decorated on the outside with a large window.

In the chapels, a later finish and more care was given to the one that was intended to receive the mausoleum of D. João II and D. Leonor, having the works sponsored by the queen. The date of this intervention is difficult to determine and can be quite late. In any case, the decoration of this section reaches truly astonishing proportions, being a unique example in Portuguese Gothic. The ribs are ribbed, with secondary ribs with a sculptural function only, but with small keys on an inverted cusp, decorated with trepanated plant motifs, the larger keys being laced, presenting, in turn, the royal arms and the «corporate body» of D. João II (the pelican) and Queen D. Leonor (the shrimp).

The Refectory is covered by broken barrel vaults with four sections marked by toral arches and supported by corbels on the surrounding frieze.

Royal Cloister
The Royal Cloister has a single floor with seven sections per wing, consisting of broken arches, with different openings, with lace flags supported on carved columns, between buttresses with ledges, topped by pyramidal pinnacles. It has galleries covered by cross vaults with ogives with a longitudinal chain, based on fasciculated half-columns with plant capitals on two floors, and finishing in a platband laced with fleurs-de-liz. On the corner, an octagonal turret with a pyramidal top was built. Inside, there is a fountain with a lobed basin and two staggered polylobed bowls, the first with semi-vegetarian masks. It has a vaulted roof with arches and a chain, supported by fasciculated pillars.

Cloister D. Afonso V
The D. Afonso V Cloister has two floors, the first of seven sections per wing marked by buttresses between broken double arches resting on faceted columns grouped transversally on a wall. It has arched vaulted galleries with ogives with robust toral arches, supported by smooth conical corbels. The second floor has a porch supported by prismatic columns on a parapet and diagonal buttresses that rise to the eaves.

The importance of the Batalha shipyard gave rise to other shipyards that reflect the contributions of late Gothic, almost always the result of the recruitment of officers or secondary masters who worked there.


Avis Gothic
From the outside, the Monastery also denounces the intervention of two works. The south portal of the temple, clearly designed by Afonso Domingues, reveals this simplicity of processes. This portal, by the way, is important for what it reveals of attachment to the «Portuguese» layouts: two slender buttresses (the proportions recall the small and simple side portal of the Igreja Matriz de Santiago do Cacém), frame a span of four archivolts decorated by repetitive reliefs in a series of blind arches. The columns are provided with capitals with plant decoration on «two floors». The door mirror is trilobed, with criss-crossing fillets. Almost certainly of a later finish is the triangular gable, very sharp, decorated on the upper surface with cogulhos and, on the face, by royal heraldry (the shields of D. Filipa and D. João I, surmounted by the coat of arms of the kingdom, all with canopys such as crowning).

But Huguet's undertaking was also responsible for designing most of the frontispieces, carrying with him a new architectural language, another Gothic.

In fact, there is no doubt that the Monastery of Batalha will come to be assumed as a testimony of royal power and the autonomy of a kingdom. It is known how necessary it was to impose, through legal and diplomatic treatment, the right of D. João I to the throne. It is also known about the opposition of D. João's half-brothers and his niece D. Beatriz to his claims; and it is known to what extent relations with the neighboring kingdom were problematic. The fact that D. João I ordered the construction of a pantheon for himself and his family is a sign of this unprecedented dynastic mystique. The Batalha Monastery was a project to legitimize a new dynasty, the Avis dynasty: hence the scale of the work – a sign of financial capacity and the power to achieve.

Indeed, the Monastery of Batalha differs from the rest of Portuguese architecture and stands out in the national artistic landscape with its sign of change. The decoration, the finishing and the finishing, in addition to the final option of the works, according to what is conventionally called late Gothic schemes, are its main distinguishing elements. Some aspects that distinguish this new mode of Portuguese Gothic from the first dynasty are easy to state, since, overall, the plastic and ornamental treatment of the building's exterior provides valuable indications as to what would become, from now on, the orientation of the building. 14th century architecture of the post-battle period.

Great attention is immediately paid to the decoration of the surfaces. It is worth noting, the «horizontal» marking of the facades by patterns made of ledges (cornices or lacrimal), running through the entire building; the filling of all the openings – windows, crevices – with flaming lacework – as in the large window on the façade that thus replaces the usual rose window. It is worth highlighting the way in which the walls (or even the buttresses) are animated through the chiaroscuro game of friezes of flaming nets ― for example, the embossed stilettos on the alfiz or the wall of the window, the grilling of the terraces and the provided flowered pinnacles. Other new factors can also be seen: the structural simplification of the elevations; the complexity of the supports, from pillars to columns – which become increasingly thin and multiplied, with thin columns and sticks appearing; the de-multiplication of the elevation frames now showing very varied profiles in terms of the respective cutout and their intertwining; in these, the appearance of the countercurved arch; the flattening of the vaults and the appearance of complex systems of ribs, unfolding the number of keys and terceletes (as in the stellate vaults); the spread of plant decoration, but only in concentrated points (such as capitals); the return to allegorical and narrative figuration (also in concentrated areas); the exhibition of architecture as architecture, or its abstraction, being a supporting house or structural theme treated as if it were a reality in itself, a kind of crystalline and mineral form, and, above all, the dramatic accentuation of the use of heraldry.

This is called late Gothic, meaning a period in which the different modes of construction were regionalised, regardless of whether the architects in question were of foreign origins. These obey orders determined by local political will, explore new means in the shipyard where they are called to work and free themselves from the most current canons of international Gothic, usually called "classical".

As for the importance of heraldry, it is known that the disciplining of the Portuguese armorial is certainly the result of the action of King D. João I, for reasons that are also related to the exercise of power, its centralization and the call to oneself (and to the House of Avis) of an outline of concentrated power, which met the needs of legitimation. The importance given to heraldry in the Monastery of Batalha (an extremely regulated heraldry, that is to say, executed with precept and without concessions to any type of inconsistency in codes) is, therefore, the starting point for a symbolic protagonism of the coat of arms in later works, this being visible on the exterior of the building (south portal and axial portal) or other areas of posterior finishing.