Batalha Monastery - History and Facts | History Hit

Batalha Monastery

Batalha, Centro, Portugal

Batalha Monastery is a stunning Gothic creation originally built to celebrate a famous military victory.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020

About Batalha Monastery

Batalha Monastery is a stunningly ornate Gothic creation dating mostly to the reign of King Joao I. This king began building Batalha Monastery – the full name of which is Mosteiro Santa Maria da Vitória – in thanks to the Virgin Mary for victory at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. King Joao and his family would also be buried here. Successive kings such as Duarte and Manuel I continued to add to Batalha Monastery, making their mark on this important structure.

Batalha Monastery history

The Monastery of the Dominicans of Batalha was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. It was to be the Portuguese monarchy’s main building project for the next two centuries. Over the course of the project, a highly original, national Gothic style evolved, profoundly influenced by Manueline art, as demonstrated by the Royal Cloister.

The Monastery is thought to have been designed by English architect Master Huguet. The chapel’s floor plan consists of an octagonal space inserted in a square, creating two separate volumes that combine most harmoniously. The ceiling consists of an eight-point star-shaped lantern. The most dramatic feature is to be found in the centre of the chapel: the enormous medieval tomb of Dom João I and his wife, Queen Philippa of Lancaster. Bays in the chapel walls contain the tombs of their sons, among them Prince Henry the Navigator.

The main entrance of the church is through the porch on the west facade. On both sides of this portal are sculptures of the twelve apostles standing on consoles. In the centre is a high relief statue of Christ in Majesty surrounded by the Evangelists, framed by six covings decorated with sculptures of biblical kings and queens, prophets and angels holding musical instruments from the Middle Ages.

As a monument charged with a symbolic value from its foundation, the Monastery of Batalha was, for more than two centuries, the great workshop of the Portuguese monarchy.

Whilst the monastery escaped the devastation of the 1755 earthquake it was badly damaged during the Peninsula War in 1810 when Napoleonic troops sacked the monastery. In the following years the building went into decline. King Fernando II initiated restoration works in 1840. This continued almost as long as the original build and saw Batalha added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

Batalha Monastery today

The monastery blends a rich history with impressive architecture such as its vast vaulted ceilings, Batalha Monastery is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and also features as one of our top 10 tourist attractions in Portugal.

Getting to Batalha Monastery

Batalha is located 118km north of Lisbon, close to Fatima and Alcobaça. From Lisbon, trains run to Valado dos Frades and buses continue from there to Batalha. By car from Alcobaça, take the N8 northeast and the drive should be around 20 minutes.

Featured In

Historic Sites in Portugal

Discover some of the best historic sites in Portugal, from the famous Belém Tower to the Pena National Palace and more.