Following on from my last post on the Monastery of Alcobaça, the Monastery of Batalha, in Central Portugal was about a 30 minute drive away.
The date building works began on this cathedral is not confirmed, although it is known that a construction site large enough for a project of this size was set up a year or two after the Battle of Ajubarrota in the late 14th century. The sheer size of the monastery’s church with dimensions virtually unheard of in medieval Portuguese architecture (over 80m long, 22m wide and around 35 m high) is enough to confirm the importance in which King João regarded the monastery. The church is buit in the shape of a Latin cross, like Alcobaça. Like many pieces of architecture this size, it was developed by successive monarchs with the last significant contributions being made in 1480.
Like most of this monastery, the detail to the entrance is incredibly intricate. The doors are flanked by the 12 apostles and above the door there are a collection of figures which represent the Kingdom of Heaven. The first two archivolts contain figures from the New Testament. The next two archivolts are devoted to Old Testament figures, then there are prophets and patriarchs whose teachings pave the way for the new Testament. The two archivolts closest to the tympanum are occupied by Angelic figures, the first containing seated angels, the second, standing figurines of seraphim. The figure of God appears in the centre of the tympanum, surrounded by Evalngelists reading or writing on desks.
The monastery contains a chapel, named the Founders Chapel, where the tombs of King João and Philippa of Lancaster lie side by side.
The cloisters, were impressive, and continued displaying intricate detail. One room leading from the cloister contained the Tomb of the Unknown Solider (from WWI) and we timed it just right to see the changing of the guard (further pictures of this available on Flickr – see the link below).
For more information on the Monastery of Batalha visit the UNESCO site here.
More images from the trip to this UNESCO site can be viewed on Flickr here