Batalha Monastery — the burial church of Portuguese royalty.
It took over a century to build, with fifteen architects adding their influence along the way. Work began in 1386. The Gothic style was new to Portugal and required unprecedented manpower and work techniques. Once it was finally finished in 1516, the construction had spanned the reign of fifteen kings. Is it any wonder this became a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
Actually, the construction of the monastery was never finished. A convent was being added but the project was abandoned in order to focus on the construction of the Jerónimos Monastery in Belem.
What remains is absolutely magnificent. The unfinished chapels, exposed to the elements and filled with fly-by birds, seems surreal. It’s almost criminal to think that this majestic architecture isn’t carefully preserved. Even odder to realize that King Duarte’s tomb is here in this unfinished chapel.
When you walk in, you have the option to buy a ticket into the chapel, cloisters, and unfinished chapel for €6. You’re welcome to see the main sanctuary for free, but I recommend splurging on the ticket. The burial chapel and cloisters are exquisite, and seeing the soldiers guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier is quite sobering.
The visit naturally starts in the burial chapel toward the entrance to the monastery. The octagonal room contains the combined tomb of King John and his wife, Queen Philippa, with the tombs of their children lining the side walls.
Further on, you enter the cloisters, which was one of the most serene settings I’ve ever encountered. If I’d had a book and unlimited time, I might never have left.
The Batalha Monastery does not attract the big crowds that other sites near Lisbon do, but it is well worth the visit. Far from the madd(en)ing crowd of Pena Palace, I enjoyed the quiet and solitude of this architectural gem.
Do you seek out UNESCO World Heritage Sites when you travel?