How To Visit The Monastery Of Batalha In 2023

The Monastery of Batalha, officially the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory (in Portuguese, Mosteiro da Batalha or Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória, respectively), is a Manueline-style monument that was built by King João I. Located in the town of Batalha, in the Leiria district, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary as a way of thanks for the Portuguese victory in the Battle of Aljubarrota against the Castilians!

The Monastery of Batalha was classified as a National Monument in 1910 and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. In addition, it was declared one of the “7 Wonders of Portugal” in July 2007 and gained the status of National Pantheon in May 2016!

So, do you want to know How To Visit The Monastery Of Batalha In 2023? Keep reading!

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Monastery of Batalha
Monastery of Batalha

Brief History of the Monastery of Batalha

As I mentioned before, the history of the Monastery of Batalha (and the town of Batalha) began with the Battle of Aljubarrota, fought on August 14th, 1385. On one side of the dispute, the Kingdom of Portugal (led by King João I of Portugal and its Constable D. Nuno Álvares Pereira, and supported by the Kingdom of England); on the other, the Kingdom of Castile (led by King João I of Castile and supported by the Kingdom of France and the Crown of Aragon).

The decisive victory of the Portuguese put an end to the Dynastic Crisis of 1383-1385 and led to the acclaim of D. João I, the Master of Aviz, as King of Portugal and the first of the Aviz Dynasty (or Joanine Dynasty). This battle also gave rise to the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance – the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world still in force – which was established on May 9th, 1386, with the signing of the Treaty of Windsor.

South Façade

That being said, the Monastery of Batalha was founded in 1386 and its construction took almost 200 years. For this reason, the monument integrates different architectural styles, of which Manueline (or late Portuguese Gothic) stands out. Likewise, the works were supervised by different architects: Afonso Domingues, David Huguet, Martim Vasques, Fernão d’Évora, and Mateus Fernandes.

World Heritage

Did you know that the Monastery of Batalha was part of Portugal’s first set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 7th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Florence (Italy), between December 5th and 9th, 1983.

Four other Portuguese sites were announced in the session: the Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores; the Convent of Christ in Tomar; and the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon.

Nowadays, Portugal is the ninth country in Europe and the eighteenth country in the world with the most UNESCO sites, tied with Poland. It has seventeen heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit fourteen of them:

How to Get to the Monastery of Batalha

The Monastery of Batalha is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Portugal, not only for its unique architecture but also for its important historical context. Therefore, it’s only natural that this monument receives more than 100,000 annual visitors and is one of the most frequented cultural spaces in the country!

In my opinion, the best way to visit the Monastery of Batalha (and the town of Batalha) is on a day trip from Lisbon. And to get there from the Portuguese capital, you have two options: travel by car (about 120 km) or by public transportation (2 hours by bus).

However, Batalha is also an excellent stop on a road trip through the Leiria district! In that case, I suggest you explore other destinations in the vicinity: Porto de Mós (9 km), Leiria (13 km), Marinha Grande (20 km), Alcobaça (22 km), Nazaré (29 km), or Pombal (40 km).

Opening Hours & Ticket Prices

The Monastery of Batalha is open every day, from 9 am to 6 pm (from October 16th to March 31st) or from 9 am to 6:30 pm (from April 1st to October 15th), with the last entry taking place at 5:30 pm and 6 pm, respectively. The monument closes on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th.

As far as tickets are concerned, the Church of Saint Mary of the Victory is free to enter. On the other hand, the Monastery of Batalha requires entry with a ticket, which costs €6 (normal fare) or €3 (reduced rate for people over 65 and holders of a Student Card or Youth Card), while children up to 12 years old don’t pay admission.

TIP: Like the other monuments and museums managed by the Directorate-General for Cultural Heritage, the Monastery of Batalha is free on Sundays until 2 pm, for all residents in Portugal!

What to See at the Monastery of Batalha

Equestrian Statue of D. Nuno Álvares Pereira

The Equestrian Statue of D. Nuno Álvares Pereira (in Portuguese, Estátua Equestre do Condestável D. Nuno Álvares Pereira) is situated in the Constable Square (in Portuguese, Largo do Condestável), south of the Monastery of Batalha.

Sculpted in 1968 by Leopoldo de Almeida at the request of the Estado Novo, this bronze work represents Nuno Álvares Pereira (a nobleman and general, who served as 2nd Constable of the Kingdom of Portugal between 1385 and 1431).

Nuno Álvares Pereira was one of the protagonists of the Battle of Aljubarrota and is also known as the Holy Constable or Saint Nuno de Santa Maria since he was beatified by Pope Benedict XV (on January 23rd, 1918) and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI (on April 26th, 2009).

Main Façade

The Main Façade of the Monastery of Batalha (in Portuguese, Fachada Principal) impresses anyone with its architectural stateliness, structural grandeur, and decorative richness. Have you noticed the flaming tracery that adorn the windows? Or the “game” of depths and heights created by buttresses, cornices, gargoyles, and pinnacles?

And the Portal of the Main Façade (in Portuguese, Portal da Fachada Principal) was designed by David Huguet, presenting a unique sculptural work in Portugal. The more than seventy figures include God, the Four Evangelists, the Twelve Apostles, the Kings of Judah, popes, monks, martyrs, and angels, among other biblical characters.

Church

Did you know that the Church of Saint Mary of the Victory (in Portuguese, Igreja de Santa Maria da Vitória) is the tallest in Portugal, at 32.5 meters high? Then, we have to join its 80 meters long and 22 meters high. And so it’s easy to see why the Monastery of Batalha leaves all its visitors with their jaws dropped!

Church of Saint Mary of the Victory
High Chapel

Although the Monastery of Batalha had been donated to the friars of the Dominican Order – a religious order known for its vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity – it’s relevant to note that its monumentality is due to the ambitious desire of King João I to assert his power before the Kingdom of Castile.

Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary
Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows

The Church of Saint Mary of the Victorya is composed of three naves (one central and two lateral), a transept, and five chapels (Chapel of Saint Barbara, Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, High Chapel, Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows, and Chapel of Saint Michael; in Portuguese, Capela de Santa Bárbara, Capela de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, Capela-Mor, Capela de Nossa Senhora da Piedade e Capela de São Miguel). And the stained glass windows are the oldest in the country, dating back to the 15th century!

Founder’s Chapel

The Founder’s Chapel (in Portuguese, Capela do Fundador) is one of the most notable spaces in the Monastery of Batalha. Concluded by David Huguet in 1434, it wasn’t part of the monument’s original plan. Nevertheless, it was added when King João I converted the Monastery of Batalha into a Royal Pantheon.

Tomb of King João I and Queen Filipa de Lencastre
Dome

With a quadrangular plan and an octagonal central vault, it’s in this room that the conjugal tomb of King João I and Queen Filipa de Lencastre (the first of its kind in Portugal) is located, as well as those of their sons – the “Illustrious Generation”, as Luís de Camões called them. On the ceiling, a starry dome fills the chapel with light and color.

Tomb of the sons of King João I and Queen Filipa de Lencastre

With the exception of King Duarte I, here are the sons of King João I and Queen Filipa de Lencastre buried in the Founder’s Chapel (from left to right): Prince Fernando, the Saint Prince; Prince João and his wife, Isabel; Prince Henrique, the Navigator; and Prince Pedro and his wife, Isabel de Urgel.

Cloister of King João I (or Royal Cloister)

The Cloister of King João I (in Portuguese, Claustro de D. João I) is the “heart” of the Monastery of Batalha, as it provided access to the monastery’s common spaces: the Church, the Refectory, the Dormitory, the Cellar, and the Chapter Room, among other smaller dependencies. Also known as the Royal Cloister, it has a single floor and galleries covered by arched vaults.

The Cloister of King João I was started in 1386 by Afonso de Domingues, the first architect of the Monastery of Batalha. He was succeeded by David Huguet, who completed the bulk of the structure. But the work campaign was also supervised by Martim Vasques and Mateus Fernandes and was definitively completed in 1515.

Chapter House

When passing through the east gallery of the Cloister of King João I, you’ll find the entrance to the Chapter House (in Portuguese, Sala do Capítulo or Casa do Capítulo), a quadrangular space covered by a gigantic suspended vault, in the shape of an eight-pointed star. If you arrive on the dot, you’ll be able to see the changing of the guard, which honors the Unknown Soldier!

The Chapter House is a hall present in almost all monasteries, convents, and collegiate churches, where meetings were held between monks, nuns, or canons and their superiors (abbots/abbesses, priors, deans, etc.). In Portugal, some of the most extraordinary chapter houses are found in the Monastery of Alcobaça, Jerónimos Monastery (in Lisbon), Monastery of Tibães (in Braga), and Convent of the Capuchos (in Sintra).

Friars’ Fountain (or Basin)

It’s time to return to the Cloister of King João I, to discover an exuberant structure: the Friars’ Fountain or Basin (in Portuguese, Fonte dos Frades or Lavabo).

Installed at the entrance to the Refectory, at the northwest end of the Royal Cloister, this Basin bears witness to a daily ritual of Dominican friars: washing their hands before a meal.

The Friars’ Fountain is part of the hydraulic system of the Monastery of Batalha. The water came from a spring located about 900 meters away and was supplied through underground pipes.

This Basin was created by Mateus Fernandes already in the Manueline period and has a lobed basin, with two other small staggered basins.

Museum of Offerings to the Unknown Soldier (Former Refectory)

These days, the Former Refectory of the Monastery of Batalha (in Portuguese, Antigo Refeitório) houses the Museum of Offerings to the Unknown Soldier (in Portuguese, Museu das Oferendas ao Soldado Desconhecido).

This site houses a vast collection of objects belonging to the League of Combatants, such as medals, flags, shields, plaques, etc. Many of them were offered by foreign countries, including Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Norway, and Canada.

The Museum of Offerings to the Unknown Soldier is open every day, from 9 am to 5 pm (from October 16th to March 31st) or from 9 am to 6 pm (from April 1st to October 15th). And closes on January 1st, Easter Sunday, May 1st, and December 25th.

Cloister of King Afonso V (or Afonsine Cloister)

Did you know that the Cloister of King Afonso V (in Portuguese, Claustro de D. Afonso V) was the first Portuguese cloister to be built with two floors? On the ground floor were the warehouses for essential provisions for the monastic life, while the upper floor accommodated the friars’ cells, the registry office, the apothecary, and the infirmary.

Much simpler and more austere than the Royal Cloister, the Afonsine Cloister (in Portuguese, Claustro Afonsino) was designed by Fernão de Évora and erected between 1448 and 1477. In the center, you can see a well, which was used to store water. It’s also known that, in the 16th century, two more cloisters were added (now demolished).

Unfinished Chapels

Unfinished Chapels (in Portuguese, Capelas Imperfeitas) is the name given to the Pantheon of King Duarte I (in Portuguese, Panteão de D. Duarte I), as this octagon with seven funerary chapels was never finished. Aligned with the High Chapel at the back of the Church, the Unfinished Chapels were begun in 1434. But the death of the monarch and the architect David Huguet in 1438 dictated their “unfinished” fate.

Manueline Portal
Tomb of King Duarte I and Queen Leonor of Aragão

The Unfinished Chapels are proof of the artistic and technical mastery of David Huguet. Apart from that, the Manueline portal was sculpted by Mateus Fernandes (in 1509) and the Renaissance balcony, dating from 1533, is attributed to Miguel de Arruda. As for the conjugal tomb of King Duarte I and Queen Leonor de Aragão, it was placed here in the 1940s.

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