Where is Batalha Monastery?
Batalha Monastery, an impressive example of gothic architecture is located in the small town of Batalha in the Leira District in Central Portugal. It’s one of Portugal’s most important Gothic sites and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
A Brief History of the Monastery of Batalha
Batalha is the Portuguese word for battle. The monastery was built to celebrate Portugal’s victory over the Castilians in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385 and as a thank you from the Portuguese King João I to the Virgin Mary for answering his prayers to defeat the Spanish King Juan.
The Spanish king was challenging King João’s right to the Portuguese throne as João was the illegitimate brother of the last King who had died leaving no heirs to the throne.
It took more than a century to build the Gothic style structure, but work was halted in the mid 16th century when King João III decided to focus on Jerónimos Monastery in Belem near Lisbon.
The devastating earthquake of 1755 that destroyed much of Lisbon caused some damage but the Napoleonic invasions in 1810 created a lot more damage, and eventually, the monastery was left abandoned and fell into ruin.
King Ferdinand II of Portugal started a restoration programme in 1840 and in 1907, the monastery was declared a national monument and turned into a museum in 1980.
Church of Batalha Monastery
You enter the monastery through the church. The church is free to enter, and it’s here where you buy the tickets to visit the rest of the monastery. Details on opening hours and ticket prices can be found later on in this post.
The interior of the church is quite simple in style with very high ceilings and stained glass windows.
The Founders Chapel
In the Founders Chapel are the elaborate tombs of King Joao (King John) I, his English wife Philippa of Lancaster and their four sons, including Henry the Navigator. The artwork on the tombs is absolutely incredible.
Just as you enter the Cloisters, to the side, you will spot the Chapter House (Sala do Capítulo). Here two sentinels guard the tomb of the Unknown Soldiers killed in the First World War.
We wandered slowly through the Cloisters, admiring the columns, the large fountain, and the gardens and trying to avoid the tour groups.
The Unfinished Chapels (Capelas Imperfeitas)
This was our favourite part of the monastery, located at the back of the church. You have to exit the monastery and walk across the Largo Infante Dom Henrique to the small entrance of the Unfinished Chapels. It’s beautifully designed, one of the earliest examples in Portugal of Manueline architecture.
It was originally built to be a royal pantheon for King Duarte but was never finished as he died prematurely as did the principal architect Mateus Fernandes. Despite the Chapel not being completed, the tomb of King Duarte lies there.
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Opening Hours for Batalha Monastery
From 16 October to 31 March 09:00 -17:30 (Last admission 17:00)
From 1 April to 15 October 09:00 – 18:30 (Last admission 18:00)
Closed 1 January, Easter Sunday, 1 May, 24 and 25 December
How much does it cost to enter Batalha Monastery
Children under the age of 12 – Free
Adults over 65 with proof of age, 50% discount
Keep hold of your ticket, as you will need to show it three times: to enter the Founder’s Chapel, the Cloisters and the Unfinished Chapels.
To avoid the queues to enter, I recommend buying your ticket to enter Batalha Monastery in advance.
How to get to Batalha
The easiest way to get to Batalha is by car. Batalha is located roughly halfway between the cities of Lisbon and Porto. From Lisbon or Porto, it’s approximately a one hour 45 minutes journey. With your own transport, you’ll be able to explore the nearby towns of Nazare, Alcobaça, Fatima, and Tomar.
Without your own transport, there is a bus service with Rede Expressos from Lisbon. The journey time is two hours and costs €12 per person.
Bus journeys to and from Porto take longer and involves a change in Coimbra.
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