Batalha - Encyclopedia

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BATALHA (i.e. battle), a town of Portugal, in the district of Leiria, formerly included in the province of Estremadura; 8 m. S. of Leiria. Pop. (1900) 3858. Batalha, which occupies the site of the medieval Canoeira, is chiefly interesting for its great Dominican monastery of Santa Maria da Victoria ("St Mary of the Victory"), also known as Batalha. Both town and monastery owe their names to the battle fought on the plain between Canoeira and Aljubarrota, 9 m. S.W., in which John I. of Portugal defeated John I. of Castile in 1385 and secured the independence of his kingdom. The monastery is built of golden-brown limestone, resembling marble, and richly sculptured. In size and beauty it excels all the other buildings of Portugal in which Gothic and Moorish architecture are combined. Its groundplan may be roughly described as a parallelogram, measuring about 500 ft. from north to south, and 445 from east to west; with the circular annexe of the royal mausoleum on the east, and the Founder's chapel at the south-western corner. In the centre is the royal cloister, which is flanked by the refectory, now a museum, on the west; and by the chapter-house, on the east. Two smaller cloisters, named respectively after Alphonso V. and John III., form the northern division of the parallelogram; its southern division is the Gothic church. The Founder's chapel contains the tomb of John I. (d. 1433) and Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1416), his queen, with the tomb of Prince Henry the Navigator (d. 1460). Like the royal mausoleum, where several later monarchs are buried, it is remarkable for the intricacy and exquisite finish of its carved stonework. The monastery was probably founded in 1388. Plans and masons were procured from England by Queen Philippa, and the work was entrusted to A. Domingues, a native architect, and Huet or Houguet, an Irishman. Only the royal cloister, church and Founder's chapel were included in the original design; and all three show signs of English influence. Various additions were made up to 1551, beginning with the royal mausoleum and ending with the cloister of John III. Considerable damage was inflicted by the earthquake of 1755; and in 1810 the monastery was sacked by the French. It was secularized in 1834 and declared a national monument in 1840. Thenceforward it was gradually restored.

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