“Is that a church?” we said as we rode down the hill on the highway into Batalha. Yes, yes it is. The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória na Batalha (victory in battle) was built in thanksgiving to the victory of the Portuguese against the Kingdom of Castile (Spain) in August of 1385 at Aljubarrota. The battle itself was a story of underdog prevails. 6,100 soldiers to 31,000 (even better than the Sox v Yankees in 2004) for which the King credited the providence of the Virgin Mary and built the monastery in her honor. We passed through Batalha on our way to and from Monsanto near the Spanish border stopping both times, once to visit only from the outside the second with a visit inside.
Both out and in are something to behold. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site combining gothic and Manueline (named for King Manuel) architecture, and it’s massive. The peaceful chapel is long and narrow with beautiful stained glass windows filtering colorful sunlit reflections down below.
Off to one corner, sits the Tomb of the Founders housing the 15th Century remains of King Joao I and Henry the Navigator and memorials (the remains having been discarded by French General Massena’s soldiers during the Peninsular War in the 1700s) to King Alfonso V and King Joao II.
Also housed inside the church complex is Portugal’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
Definitely worth a visit and for only 6 Euros per person. If you plan to visit the UNESCO monasteries in Alcobaca and Tomar you can purchase passes to all three at any one of the sites.