April 25, 2020
A small Portuguese town – Batalha – is situated near the town of Lisbon, and its main attraction is the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitoria. Another name of the monastery, known mainly to the Portuguese, is the Monastery of the Battle.
The Story of the Monastery
According to history, in 1385 King John I of Portugal vowed to the Santa Maria, before the battle with the Castilians – if he manages to win, he, then, built a magnificent monastery in her honor. As a result, the King of Portugal triumphed, even though his army was not as numerous as the army of the enemy was, and this victory was a miracle for the whole of Portugal. Thus, soon after the victory, the construction of the Monastery began and it has become a symbol of the country’s independence. The monastery was erected over two hundred years, and the building was completed in 1517. The six kings passed before the Holy Abode was erected. All of them are buried in the tomb in the Monastery of Batalha.
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With the time, the Monastery gradually became more decrepit. In this regard, in the XIX century, its restoration began not to lose this architectural structure of Portugal. From 1980 to date, the Monastery is a museum that is open to the public. By visiting this amazing Monastery, a man can explore the culture and life of medieval Portugal. External and internal decoration of the Monastery of Batalha demonstrates features of the mysterious and enigmatic of the Middle Ages.
The Architecture of the Monastery
The architecture of the monastery is a mixture of several styles, despite the fact that originally the Gothic style was chosen. On a technical level, ribbed vaults, arches, and high arches characterize Gothic architecture. These elements have been presented in the buildings of the Romanesque style in the late 12th early 13th centuries, thanks to the achievements of engineering of the time, the opportunity to build a higher and wider structure. Innovative use of vaulted arches and ribbed vaults allowed doing much more complex designs that were not possible with the image1.pig technical level of the previous timesimage5.jpg. Special arrangements for the support and strengthening of the image4.jpgstructures, in particular, the flying buttresses have made the construction of high buildings possible without internal intermediate walls with large window openings. The main feature of the Gothic style of architecture is the transition from the old, heavy forms of the Romanesque architecture based on solid and heavy designs to light and sublime form of Gothic architecture (Frankl and Crossley, 2000, pp. 258-263). The Monastery of Batalha building is 178 meters long and 137 meters wide. It was built mainly according to the drawings of the architect Afonso Domingues. The monumental main facade of the temple dissected into three pieces and decorated with sculptures is considered as one of the most brilliant specimens of Portuguese High Gothic.
Huguet, a French master, completed the Church of the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitoria. Its features are elongated plan, high altitude and narrow width of the nave, a strict form of pillars and arch design that detects echoes of Latin influences, determination up of all lines, which is achieved by not a “brave” design but by contrasting the basic dimensions of the temple and frequent rhythm of supports.
However, vertical details of interior lines and contrast measurements of the temple are expressed here more clearly and definitely. Thin rib arches, slender columns, beam-surrounding pillars, the wide span between the columns give the interior a large space, softness, and lyricism. This difference is highlighted by the color – softly colored “sun” tone of the stone. The interior of the temple of the monastery brings us back to the period of sober Gothic grandeur: the nave and aisles are separated by thick pillars with floral patterns, decorated with beautiful stained glass windows of the XVI century, casts a colored light on the walls, all this creates a feeling of the spirituality temple.
Obviously, the general look, which was supposed for the church on the original draft, differs from the implemented one. Nevertheless, it did not deprive the church of originality or distinctiveness. The absence of the narthex and towers on the facades, narrow windows, flat roof, all its simple and clear volume are decorated in traditional Portuguese architecture. Perhaps, as suggested by foreign scholars, English masters have worked here (the main facade of the church resembles British Cathedral look), but the flat roof, extended plan, undeveloped flying buttresses still cannot serve as proof of English influences: they are typical for Portugal.
From its predecessor’s church of Santa Maria da Vitoria also features a “peaceful” nature of architecture. The Reconquista was completed, the Spanish attack was successfully repulsed. Therefore, only the northern facade of the fortress crowned with prongs. The belt of stone carving openwork is at the other side of the flat roof edges. A contrast between masonry solid walls and fine fragile carved bindings of windows and cornice is very beautiful. The central part of the western facade is covered with a mesh stone carving openwork, as it was thrown on the facade. Most forms, techniques, decorations became thinner, richer and more refined. The Southern portal is a wonderful example of Medieval architecture with carved coats of arms founders of the Monastery and a huge window, the largest Gothic architecture in Portugal. The main entrance to the West fa?ade is decorated with statues of the twelve apostles on both sides established on the open-consoles. In the center, there is a statue of Our Savior. It is surrounded by evangelists and six arches with statues of biblical kings, prophets, and angels. The abundance of sculptures completes the scene of the coronation of Santa Maria.
The most consistent this quality is manifested in two chapels attached to the church by Huguet. In one of them, the Founder Chapel,image2.png which is square in plan, with an octagonal lantern resting on eight beam-columns, the facade peculiarities of the church are clearly seen. Window openings are wider and their decor is richer (Redol, 2007, p.75). The second, “Unfinished” Chapel affects the complexity of the plan, which is supplemented by eight octagonal chapels with triangular square apses connected by eight triangular outside chapels.
Quests for complex compositions of rich decoration of Huguet anticipate Manueline architecture. The rebuilt hall chapter is the evidence of his extraordinary courage to engineering, which is complemented with a subtle gift of the architect. He abandoned the traditional design with arches resting on pillars, replacing it, with a vaulted ceiling in the shape of an octagonal star.
In 1495 to the Portuguese throne was passed to King Manuel I, and the architecture was filled with a new trend and style. The Monastery was decorated with intricate moldings and carved lattice was installed. Marine paraphernalia becomes the main element of the ornaments, symbolizing the era of great achievements and discoveries. The spherical astrolabe that is one of the most commonly used items becomes the emblem of an architectural style that was created by the king and named in his honor – Manueline style (Manueline, 2013). The Manueline style emerged in Portugal in the 15-16 century and took its name from King Manuel I Merry, who ruled the country from 1495 to 1521. This style is Portuguese somewhat late (“flaming”), Gothic, Moorish and mixed with exotic motifs. At its formation, Spanish Plateresque influenced the style and later Manueline reflected the Italian Renaissance. This style is embodied in architecture, sculpture and decorative art throughout Portugal and in the Portuguese colonies. Manueline appeared during the heyday of powerful Portugal – in the Age of Discovery when the country has gained numerous colonies and turned into an empire of global importance. Along with the political power of Portugal’s rapidly developing economy and culture, this contributed to the active construction and required the emergence of new artistic forms and techniques. Overflowing sense of power from the new success of sea power, and the thrills of exotic, uncharted territories are reflected in this architecture style. Thus, Manueline created as it is sometimes called a style of sea and rope. “The shape of the arches, whether of a window or of the door, is one of the most characteristic features of Manoelino” (Watson, 1908, p.146). Among the main characteristics of the Manueline, there is an abundance of plant and symbolic elements. This is seen in the windows of religious as well as of “civilian” buildings. Cherubs, putti and fantastic characters such as mermaids, gargoyles, dragons often appeared in the Manueline. This style combines elements of many different symbols: Christian alchemy, state, and other folklore, the strong influence of heraldry. A decorative “Mood” of Manueline also varied. It can be moralistic, allegorical, playful, esoteric or even propaganda. The latest trend is manifested in the ensembles created by Manuel I. Manueline style transmits and messianic ambitions of the king, who, after his “miracle” came to power because of the death of other direct heirs to the throne. One of the key elements of the style became an armillary sphere, which was transferred to the future King Jo`o II, and became a symbol of the divine omens reign, Manuel.
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North portal of the church is a masterpiece of Manueline style. The choir of the abbey church has the wonderful stained glass windows, the chapter hall is decorated with stained-glass windows of the XVI century. “Royal cloister” attracts the attention of slender columns and graceful decorative ornaments. The west facade of the building, with its outer side, is covered with lacy stonework and Gothic windows that open out onto a spacious and majestic area. Today, the building of the Monastery is illuminated at night, which gives it a special kind of mystic. On the right side of the church octagonal building, the Founder Chapel is located. British architect created this chapel in 1434. The chapel has an octagonal structure and highlights the high stained-glass windows. It contains the tombs of kings and queens. Church officials were confident that the whole building will collapse, and used criminals as construction workers, who were sentenced to death. Unfinished chapel represents a separate building at the east end of the cathedral. The eldest son of Joan and Philip Dom Duarte ordered to build a royal tomb in 1437, but the initial draft has been revised and now the building is unique to the Christian and Muslim architecture imitation of Hindu temples, perhaps the decision was inspired by the stories of the eastern Indian merchants’ monuments.
The Westside is decorated with a variety of sculptures. Doors are surrounded by the statues of the twelve apostles, each of which is unique. The upper part of the facade is decorated with the largest stained-glass window that corresponds to the Portuguese Gothic architecture. The equestrian statue of Nuno Alvares stands in the southeastern corner.
The Royal Chapel of the Monastery is decorated in the Manueline style. It is a square house of the founder. It has 19 meters on each side, with a large Gothic arch, and is different, in that there is no central support. Here a man can see the sink to wash his hands in front of the dining room, which was used for ritual ablutions. Chapel Afonso V, in contrast, is characterized by its simplicity and lack of ornamentation. On the East side the Monastery has an ornate passage, leading to the seven unfinished chapels, that was built for the burial of the first kings. However, construction was halted when workers called back to Lisbon for the construction of another monastery. The huge passage of coral stone was built by Mateus Fernandes and became one of the greatest examples of architecture in Manueline style. The unfinished chapel of the Dominican Monastery is the most amazing part of the monastery complex.
In 1983, the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitoria was recognized as the landmark of world significance, and, therefore, was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List (UNESCO, n.d.). Today, it is an important cultural construction not only for the Portuguese but also for many connoisseurs of stories that come to the Monastery from other countries.
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