Monday, March 3, 2014

The Batalha Monastery

A World Heritage Site

This massive Gothic masterpiece dominates the landscape of Batalha, Portugal.  Wherever you are in the town, your eyes continue to be drawn back to its carved flamboyance, flying buttresses, gargoyles and saints.  I was not familiar with Manueline art or architecture until I toured this monastery.  It was an art movement in 16th century Portugal, which corresponded with the country's pride in their dominance of the sea and subsequent discoveries of the New World.

Although the main church was started in the late 1300's, it took two centuries to complete and well --"complete" isn't exactly correct.  What makes this building so utterly fascinating is the "incomplete" chapels in the back.  Roofs were never added because the architect got bogged down with Manueline embellishment nearly three hundred years later.  I mean, over-the-top embellishment.  This art form used symbols of discovery and the sea to adorn every square inch of stone.  It would have taken another two centuries to complete.  The project was halted.  Consequently, the octagonal addition, strikes the visitor with an emotional pathos.  We bandied about metaphors while we marveled at the carved shells and intertwined rope crawling up the columns.  It's like a bombed-out relic, isn't it?  A stage set.  A beauteous ruin.

  If you love Gothic architecture, add the Batalha Monastery to your "must see" list.  Truth is, none of our metaphors adequately described this mysterious place.  We were simply dumbstruck by its mere existence.

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