A few kilometres to the north of Alcobaça is the wondrous building constructed in memory of the important battle of Aljubarrota that occurred in 1385. Dom João I defeated the Castilians and ensuring two hundred years of virtual independence from Spanish invaders. When the King Dom Fernando I died without an heir to the throne it was claimed by both his illegitimate brother Dom João I and Juan de Castile of Spain on behalf of his wife.
On the 14th of August of that year the outnumbered army of Dom João I commanded by an outstanding general, Nuno Álvares Pereira, faced the Spanish forces just south of the present site of the Abbey. It is said that on the eve of the battle Dom João made a vow to construct an unforgettable church in memory of the Virgin Mary should he succeed in battle the next day.
The construction of the Abbey of Santa Maria da Vitória at Batalha commenced in 1388, and was later added to and enhanced by the various Portuguese Kings over these next two centuries. Located proudly in a valley this imposing structure is an outstanding example of combined Gothic and Manueline architecture.
Under its naves lies some of Portugal’s most historic personalities during that period. Here you will find resting the tombs of João I, his English wife Philippa of Lancaster, and their famous offspring, Prince Henry the Navigator whose efforts and determination helped to explore the then unknown world. In the Chapter house lie two unknown soldiers from World War I thus giving the Abbey a true military relationship to the 20th Century.
To the south of is the town of Alcobaça that only became notable in the 12th Century when it became the site for the important construction of Portugal’s largest Abbey. To the north is the 16th Century town of Leiria that is crowned with a 14th Century castle. It was in this town that the King Dom Dinis held the first “Cortes”, a form of Parliament open to common laymen.
To the east is the world famous religious shrine of Fátima. Whilst to the west is the well-known fishing village of Nazaré. Today, the village is now a small town and a popular holiday resort with most of its past and traditions having rapidly evaporated in the course of time.
To the east is the 15th Century impressive castled town of Ourém, the resting place of the famous general Dom Afonso Álvares Pereira. This town has featured many times in the history of Portugal, it’s most recent occasion when the plundering French army in 1810 sacked the town and scattered in the surrounding countryside the bones of both Pereira and the grandson of Dom João I.
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