Dominican priory of Santa Maria da Vitória

A brief description.


The history of Portugal.


An important historical event in the history of Portugal is the struggle to be independent of Spanish Castile. The Portugese king Ferdinand I (1367-1383) did everything to unite the crown of Portugal with that of Castile, but the waged wars came to a bad end. Ferdinand’s heiress was married to a Castilian prince, John I of Castile; after the death of Ferdinand, John claimed the throne.

But members of the nobility and bourgeoisie refused Portugal’s entry into Castile, and established a bastard son of Peter I, John I, as king in 1385.

King John promised on 14 August 1385 to build a priory if the Portugese army, with support of the English army, should defeat the Spanish troops.

This happened in the battle of Aljubarrota on 15 August 1385, which brought Portugal its independence fron Spain. Fulfilling his promise king John I built the priory Santa Maria da Vitória in the Portugese town of Batalha, in the district of Leiria, Portugal.


The history of the priory.


The priory of Santa Maria da Vitória took two centuries be built, starting in 1386 and ending circa 1617, spanning the reign of seven kings. It took the efforts of fifteen architects (Mestre das Obras da Batalha), but for seven of them the title was no more than a honorary title bestowed on them.

The construction requierd an enormous effort, using extraordinary resources of men and material. New techniques and artistic styles hitherto unkown in Portugal, were deployed. The main entrance is the magnificent portal at the west side, with numerous elaborate sculptures, like those of the twelve apostles.  

A special attraction is the Founder’s Chapel with the mediaeval tomb of king John I and his wife, queen Philippa of Lancaster. The majestic interior of the church is of great grandeur and beauty, reminding of a cathedral.


Behind the transept at the back of the church, one reaches the Royal Cloisters, built in the reign of John I. The arches overlooking the garden were built later. A marvellous exemple of Gothic architecture is the Chapter’s House that is crowend by an enormous single vault that has no other support than the walls.


The earthquake of 1755 did some damage, but much greater damage was inflicted by the Napoleonic troops of marshall Masséna, who sacked and burned the complex in 1810 and 1811.

When the Dominicans were ousted from the complex in 1834, the church and priory were abandoned and left to fall in ruins. In 1840 king Ferdinand II of Portugal started a restoration program of the priory, saving this jewel of Gothic architecture.


The restoration would last till the early years of the 20th century. It was declared a national monument in 1907. In 1980 the priory was turned into a museum. The priory of Batalha was added in 1983 by the UNESCO to its list of World Heritage Sites.




Guyana 1997, Mi 5937, Sc 3175: the priory; 5979,  Sc 3184: the garden.           On order.




The priory of Santa Maria da Vitória
in Batalha with king
John I.

Portugal 1926, Mi 386, 388, 390, 396; Sc  378, 380, 382, 388.



Also Portugal-Azoren 1926, Mi 266, (68, 270); Sc 259,( 261).    

With overprint Açôrez (red).



The Stained Glass Windows.


Batalha probably had the first workshop for Stained Glass Windows in Portugal. The art was introduced in Portugal by German artists from the regions of Franconia and Nuremberg. The oldest windows dated from the 1430s.

In the Chapter’s House of the priory we find a Stained Glass Renaissance Window in the east wall dating from 1508. It depicts scenes of the Passion and is attributed to the Portugese artists João and Francisco Henriques. The Manueline ogival Stained Glass Window in the choir date from the 1520s and 1530s, and were produced by Portugese masters, among them also João and Francisco Henriques. They represent scenes from the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary: the Visitation, the Epiphany, the Fligt to Egypt and the Resurrection of Christ.

Source: Wikipaedia.


Portugal 1983, Mi 1615, Sc 1583. Adoration of the Magi.

                        Mi 1616, Sc 1584. The fligt to Egypt.


Bartholomew of the Martyrs



The Dominican Bartlomeu dos Mártyres (1514-1590) was scholar in the priory of Batalha from 1540-1551. He was appointed archbishop of Braganza (1559) and primate of Spain. Pope John Paul II beatified him in Rome on 4 November 2001.


Bartolomeu dos Mártyres (3 Mai 1514-16 July 1590).

Portugal 1990, Mi 1830, Sc 1814.  


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