Travel: Mosteiro Batalha

As we continued our day, we went to visit the famed Battle Monastary (Mosteiro Batalha), so named due to a vow given to the Virgin Mary, that should the outcome of a dire-looking battle be victorious, the king would erect a monastery devoted to her. Today, we know this battle as the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota and the ruler as King John I of Portugal who won a Portuguese victory over the Castilians.

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The monastery itself, took over a century to build and was continuously in construct during the reign of seven kings. Officially, fifteen architects participated in its design. The employed artistic style and complexity of the structural stability were ahead of its time.    The majority of the structure is done in the Gothic Style, but gave way to the Manueline style in its final years of construction.

I have used these expressions quite a few times in recent days, and even I don’t clearly understand the subtle differences between both. The following will be my attempt to illustrate the main features of each.

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The gothic style is an evolution of the older Romanesque style and emphasizes the use of verticality and light. So classic buildings vie away from solid walls and embrace stone skeletons that involve clustered columns, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses.

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A defining characteristic is a ogival arch. Structurally a pointed arch helped vault spaces that had irregular plans, or brought transverse vaults to the same height as diagonal vaults. Additionally, gothic vaults tend to employ irregularly shaped polygons. This is advantageous because rather than being circular, orthogonal shapes provide clear load paths for the weight to distribute amongst the bearing pears and columns.

Gothic churches also tend to be extremely tall; this verticality suggests an aspiration to heaven. This is emphasizes through the use of towers and spires projecting to the sky as seen on the exterior.

The Unfinished Chapel

The Unfinished Chapel

The Manueline style is also known as a Portugese late-gothic style is evident in many late medieval buildings. Classic elements include intricate stonework with incorporates ship elements such as spheres, anchors, and chains. It also embraces use of items from the sea such as sea shells, pearls, and strands of seaweed.


2013-04-08 11.22.292013-04-08 11.26.03Additionally, symbols of Christianity such as the cross of the Order of Christ are prominently features. botanical motifs also play a role. The discoveries of newly discovered lands can subtly seen as well.

Travel: Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima

As a result of Saturday night, I woke up late and was unable to maintain our former schedule of events for the day. I spent the afternoon celebrating my friend’s grandfather’s birthday, and enjoyed a wide medley of traditional Portuguese food. This included cod, cauliflower and greens with piglet, rice with duck, and cake (of course). There was also lasagna, although clearly this is not of Portuguese origins :P.

It was delicious, and it was enjoyable to partake in a family celebration while listening to the conversations around me. I was able to pick up bits and pieces due to my background in Spanish. Some of her cousins did speak English and were kind enough to provide tidbits of information so that I could stay involved.

After, one of her cousins was headed to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fatima, and was nice enough to let me tag along. Fatima is known for being the site where the Virgin Mary appeared to three Shepherd children in 1917. It is said that Mary predicted 3 events would come to pass, and only 2 have occurred to date.

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Franciso Marto

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Jacinto Marto and Sister Lucia

She patiently explained the history behind each aspect of the square, and accompanied me as I took in the sites of such a holy place. We entered the main cathedral, and paid our respects to the tombs of the three children.



After we exited, we went to light candles in prayer. Some individuals’ purchase was body parts or full wax figures; these are lit and melted by the church. Many see this as sacrificing part of yourself when you are praying for help from God.

On the ground along the square, is a long raised path that is paved in marble. Patrons of the sanctuary will sometimes walk, crawl, kneel, or lie down as they advance this tremendous distance to the chapel, which lies directly beside the tree where the apparition appeared. It is a painful process, and is seen as the deepest way in which to show reparation, devotion, and respect.


 It is difficult to describe the emotions that I felt. Let me preface this by saying, while I believe in a higher power, circumstances of life have made it difficult for me to be a true believer of any singular religion. I was raised as a Catholic, and spent years as a child attending church in addition to attending a private catholic school. However, my dad is currently a practitioner of Buddhism and I have also attained some of those values as well.

In witnessing the devout attendees of the sanctuary, an overwhelming sense of sadness hit me. I was jealous. In their faces, it was clear that they believed without doubt in the power of God, Jesus, and the mercy of Mary. They were willing to experience pain, and sacrifice symbolic wax figures, in hopes of answers for their prayers. I truly wish that I could also feel this, believe this, and accept this higher power without question. Even when my travel companions went to confession, I refused, having not been in confession for more than a decade. I wanted to attend, but I didn’t know how I could start when it’s been so long since I have had faith.

Is there a religion that you believe in? What keeps your faith strong and persevering?