Monday, June 13, 2016

Batalha, Fatima and Coimbra - Day 7

Sunday, June 12, 2016
Today we explored over 2,000 years of Portuguese history as we continued on our journey north.
First we went to Batalha to visit the grand  Monastery of Santa Maria, also known as the Church of Our Lady of Victory.
 Built by King John I after winning the defining battle in a war with Spain in 1385. Although outnumbered, his troops were able to accomplish this with the help of English long bowmen (like our Navy seals). Since the English were so helpful, John agreed to marry Philippa, the granddaughter of King John of England. The two of them ruled together for 5 decades and instituted many social reforms.
Built of limestone, the church was started in 1388 and finished in the 1500's.
However, some is not finished. The original design was gothic, but towards the end of construction, there was a Manueline influence.
The interior was surprisingly dark, sober and simple with large bare pillars.
We toured the Founder's Chapel with the double sarcophagus of John and Philippa holding hands.
Other tombs of royalty and family line the walls and an octagonal dome on the ceiling features an 8-pointed star.
We toured the Royal Cloister, built in the 1400's but enhanced in the 1500's by Manuel I.
One of the more unusual features is the Unfinished Chapel.

Only the walls, support pillars for the ceiling and the tomb of King Duarte and Queen Leonor have been completed. Manuel I added an elaborately carved doorway in the 1500's, but succeeding kings didn't care to spend the money for a roof.
The exterior of the unfinished chapel can be seen here.

Next, it was about a 45 minute drive to Fatima, where, on May 13, 1917, 3 children saw a vision of Mary under an oak tree in a field. She told them to come back every month on the 13th and at the end of 6 months, she would tell them 3 messages -- foremost among them was "Peace is coming." WW I ended a year later.
We arrived around 11:30 and a major mass was in progress.
Since so many people come on Sunday, they have the mass outside in a huge esplanade because everyone would not fit inside.  
Also, candles are not lit inside the church. Instead they sell candles of all sizes (.50 to several euro)
that people throw into a furnace. The melted wax flows into a vat to be made into new candles.
While everyone was outside, I took the opportunity to go into the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima.
The neoclassical basilica was built from 1928-1953 and has a 200-ft spire. Inside I was surprised how simple and modern it is. The letters arcing over the altar read "Queen of the Holy Rosary of Fatima, Pray for Us."
The stain glass windows have these beautiful watercolor depictions of Mary.
I also went in the Church of the Holy Trinity, built in 2007 by Pope John Paul II. It can hold 9,000 devotees, 10 times the number in the basilica. The design is modern and multicultural.
We left Fatima around 1:30 and drove about 1-1/2 hours to Coimbra. Actually, we were outside of Coimbra at Roman ruins. This area has been inhabited since before Christ, but the Romans had a major city here (Conimbriga) beginning in the first century until the fall of the empire.  
What remains is in 2 parts, because the inhabitants tore down buildings to erect a defensive wall against a barbarian attack after 465 AD.
We were quite impressed by what we saw. Only about 10% of the ruins have been uncovered, but we could indentify what was left of homes, shops, and baths from the second and third centuries. 
I was most impressed by the numerous mosaic floors that were still intact. And many of the designs are so intricate.
We saw the footprints of some entire dwellings, with their multiple rooms and courtyards.
We also visited a museum which had some excellent artifacts, including these sewing utensils and loom weights.
From here it was a short drive to the city of Coimbra for our 2-night stay. We checked into Coimbra Riversuites and several of us walked around the town.
Then we had dinner as a group at Solar do Bacalhau, with lots of good Portuguese wine.

No comments:

Post a Comment