National Geographic : 1938 Feb
CASTLES AND PROGRESS IN PORTUGAL Although one sees a few of these in Lisbon, they are typical of this district. Elsewhere in the country baskets are usually bal anced atop a doughnut pad which is popu larly dubbed a "mother-in-law"! THREE MEMORABLE SHRINES Not far south and east of Leiria is a triumvirate of towns-Batalha, Alcobaca, and Tomar-noted for their magnificent ecclesiastical monuments. Batalha is the Battle Abbey of Portugal. A gem of Gothic architecture, which ranks among the finest in the world, the church of Santa Maria de Vitoria (page 159) stands as eloquent testimony of the victorious de fense of Joao I, Master of Avis, in crushing the attempted domination of the Spanish on the near-by fields of Aljubarrota (1385). Outwardly, the gold-toned stone abbey appears unduly flattened because of its location in a depression and lack of lofty spire. But inside, the Gothic arches seem to soar even higher than their 106 feet, for the church is unusually long for its width. In a side chapel rest Dom Joao and his English queen, their carved effigies linked hand in hand. Yes, this is the royal couple of the "Por Bem" magpies (page 148); on the tomb that motto is repeated over and over. About them are their four younger sons. The eldest, Duarte, who succeeded his fa ther in the kingship, lies beside his queen in the apsidal chapel. Off from the lovely cloisters, beneath a simple flower-strewn slab, are buried Por tugal's Unknown Soldiers of the World War. The former Cistercian monastery at Al cobaca antedates Batalha by more than 200 years. It is also larger. Austere simplicity was the keynote of the medieval architects, as it was also the rule of the Order. But, as time passed, the life of the monks became much less simple. The mammoth stove in the kitchen did heavy duty; their tables groaned with food, even when the poverty-stricken countryside hungered. Al most literally they ate themselves out of house and home. In 1834 the monastery, which had long served as a leading Cis tercian headquarters in Europe, was sup pressed. PEDRO "THE JUST" AND "THE SEVERE" In a little chapel are the elaborate tombs of Pedro I and his Inez de Castro, placed foot to foot according to his wish. Pedro has been variously called "The Just" and "The Severe," for he, we remember, after he became king, elevated to the throne the martyred body of Inez and made those responsible for the crime pay homage be fore her. On the route eastward to Tomar, we passed through Fatima, which since May 13, 1917, has become the "Lourdes" of Portugal. Pilgrimages are made there on the 13th of each month. Churches and accommodations are springing up on the rolling fields. Tomar is a story of glamorous bygones. In the middle of the twelfth century it became the seat of the military-monastic Order of the Templars, and later of its suc cessor, the Order of Christ. With this latter Order is ever associated the name of Henry the Navigator, for he served long as its Grand Master. On the hill above the modern village stands his palace and the old Convento de Cristo. Mount the hill, and time whirls back through the centuries. One sees again bellying sails straining against rigging, an chor ropes, sailors, and coral reefs. Nor are these just visions. On the windows, walls, and buttresses of the convent exu berant architects for Manoel I carved them all in stone. In a single window on the west front Manueline decoration has reached its wildest extravagance (page 168). Rows of the hollow, fluted Crosses of Christ and armillary spheres, tied together with knotted stone ropes, top the walls. Crosses of the Order emblazoned the sails of Portugal's pioneering fleets. The armil lary sphere appears even today on the Na tion's flag. From Tomar we swung down to the wind ing Tagus, where the island Castle of Almourol stands like some fanciful ship anchored in midstream. CASTLES-AND SARDINES Castles in Portugal! Like the sweeping windmills, olive orchards, and cork forests, they are so numerous that one can't even catalogue them all. In the north they begin; beyond the Tagus to the southern end of Algarve they continue. At many towns they stand like ancient beacons on the hills. A particularly large one, the old Moorish stronghold of Palmela, near the city of Setubal, can be seen on clear days from Lisbon.