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I drove out of Leiria in the morning just as the business of the market was in full swing; and for the first half-hour of the upward way amidst a country of vines and olives, we met crowds of country people riding into the town on heavily laden asses. Then, mounting high above the plain, we passed into the region of pines and heather, where the warm but invigorating air came charged with the scent of thyme, lavender, and rosemary. At a point of the road, about eight miles from Leiria, a deep hollow opens to the left, and at the bottom of it, and reached by a downhill road running almost parallel with the way we came, lies the world-famed abbey of Batalha, the wonder and envy of ecclesiastical architects for six centuries, and even now, dismantled and bedevilled as it is, one of the most beautiful Gothic structures in existence.

Before its west front I stand lost in admiration. 170The whole edifice is built of a marble-like limestone, which time has turned to a beautiful soft yellowish cream colour, similar to that of an old Japanese ivory carving. Like most Portuguese cathedrals the body of the church is somewhat narrow; but in this case a large chapel on the north side extends the apparent width of the exterior west front. How can one hope to convey in written words an adequate impression of this exquisite fa?ade? To the severe perpendicular parallel lines over the door and window, reminiscent of the west front of Lincoln, is added a lace-like elaboration of parapets, pinnacles, and glorious flying buttresses, which almost bewilders by its aerial gaiety and transparent richness. A beautiful Gothic breastrail stands before a double flight of steps leading down to the west door, for the abbey is lower even than the road before it; “the portal,” wrote William Beckford, a hundred and twenty years ago, “full fifty feet in height, surmounted by a window of perforated marble of nearly the same lofty dimensions, deep as a cavern, and enriched with canopies and imagery in a style that would have done honour to William of Wykeham, some of whose disciples or 171co-disciples in the train of the founder’s consort, Philippa of Lancaster, had probably designed it.”

To me this door presented itself rather more in detail. I saw a portal the whole width of the nave-space, the deep, bevilled sides being occupied by the Twelve Apostles standing under rich Gothic canopies, and from the capitals above them a slightly pointed arch sprang ending in a floreated cross finial, the arch itself being composed of six orders, each occupied by a row of Kings of the House of David under exquisite Gothic canopies. The great window above is full of tracery so intricate and plastic in appearance as almost to banish the impression of a work in stone. The octagonal lantern of the side chapel is supported by flying buttresses of indescribable grace and lightness, and is fronted by a screen pierced with three Gothic windows almost level with the main west front; and upon every point of the building and along each side of the roof of the nave crocketed pinnacles rise, supported by fairy flying buttresses—the effect of the whole exterior from the west front being an exquisite blending of seriousness and exuberant rejoicing.

And these were precisely the feelings that 172prompted the establishment here of the Dominican abbey at the instance of its English foundress, Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, married in 1386 John, the Master of Avis, the high-minded and patriotic bastard of the royal house, who had successfully resisted Spanish aggression the year before, and, with the assistance of the English archers at Aljubarrota, had gained for himself the crown of Portugal. Here in the neighbourhood of the battle, at the instance of Philippa, was built this abbey of Dominican monks in devotional thankfulness for the signal victory, and for the rescue of the King from threatened death. All through the older portion of the building the English Plantagenet influence is predominant, and marks the abbey as being entirely different from all other ecclesiastical buildings in Portugal.

The monastery was always a poorly endowed one, in glaring contrast to the neighbouring Cistercian house of Alcoba?a, one of the richest monastic houses in the world. Beckford, in his humorous description of his visit to both houses in 1782, draws a lively comparison between the two. Accompanied by two great Portuguese 173prelates, of whom he makes merciless fun, he had gone to see Alcoba?a at the wish of the Prince Regent. His great train of servants and attendants had been received with lavish splendour and Gargantuan gluttony at Alcoba?a, and on the way with the prelate of the latter house to visit Batalha, the whole party had got drunk at Aljubarrota, whose wine is famous. They arrived at Batalha at night.

“Whilst our sumpter mules were unloading, and ham and pies and sausages were rolling out of plethoric hampers, I thought these poor monks looked on rather enviously. My more fortunate companions—no wretched cadets of the mortification family these, but the true elder sons of fat mother church—could hardly conceal their sneers of conscious superiority. A contrast so strongly marked amused me not a little.... The Batalha prior and his assistants looked quite astounded when they saw the gauze-curtained bed and the Grand Prior’s fringed pillow, and the Prior of St. Vincent’s superb coverlid, and basins and ewers and other utensils of glittering silver being carried in. Poor souls! they hardly knew what to do or say or be at—one running to the right, another to the left—one tucking up his flowing garments to run faster, and another rebuking him for such a deviation from monastic decorum.”

I have in my library a manuscript account by Lord Strathmore of the visit he paid to the two monasteries twenty years before Beckford, and his account of the poverty of Batalha in 174comparison with Alcoba?a is more emphatic still. He says:—

“Though far from rich, they received us with great hospitality. The prior, an exceedingly good, kind, old man, exerted his utmost efforts to do us honour, and had a cook sent to him from the Bishop of Leria upon ye occasion. We here with many thanks dismist our militia, who had been mounting guard hitherto at ye door of our apartment. This convent is of ye most elaborate and exquisite Gothic architecture I ever saw, one part being left imperfect, being so beautiful that nobody dar’d to finish it. When we took leave of our old prior next morning ye only request he made us was that we would relate to ye minister how much their fabric had suffered by the earthquake [i.e. of 1755], and how much they needed ye King’s assistance to repair it: whereas I could not help observing that every one of our friends who had been particularly assiduous about us at Alcoba?a desired us to remember their names particularly at Lisbon.”

Alas! priors and monks, rich and poor, have all gone now, and the place is a “national monument,” with hardly a pretence of being a place of worship.

The interior of the church is almost severe in its plainness, the lofty narrow nave being divided by clustered pillars arranged in a somewhat peculiar manner; the three pillars facing the nave supporting the groins of the main roof, whilst from the remaining three spring the groining of the aisle. Before 175the high altar, and close to the steps, are two magnificent tombs side by side, the recumbent figures upon them hand in hand; the male in full armour, the woman clasping a book. “Hic Jacet Eduardus I., Port. et Alg., Rex et Regina, Elenora Uxor Ejus,” runs the inscription around the fillet; and this is the tomb of the unhappy Duarte, son of John the Great and Philippa of Lancaster, who died of a broken heart, whilst still young, at the disaster to his arms and house in the defeat of his crusading attack upon Tangier.

As Beckford saw the church during service it must have throbbed with the life and colour that it now lacks.

“There is greater plainness [i.e. than Winchester], less panelling, and fewer intersections in the vaulted roof: but the utmost richness of hue, at this time of day at least, was not wanting. No tapestry however rich, no painting however vivid, could equal the gorgeousness of the tint, the splendour of the golden and ruby light which streamed forth from the long series of stained glass windows: it played, flickering about in all directions on pavement and on roof, casting over every object myriads of glowing mellow shadows, ever in undulating motion, like the reflection of branches swayed to and fro in the breeze. We all partook of these gorgeous tints, the white monastic garments of my conductors seemed as it were embroidered with the brightest flowers of paradise, and our whole procession kept advancing invested with celestial colours.”

176Iconoclasm and war have wrought their fell work upon Batalha since then; but still the lovely fane stands materially uninjured. The transept-chapels and sacristy are fine, especially the latter, though the seventeenth-century carved woodwork matches ill with the exquisite pure Gothic groining of the roof, and the great yellow sarcophagus of Diego Lopez de Souza, master of the Order of Christ, in the adjoining chapel of St. Barbara, is a remarkable piece of sixteenth-century work.

One of the great glories of Batalha is the side chapel already mentioned, the octagonal “chapel of the Founder.” The arrangement of it and its general effect are strikingly like those of Queen Victoria’s mausoleum at Frogmore. In the centre, standing high and imposing in all the pomp of Gothic tracery, are the twin tombs of John the Great and his English wife, their sculptured effigies hand in hand as the noble pair went through life; and around the chapel are ranged the sarcophagi of their sons Pedro, Jo?o, Fernando (who chivalrously passed all the best years of his life a hostage to the Moor), and, the greatest of them all, the Prince Dom Henrique the Navigator, who made Portugal 177a world power. Upon each stone coffin are carved the insignia of the Garter and the arms of England quartered with those of Portugal, and along the fillets run the quaint mottoes that each royal personage adopted for his device. Some of them are enigmatical; such as that which consists of the repetition of the word “Désir” alternating with the scale of justice, and the other that offers the riddle of “VII.,” a cogwheel, and “Jamais” repeated again and again. “Pro rege pro grege,” on the other hand, if hackneyed, is still quite intelligible.

“All these princes,” says Beckford, “in whom the high bearing of their intrepid father and the exemplary virtues and strong sense of their mother were united, repose after their toil and suffering in this secluded chapel, which, indeed, looks a place of rest and holy quietude; the light equally diffused, forms, as it were, a tranquil atmosphere, such as might be imagined worthy to surround the predestined to happiness in a future world. I withdrew from the contemplation of these tombs with reluctance, every object in the chapel that contains them being so pure in taste, so harmonious in colour, every armorial device, every mottoed label, so tersely and correctly sculptured.... The Plantagenet cast of the whole chamber conveyed to me a feeling so interesting, so congenial, that I could hardly persuade myself to move away.”

Every word written by Beckford a hundred and twenty years ago of this chapel is true to-day, 178and I could have lingered for hours before the coffins of these heroic princes and their parents in a day-dream of recollection prompted by their noble lives and deeds.

Just outside the door of the chapel, in the pavement of the nave, is a stone bearing the almost effaced inscription that below it lies the body of “Martin Gonsalves de Ma?ada, who saved the life of the King Dom John in the battle of Aljubarrota”; and one speculates that had it not been for the fortunate deed of this obscure gentleman, this great abbey would never have been built, and the kings and princes that lie in it would never have existed, with the exception of the Master of Avis himself, who would have passed down to history not as the founder of a dynasty but as an unsuccessful rebel.

A door in the south aisle leads into the renowned cloister, and here, the work being of a later date than the church, controversy has spent itself as to whether the luxuriant exuberance of the sculpture is, or is not, in perfect taste. Personally I find the cloister exquisite beyond description, and I care not whether the purists condemn it or not. The sensation produced, 179it is true, is—like all Manueline sculpture—neither purely devotional nor highly exalted, but rather one of joyous delight in the actual handiwork, in the gracious curves, in the kaleidoscopic variety, in the dexterous adaptation of means to ends, and these sensations, though I am told that they are vulgar when produced by ecclesiastical sculpture, I experience in the fullest measure as I gaze at this marvel of human skill, the cloistered court of Batalha. Standing in the centre of the courtyard and looking up at the abbey, one sees three beautiful lace-like parapets rise one above the other along the whole length, on cloister, clerestory, and nave, clear-cut edges of perfect curves against the blue sky. Each of the cloister arches is filled with stone tracery of amazing richness and variety, the cross of the Order of Christ and the armillary sphere being deftly introduced in the fretwork with great effect. This cloister, like that of Belem, of which I shall speak later, seems to mark the purer and less extravagant development of the Manueline style, in which the Gothic traditions have not been entirely cast aside, and only the most callous soul could remain unmoved by its exquisite beauty. From the cloister there opens a chapter-house of the 180same style and period, a perfect gem, although the entrance arch leading to it shows signs, in the lace-like pendent ornament that lines it, of the over-elaboration which finally led to decadence. The chapter-house is thus described by Beckford with special reference to what struck me most—namely, the exquisite groining, springing like palm branches from clustered pillars in the wall, and all centring in the apex of the roof:—“It is,” he said, “a square of seventy feet, and the most strikingly beautiful apartment I ever beheld. The graceful arching of the roof, unsupported by console or column, is unequalled; it seems suspended by magic, indeed human means failed twice in constructing this bold unembarrassed space. Perseverance and the animating encouragement of the sovereign founder at length conquered every difficulty, and the work remains to this hour secure and perfect.”

Close by is the great refectory of the monks, now used as a sort of lumber-room museum of débris; and leading from it the vast, vaulted kitchen, its stone roof blackened still by the smoke of centuries of cooking fires. The humble little ancient cloister of the original monastery still remains, with its rows of cells in the upper ambulatory. Here there is no Manueline exuberance or wealth, only reverent pointed Gothic, grave groined roofs and arches unadorned, enclosing, as of old, the sweet, quiet little garden that more than a century ago aroused the admiration of Beckford.

The Cloisters, Batalha.

181From there the distance is but a few steps to the “unfinished chapels”; but the contrast of feeling between the two places is wide indeed. The chapels consist of a sort of Lady chapel or apse built out at the back of the high altar, like Henry VII.’s chapel at Westminster. A large central chapel with ten smaller chapels round it rise to perhaps half their intended height, and roofless, for when King Manuel died in 1521 the work was stopped and has never been resumed. The first view of this fragment, and particularly of the great arch by which it was intended to connect it with the church, strikes an observer with astonishment that human brains and hands could ever compass such intricacy of design and execution. Convolutions more tortuous than those of Arab art, floridness more overloaded than Churriguerra ever dreamt of, boldness for which the only just word is insolence, here run riot unrestrained, fatiguing 182the eye, tiring the mind, and ending by palling upon the senses from mere over-exuberance. The lower portion and pillars, and the exterior of the chapels, are restrained and sober, and this makes the more overwhelming the arches and the upper pillars designed to support the roof. One feels that the design is that of a genius, but of a genius whom another step would have led to madness, and who threw aside all the accepted canons of his art. But, withal, though Beckford avoids detailed notice of these chapels, it is impossible even for the purist in architecture to pass such work by without some admiration being mixed with his surprise. The great arch leading into the church is the culminating point of the work; its western side being a mass of intertwined foliage, knots, cables, flowers, and concentric lines, cut in high relief in seven distinct mouldings or orders, and the inner line of the arch is decorated with a deep pendent open-work border; whilst forming part of the intricate design of the whole arch, the enigmatical words “Tanias el Rey” are repeated hundreds of times on small labels. What the words mean nobody knows, though the most probable guess is that they may be an anagram for “Arte e Linyas” (“art and lines,” in old Portuguese).

“The Unfinished Chapels,” Batalha

183As I walked up the road leading from the hollow in which the abbey stands, I looked back again and again at the perfect loveliness of the building I was leaving behind. The flying buttresses, the lines upon lines of fretwork edging, the multitude of floreated pinnacles, and the glorious Gothic of the west front, all of the softened hue of old gold, presented in my eyes the perfection of a Gothic building. I have seen the stately grandeur of Amiens, the soaring pride of Cologne, the vast magnificence of Burgos, and the fairy prettiness of Milan, and I have worshipped at the shrines of Ely, Norwich, and Lincoln. Each one in its way is supreme and incomparable; but Batalha, reservedly nestling in its green hollow far from the busy haunts of men, has a charm of its own that I have found in no other Gothic church; and as I finally turned my back upon it, I carried with me a memory which in my life will never fade.

We are soon amongst the pines and heather again, driving along an elevated ridge with a valley and bold mountain ranges beyond upon either side, the effect of the distant hills seen 184through the perpendicular lines formed by the straight pine trunks that cluster on each side being very beautiful. A sort of light-blue veil seems to cover the far landscape, such an atmosphere as Corot loved to paint; not a mist arising from dampness, but the azure tint of the air itself seen by its clarity to a vast distance through the dark pine copses.

The first sign of systematic begging that I had experienced in Portugal was at Batalha; groups of children, encouraged apparently by the constant visitors to a show place, making a regular business of cadging: for we were getting now into the centre of Portugal where the people are less sturdy and the position of the peasant less prosperous than in the north. Along the road from Batalha to Alcoba?a, a new and really charming form of begging was resorted to by the children on the wayside—chubby, well-fed mites they looked most of them, evidently not in abject want. They kneel on the roadside in an attitude of prayer, their hands joined in supplication, their eyes closed reverently and their expression rapt, like little dirty angels. They have before them a few cut flowers, and the moment the carriage 185passes them they start like a flash of lightning from their devotions, and throw the flowers into the stranger’s lap, whilst they begin to trot by the side of the vehicle in a dogged, persistent way, not articulately asking for alms, but simply trying to win a penny by reproachful glances and disregard of all entreaties to them to stop their dog-trot and go away. Needless to say, such tactics are usually successful, for only a very hard heart could withhold the small coin they covet, when an angelic-looking child of seven has panted half a mile barefooted by the side of a carriage going at a brisk pace.

Half-way to Alcoba?a the ridge upon which the road runs narrows to a mere knife edge, and on the left hand a wide valley sweeps down suddenly, a bold long hill rising beyond. This is the battlefield of Aljubarrota, upon which John, the Master of Avis, won his crown, and for the second time asserted the independence of Portugal from Castile on the 14th August 1385. From Thomar he had brought all the power that patriotic Portugal could raise, and upon this ridge awaited the attack of the Castilians, who, if once they could pass it, would have all the seacoast of Portugal at their mercy down almost to 186the mouth of the Tagus. The position is not very dissimilar from that of Bussaco, but upon a smaller scale. The Portuguese right and left flanks were both defended by projecting spurs; upon one of which the English bowmen were posted, and by standing upon the centre of the position it is easy to see, even to-day, how skilfully John the Great had chosen his ground for the decisive struggle, and how difficult it was for the Castilians to succeed. They dared not proceed along the valley leaving this strong force of enemies upon the heights behind them, able to cut them off from their base, and harass them flank and rear; whilst to swarm up these precipitous slopes in the face of a semicircle of determined opponents, and enfiladed by archers on both flanks, seemed inviting defeat. All was against the Spaniards. A mysterious epidemic was prostrating them, the King of Castile was ill, and had to be carried to the battle in a litter, and, above all, the Portuguese were struggling for the independence of their country, whilst the Spaniards were fighting at the behest of a corrupt and unpopular king. So on that fateful morning in August, five hundred and twenty-three years ago, as the chivalry of Castile struggled up these 187broken slopes, the men upon the ridge from which I look down now over the smiling plain, stood like a steel wall, and with mace and battle-axe, and double-handed swords, clove and smote them, whilst the cloth-yard arrows pierced and bowled them over by hundreds ere they reached the summit. The hearts of the Spaniards failed them, and down the slope they fled, delivered now to carnage and to capture. Ten thousand of them, the best fighting men in Castile, fell, the king barely escaped by flight, whilst half his court were taken. Aljubarrota was won, the house of Avis fixed upon the throne for two hundred years, and the alliance between England and Portugal cemented so strongly as to have lasted unbroken to this day.

Through the poverty-stricken looking village of Aljubarrota, where some questionable relics of the battle are exhibited for a consideration (though no one offers me wine, as they did to Beckford’s princely cavalcade), a few miles more brings me to a point, whence looking down on the right side of the ridge the town of Alcoba?a is seen below, surrounded by miles of vineyards, touched now with bronze and crimson, for the vintage is nearly over, and a big hummock of a 188building over all, that I know is the famous Cistercian monastery, the sepulchre of so many princes of the ancient royal house of Portugal that I have travelled thus far to see.

The church and monastery stand fronting a very extensive triangular pra?a, crossed by long avenues of acacias, and the first sight of the edifice is distinctly disappointing. An ordinary fa?ade in the seventeenth-century, Spanish “Jesuit” style of the time of Philip IV., with white walls and yellow stone outlines, and flanked on both sides by monastery buildings of great extent in the same taste, or want of it, did not quite fulfil the hopes which Beckford’s description of the splendours of Alcoba?a had aroused. It is true that the west door of the church somewhat redeemed it, for it was evidently the remains of the original front in pure unadorned Gothic. The whole edifice is raised above the surface of the pra?a upon a platform some ten feet high, and upon this parade the monks in old time were mustered to receive distinguished visitors. Beckford thus describes the reception of his own party—


“The first sight of this regal monastery is very imposing, and the picturesque well-wooded and well-watered village out 189of the quiet bosom of which it seems to rise relieves the mind from the sense of oppression the huge domineering bulk of the conventual buildings inspire. We had no sooner hove in sight, and we loomed large, than a most tremendous ring of bells of extraordinary power announced our speedy arrival. A broad hint from the Secretary of State recommending these magnificent monks to receive the Grand Prior and his companions with peculiar graciousness, the whole community, including fathers, friars and subordinates, at least four hundred strong, were drawn up in grand spiritual array on the vast platform before the monastery to bid us welcome. At their head the Abbot himself, in his costume of High Almoner of Portugal, advanced to give us a cordial embrace.”

All is quiet enough now, for the monks are gone these seventy years, and the huge dilapidated edifice behind, forming a vast square, is partly occupied as a barrack, and the rest falling into ramshackle ruin. Nor is anything stirring in the prim little town, which has grown up around the wealthy foundation, and now lives placidly upon the produce of its vineyards.

The interior of the church presents a marked contrast to the fa?ade. The impression produced is one of ponderous solidity and permanence, and the stern devotional character of all the ecclesiastical buildings founded by the great Affonso Henriques, first king of Portugal, in the twelfth century is again conspicuous, though even here a cornice of gilt curly wood 190lines the fine chancel arch. The nave though somewhat narrow is impressive and handsome, separated from the aisles by square pillars of immense size, broader than the spaces between them. From brackets or ledges at various heights from the ground upon the front and sides of these pillars spring the simple arches and groining of the roof, each pillar carrying its arch right over the nave, so that each set of simple groins is separated from the rest by the arch moulding. The aisles, very narrow, seem overwhelmed by the immense square pillars, and it is easy to understand in the face of this stern interior that the notoriously luxurious and self-indulgent monks of Alcoba?a did their best to soften the austerity of their surroundings. That they did so to some purpose is seen both by Beckford’s account of his visit and by my Strathmore manuscript of 1760. The account given by Lord Strathmore is worth transcribing:—

“The minister having ... ordered them to do us ye utmost honour they were capable of, we found a large place before the convent so crowded with people that it was necessary for a guard of militia which they had summoned to make a lane for us up ye steps. At ye door we were reciev’d in form by ye guardian and first people of ye fraternity with ye utmost ceremony, and conducted by ye light of torches thro’ cloisters of 191Gothic arcades with ye whole college in procession to our apartments.... Our rooms were extremely spacious, and were hung with crimson damask and gold, ye floor cover’d with Persian carpets, and our beds in alcoves deck’d with embroidered coverlids. We had a basin and ewer brought to wash before supper, and on another salver a napkin of fine linen, curiously pinck’t and strew’d with rose-leaves and orange-flowers. We then pas’t into the next room, where we found a large table groaning under a service of monstrous dishes.”

The writer comments unfavourably upon all the eatables placed before him, reeking, as they did, he says, of garlic, bad oil, and other horrors, and he comments upon the tasteless lavishness of the fare. He then continues:—

“At last, after having drank reciprocally all ye healths that we thought would be required on either side, we retir’d to repose. The next morning we were no sooner dres’t than we found ye whole college assembled in ye next room at our levee. We breakfasted in state, at ye end of a long table with ye rest seated round ye room, and admiring ye peculiar grace with which we put every morsel into our mouths. After breakfast we were attended thro’ ye convent, and had everything explain’d to us, which I must own gave me great pleasure. They are of ye Cistercian order, and ye richest in Portugal, possessing a vast tract of land which is said to bring them in £50,000 per annum. Their magnificence is in every way proportionable. Their church is Gothic, but extremely noble, ye plate, jewels and ornaments, copes, etc. are as rich as possible.... They have no taste or design in their expenditure, and seem to study richness rather than elegance in all they do. As they reign, so they entertain, like princes over the district. In the evening we saw their great altar lighted up at vespers, which at the 192end of a long Gothic aisle had a most striking effect with ye organ and voices altogether impressing upon the mind most solemn awe.”

Remains of the tasteless splendour referred to are still to be seen on all sides. The gilt-trimmed chancel arch, the high altar, with its blue starred globe and wooden gilt rays in the centre, and popes carved and gilt in niches each side, amidst gold whirligigs galore, are as incongruous as can be with the stern, simple nave: and the altars of the north transept and retro choir all present the same features, some of them, moreover, being in a lamentable state of dilapidation, inciting to derision rather than devotion. In the north transept, hard by the thirteenth-century sepulchral stones of Affonso II. and Affonso III., is a dark but beautiful Gothic hall, the holy of holies of the monastery, “the chapel of the tombs,” the resting-place of several of the earlier princes of the royal house.


The most striking objects in it are two magnificent sarcophagi in florid decorated Gothic. The recumbent figures of king and queen upon them, as fair and perfect as the day they were sculptured, rest, not hand in hand as upon most similar tombs, but foot to foot. For these are 193the sepulchres of Pedro the Just and his murdered mistress, Ines de Castro, done to death by servile nobles beside the “fountain of love” in the “garden of tears” at Coimbra, and the faithful king ordered the body of himself and his beloved to be laid thus, so that when the universal trump should call him to arise, the first object upon which his reopened eyes should rest would be her, who, though unwed, was yet his wife through all eternity.

Kings, queens, and princes, whose names now mean little even in the country where they held sway and nothing elsewhere, lie around in tombs of varying magnificence, together with débris and relics of times earlier than any of them. The usual dense ignorance is displayed by the guardian of the objects he is supposed to describe; for he points out two very small ancient sarcophagi, one of them obviously Byzantine Romanesque, and the other probably pre-Christian, and tells you gravely that they once contained the bodies of Ines de Castro’s children. Both of them are centuries earlier than her time, and her only children grew up and survived her. But this is not more absurd than the representation, in the current English “History of Portugal,” of a lady in the 194height of the Portuguese fashion of the end of the seventeenth century as Ines de Castro, who lived in the fourteenth.

The cloister of the monastery presents the characteristics of two styles. The lower part is pure early Gothic, like the church and chapter-house, with simple rose lights in each arch; but the upper storey has evidently been added or rebuilt in the early sixteenth century in good Manueline taste; and in one corner there is a very beautiful fountain in the same style bearing the monogram of the “Fortunate” monarch Manuel himself. The vast refectory, of which Beckford spoke so sneeringly, as dirty and slovenly, is entered by a handsome Manueline doorway, and is now being restored. The entrance to the sacristy is also a fine specimen of Manueline, but inside the bad taste of the late seventeenth-century monks is rampant. All around the great square apartment are carved and gilt niches, in which are dozens of life-sized busts also carved and gilt, of saints and bishop, each of which has a hollow for a relic upon the breast, all now despoiled of their contents; and the precious treasury of jewels, ornaments, and embroidery that aroused the envious admiration 195of the virtuoso Beckford, has all disappeared, many of the most beautiful and precious objects being now in the Museum of Fine Arts at Lisbon, a storehouse of medi?val goldsmith’s work unsurpassed in Europe, though almost completely neglected both by residents and visitors to the capital.

One more show chamber there is in the “national monument” portion of Alcoba?a: a hall lined with eighteenth-century pictorial blue tiles, representing in large tableaux memorable deeds of the kings of Portugal, with statues of the kings themselves upon brackets above; the great tableau at the end, representing the coronation of Affonso Henriques, being an exceptionally good specimen of a poor artistic medium. As I walk through the grave, silent church again, and so out into the bright pra?a, with its avenues of shady acacias casting long shadows, the fa?ade of the church strikes me as more inharmonious than before, now that the wonderful glow of the slanting sunrays touch the salient points with fire. The front with its seventeenth-century figures, its Manueline central round window, and its elaboration of outlines, so characteristic of the Spanish “Jesuit” style, are utterly incongruous with the pure early Gothic of the doorway, and it is with a 196sigh of regret that one turns from the contemplation of such a result of wealth divorced from artistry.

The vast monastic building behind the church is squalid and ugly, for the occupation of soldiery does not tend to the ?sthetic maintenance of a building. The famous kitchen of the monastery is used now for military purposes, but may be seen by easily obtained permission. As I looked upon it, a bare, great, vaulted hall, with the channel for water still running through it, and the marks of the long line of ovens extending across the wall, I cast my thoughts back at the busy scene that the place presented in the palmy days of the monks, when the flesh-pots of Alcoba?a were proverbial through the land. This is how the place struck Beckford on his memorable visit.

“The three prelates lead the way to, I verily believe, the most distinguished temple of gluttony in all Europe. What Glastonbury may have been in its palmy state I cannot answer, but my eyes never beheld in any modern convent of France, Italy, or Germany, such an enormous space dedicated to culinary purposes. Through the centre of the immense and nobly groined hall, not less than sixty feet in diameter, ran a brisk rivulet of the clearest water, flowing through pierced wooden reservoirs, containing every sort and size of the finest river fish. On one side loads of game and venison were heaped up, on the other vegetables and fruit in endless variety. Beyond 197a long line of stoves extended a row of ovens, and close to them hillocks of wheaten flour whiter than snow, rocks of sugar, jars of the purest oil, and pastry in vast abundance, which a numerous tribe of lay brothers and their attendants were rolling and puffing up into a hundred different shapes, singing all the while as blithely as larks in a cornfield.”

Abbots and monks, lay brothers, and cooks have gone the way of all flesh; and of the plethoric plenty of old no vestige remains in the enormous dingy hall. So, there being no fatted calf killed for me in these degenerate days, I wend my way through the acacia avenues to the humble hostelry where a dinner is prepared for me, eatable, it is true, but a sad falling off from the culinary splendours of Alcoba?a in the good old times.

Then in the gloaming I drove four miles through woods of pine and eucalyptus, balsamic now in the soft evening air, to Vallado station on the railway to Lisbon. Out of the darkness at about seven there sprang a long spinning factory blazing with electric light, and humming with the whirr of wheels. The “hands” were just flocking out from their daily toil, and filled the black, unlit road with a gay babbling crowd. There was no town near, and the mill was deeply embosomed in the pine woods: this seemed to 198me an ideal form of factory life, in which the house of toil, instead of debouching its crowd of pallid workers into fetid town-slums to fester unwholesomely until the morrow, needed but a step from its threshold to plunge them into the sweet air of the pines and heather; and where the “hands,” though they worked in crowds underneath a roof, never ceased to be country folk. It was but a passing flash and hubbub to me in the darkness of my lonely drive, and the toilers to me, and I to them, but fleeting shadows. But seen thus, there seemed to me something of suggestive possibilities in this hive of what is usually an urban industry, set in the midst of lofty pines, sweet mountain herbs, and far-flung folds of purple heather. A railway journey of three-quarters of an hour brought me to the famous medicinal thermal watering-place of Caldas da Rainha, where in the excellent Hotel Lisbonense, which the proprietor, one of those frugal, honest, Gallegos who are the industrial salt of the Peninsula, told me was the largest in Portugal, as it is certainly one of the best, I ended a long day of overcrowded impressions by a night of delightful dreamless sleep.

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