Eleven kilometres south of Leiria stands the Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória, widely known as the Mosteiro da Batalha (Battle Abbey). Built to commemorate a great national victory – the defeat of Castilian forces at the decisive Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385 – the abbey in turn became a great national monument and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1983. Successive monarchs lavished funds upon its construction, and over two centuries Batalha became one of Portugal’s most celebrated buildings – a hybrid Gothic and Manueline masterpiece that’s both royal pantheon and an expression of national pride.
Most visitors see the abbey and leave – to be honest, there isn’t anything attractive about the village itself, though it’s peaceful once the tour buses have left. To complete the trip – and learn more about the history behind the founding of the abbey – it’s also worth driving out to São Jorge, 4km south of present-day Batalha and site of the actual battle in question, where there’s a useful interpretation centre.