Festival of the Holy TrinityFESTIVAL OF THE HOLY TRINITY
The Festival of the Holy Trinity of the Town of Batalha, belongs to an ancient tradition perhaps going as far back as to the reign of King Manuel I.
It takes place eight weeks after Easter Sunday.
An Emperor, Judge and Majordomo each generally present a gift which is then placed on a richly decorated stretcher or pallet. Normally they are decorated with ‘horseshoe’ cakes, typical of the region.
After a solemn mass, there is then a Holy procession, followed by a parade of the gifts which weaves through the town, ascending to the Oak tree of Outeiro, where little blessed food packages are then scattered, before continuing on to the locale for the fair.
Though this is no longer the case, in the olden days the festival used to start on Friday with a running of the bulls to the death.
The carcasses of the bulls would then be used for the ‘bodo’, which was simply bread, wine and meat to be distributed among the poorest of the town, hospital and jail. Then, in the public square, where rich and poor were assembling, the remainder of the ‘bodo’ was divided up.
There was also a collection, authorised by the King, whose gifts would go towards: a quarter to the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity, which had no other means of income or tithes, and the rest to the bishopric.
The origin of this festival is associated with a legend, which tells us that one year ants appeared in the friars’ granary, and when these saw their source of food had been ruined, they made a promise to hold a festival every year in honour of the Holy Trinity, paying a tribute to the ants.
The following year, when during the first celebration the procession was passing though the zone of the Oak of Outeiro, offerings of unleavened bread were left for the ants. The ants which had followed the procession up to that point remained there and never again invaded the friars’ granary.
One year however, the celebration did not take place or didn’t follow the usual route and without delay the punishment they received was so great that henceforth they never again failed to follow the festival tradition.
It is said that a Dominican friar from the town convent, who had participated in the procession, this time took a different route out of sheer laziness or lack of respect for tradition.
That same year, a plague of insects completely devoured all the wheat in the friars’ granary. This was immediately seen as punishment for the friar’s lapse and never again did anyone dare not to follow all the steps that the tradition demanded.
Even today little food packages are left around the Oak of Outeiro and according to the locals, if left there all year long, they keep cockroaches and other insects out of their homes.