Our Lady of the Way/Nossa Senhora do Caminho
The legend of Our Lady of the Way is linked to the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Caminho which today can still be found in the Town of Batalha and which abutted the conventual wall of the Dominican friars.
According to the legend, one fine day a Dominican friar was on his way to work in the fields, when he came across an image of Our Lady at a bend in the road. He decided to pick it up and take it to the Prior.
They then came to the conclusion that they should place the image in the church, in a niche prepared especially for it.
The following day, the friar was taking his usual route when he once again saw what seemed to be the same image from the day before, in exactly the same place as he had seen it the first time.
He returned to the convent, taking it with him once again to show to the Prior, who decided to put it behind lock and key.
On the third day, the friar was heading off for one more day of hard toil when, to his amazement, there again was the image back right where it had been found all those times before.
On this occasion the friar decided to head back to the convent, and the Prior, when he was told what had happened, chose to build a small chapel with a niche to house the image exactly where it had first appeared.
The Vaulted Ceiling
The Vaulted Ceiling is one of the Legends and Stories of Alexandre Herculano. It takes place in the year of 1401, and details the construction of the Monastery of Batalha, or more specifically the construction of the vaulted ceiling of the Convent’s chapter house, by architect Afonso Domingues, who designed it and, despite going blind, managed to complete it after its construction had been entrusted to the architect Huguet, who was not able to realise it as it had been envisioned.
The legend is divided into five chapters: The Blind Man; Master Huguet; The Deed; A Cavalier King; The Vow to the Death.
According to this tale, Afonso Domingues wished to die in the famous chamber, in accordance with a vow to the death, but not without first uttering the well-known phrase: “The Vaulted Ceiling did not fall, and shall never fall!”
Alexandre Herculano, who besides being a famous writer was also a notable historian, already knew a much older account of the events that inspired him. In his History of Saint Dominic, of 1623, Friar Luís de Sousa told of a story the friars of Batalha used to recount: the vaulted ceiling of the chapter house had been raised three times; the first two, it fell incurring a great loss of life each time the frames were removed; on the third, the King summoned some of the longest-serving criminals from the kingdom’s prisons, with the understanding they would be released if the ceiling did not collapse on top of them.
Herculano added a detail to this story, making the architect Portuguese and not foreign, at a moment of nationalistic cultural fervour.
In truth, we now know the vaulted ceiling of the Chapter House was not built by Afonso Domingues, but actually by Huguet, perhaps being eventually rebuilt by Martim Vasques as it is believed the legend has a basis in truth.