Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Caminho
CHAPEL OF NOSSA SENHORA DO CAMINHO/OUR LADY OF THE WAY
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Way used to be set into the wall of the monastery enclosure, facing the road that left Batalha in the direction of Golpilheira, not far from Ponte Nova. Today it is difficult to imagine how this might have looked, as the Chapel’s architectural surroundings have been lost. Backing onto the building, some remains of the castle wall are still visible. At the rear of the Chapel, a niche can also be seen, which used to face inwards towards the interior of the property.
The origins of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Way are not entirely clear. According to legend, a certain Dominican friar found the image of Our Lady somewhere on the way near the wall, and took it to the Monastery, where twice it would disappear to only reappear again in the same place. The convent as a result decided to build a chapel there.
The Chapel’s architecture shows that this is a 17th century structure, or at least remodelled at that time. Inside, one finds a recent effigy of the Virgin, and also a plinth with the inscription ‘N.S~DACONCOLACÃO’/‘Our Lady of Consolation’, in sixteenth century script. This therefore raises the possibility that this Chapel may have once had a different dedication, that of Our Lady of Consolation. This theory is reinforced by the fact that we only began referring to the route that passes the Chapel doorway as Rua da Nossa Senhora do Caminho (Street of Our Lady of the Way) instead of Rua de Baixa in documents from the 18th century onwards. Various ancient sources related to Portuguese shrines and, in particular, the Parish of Leiria, also make no reference to a Chapel with this dedication.
O ‘Couseiro’(a notebook used during the Inquisition) or Memories of the Bishop of Leiria, written anonymously during the second half of the 17th century, mentions a Chapel of Our Lady of Consolation in the locale of Canoeira, stating that it ‘it is obliged to hold fifteen masses each year, and must be built according to the majorat of Matheus Trigueiro (…), who had it be done’. It is believed that Canoeira is located exactly where we find today the Chapel. It is also possible that the calling of the Chapel might have changed. All that rests to determine is how a monastic property, namely the wall, was ran alongside a private one, or the Chapel itself.
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Way belongs to the Freitas Sampaio family, who are entrusted with its upkeep as a suitable place of devotion.
Relative to the dedication for which we today know the chapel, since medieval times it has certainly not been unusual to build chapels at the exits of locales and near bridges, in order to ask for divine protection on long treks on which the traveller was vulnerable to assaults and murder.