The Chapter HouseTHE CHAPTER HOUSE
Halfway along the gallery of the royal cloister is the doorway to the chapter house, a vast quadrangular space 19 metres across, covered by an impressive and daring star-vaulted ceiling of eight points, with no central support. After the church, this was the most important dependency in the day-to-day life of the Dominican friars, who would assemble here to pay heed to and reflect upon the various chapters of monastic law which they followed, and to discuss relevant matters of the daily life.
The doorway to the space, with its great ogival arch, is flanked by twin large arched windows, above which are unglazed rose windows.
Particularly noteworthy is the previously-mentioned vaulted ceiling, with its innovative structure demonstrating master builder Huguet’s talents. Its sheer dynamic uniqueness has led us to believe this was enough to convince King João I to give him the commission of the Founder’s Chapel.
Within the chapter house, on one of the corbels placed at the corners, we see the figure of a master stonemason: he squats, to better accommodate the base, and holds in his hands a measuring tool, wearing a belted tunic and a turban-style hat with hanging cloth, as was the fashion in the 15th century.
On the eastern wall an impressive three-panelled window stands out, its peak a delicate composition in the flaming Gothic style. Its stained glass, dating from 1514 and extensively restored, depicts a triptych of three moments in the crucifixion of Christ.
The grandiose dimensions of this chapter house, always cloaked in shadow, accentuating its solemn magnificence with the vibrant colours and themes of its stained glass, were reason enough for it to be chosen for the Portuguese nation to pay homage to all those who died in combat, when the mortal remains of two unknown soldiers of the Great War were brought here to rest on April 9 1921, placed next to the monumental lamp in which burns the ‘Flame of the Motherland’.