The Unfinished ChapelsTHE UNFINISHED CHAPELS
Behind the apse of the Church, in line with the high altar, can be found the Pantheon of King Duarte, more usually known as the Unfinished Chapels, which is built in an octagonal form, with the entranceway on an axis and seven radiating chapels separated by small triangular structures.
The construction of the chapels, under the aegis of King Duarte, would have begun in about 1434, during the first year of his reign.
The architect responsible was Huguet who, at the peak of his technical and artistic powers gained over many years in charge of the Batalha site, was later able to put into practice, in the unique Founder’s Chapel, ideas that had just been hinted at in the daring vaulted ceiling of the chapter house.
The death of King Duarte in 1437 and that of master builder Huguet himself the following year put a stop to the work on the new funereal chapel, which was intended to consolidate King Duarte’s lineage and personal legacy.
In the reign of King Manuel, with a view to completing the pantheon, modifications to the initial design were made, enhancing its monumentality. It is to this period that we owe the sumptuous portal, completely sculpted, conceived and executed under the direction of Mateus Fernandes, one of the great Manueline masters, and completed in the first years of the 16th century. The seven funereal chapels were also completed during the lifetime of King Manuel and in their vaults show carved keystones with the coats of arms and emblems of their intended occupants. Already in the reign of King João III, the Renaissance balcony, dating from 1533, was placed above the portal, its decoration and structure of Italian inspiration being attributed to Miguel de Arruda who, it is known for certain, completed it.
It was only in the 1940s that the Pantheon of King Duarte came to house the twin tomb of the King and his Queen Leonor in the axial chapel. It was, perhaps, a final reencounter with history.