Lisbon, Portugal, Dec 27, 2018 / 10:01 am
When the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima in 1917, Portugal had already acclaimed Mary as their reigning Queen for hundreds of years. After the coronation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as “Queen of Portugal” by King João IV in 1646, no Portuguese monarch ever wore a crown again.
The history of exceptional Marian devotion near Fatima dates back even further.
Fourteen miles from the Fatima Shrine is the Batalha Monastery, where several dozen Dominican friars were commissioned in 1388 to pray a perpetual rosary in thanksgiving for the Virgin Mary’s protection of Portugal.
The gothic monastery in Batalha was built in dedication to Our Lady of Victory in gratitude for an answered prayer. In 1385 King Joao I made a vow to the Virgin Mary that he would build a great monastery if she would deliver him victory in a battle against the Spanish.
The Dominican community remained in the monastery until 1834, when all religious orders were driven out of Portugal. Today it continues to function as both the local parish and a tourist attraction.
In nearby Alcobaca, a Cistercian monastery has stood in honor of Mary for over 800 years. The king of Portugal endowed the monastery to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in 1153, shortly before the Cistercian founder’s death. The gothic church was completed in 1223.
Benedict XVI has described Saint Bernard of Clairvaux as “a Doctor of Mariology” because “he understood her essential role in the Church, presenting her as the perfect model of the monastic life and of every other form of the Christian life.”
An altarpiece in the Alcobaca Monastery, added in 1705, depicts the death of Saint Bernard under the protection of Mary. The walls in the monastery’s King’s Hall are decorated with 16th century blue and white rococo tile scenes depicting the history of the Cistercian order. An ornate oval baroque reliquary chapel containing 71 terracotta reliquary busts from floor to ceiling can be found in the sacristy. Napoleon's troops plundered the monastery in 1811, shortly before the Cistercians, like Batalha’s Dominicans, were forced to leave Portugal.