FERNANDES, Mateus
(d. 1515, Batalha)

Biography

Portuguese architect, also called Mateus Fernandes the Elder. He was noted for his works in the Manueline style at the Monastery of Batalha.

Fernandes became master of works at the monastery of Batalha in 1490 or slightly earlier, during the reign of King John II of Portugal. Before this date, nothing is known of his private life, as he has left no records. He succeeded the architect Fernăo de Évora as architect of the monastery. Mateus Fernandes later became the primary architect of the next king, Manuel I of Portugal, who made him the supervisor of other architectural works in the rest of the country.

However, Mateus Fernandes is best known for his work at the entrance portal of the roofless, Unfinished Chapels (Capelas Imperfeitas) of the Monastery of Batalha. The exceptionally large portal was originally built in Late Gothic style, but was transformed beyond recognition by Fernandes into one of the first masterpieces of Manueline style (completed in 1509). The Manueline style would then spread from Batalha throughout all Portugal.

Together with the architect Diogo Boitac, he rendered the Manueline style in the tracery of the arcade screens in the ambulatory of the Royal Cloister (Claustro Real) in the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém. Fernandes also worked with Boitac to build the abattoirs of Coimbra in 1511. Boitac, another important Manueline architect and sculptor, became the son-in-law of Fernandes by marrying his daughter Isabel Henriques in 1512. He (or his son, Mateus the Younger) is reported to have directed the construction of the church and the hospital of Misericórdia at Óbidos.

Mateus Fernandes died in Batalha on 10 April 1515 and was buried, with his wife, under a marble tomb-slab close to the portal of the monastery. Diogo Boitac was buried in a tomb close by in 1528. Fernandes was succeeded as master of works at the monastery in 1516 by his son Mateus Fernandes the Younger (died 1528), who had already been deputized to supervise construction at the monastery in his father's absence.