Chronological frameworkDocumented between 27th December 1401 and 7th March 1437 († before 9th October 1438)
Geographical FrameworkProbably native and/or trained in Catalonia
Master builder, sculptor (?)
Profile and historiographical debate
[Augete, Abguete, Haete, Hueett, Huguete]
Master Huguet is the second and most important master builder of the building process of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria de Batalha, in Portugal. On 27th December 1401, a document related to the vineyards of the convent mentions “mestre Augete”, but, at that time, the building is still managed by the Portuguese master builder Afonso Domingues. There is no reference about the death of the latter until 9th June 1406. His death is mentioned in an act related to his widow. Therefore, we can place the rise of master Huguet to the management of the construction of Batalha between 1402 and 1406. On 12th September 1436 the king Duarte gives to master Huguet the properties where he used to live near the convent. On the next 4th March, the architect receives a property given by the monarch as well. The death of master Huguet is earlier than 9th October 1438, as it is known that in this date he was laying in Santa Maria Velha de Batalha’s church. His properties are kept by his widow until 1450, date in which they are expropriated after a process against the provincial of the order, João Martins. In these procedures there is not any mention of the couple’s heirs. His success and his social status are demonstrated by the importance of his properties, as well as his residence, and also by the fact that this last one had a tower and a doorway (“anteporta”). However, it is relevant than master Huguet does not appear in the foundation documents of the guild of Santa Maria-da-Vitória in 1428. On the other hand, it is possible to find there some important personalities of the building works, as well as the supervisor or the scribe of the construction. Maybe this absence can be explained by the derogation arrangements owned by the construction at this moment, given by the royal authority, allowing to its main characters the chance to avoid restrictions and obligations that controlled the local corporative life.
Along his career managing the building of Santa Maria da Vitória, master Huguet chairs the construction of the biggest part of the church and the buildings of the convent, as well as the chapter house. After having finished the chapel known as founders chapel, opened in the second aisle of the southern side of the nave, he projects and begins the construction of a big round axial chapel covering the apse of the church, which was never achieved due to his ambition (capellas imperfeitas).
The identity and the origins of master Huguet have been subjects of multiple discussions from the convent “rediscovery” by the English antique dealers at the end of the XVIII century to the publication of the architectonic reliefs by James Cavenah Murphy on the 1795. It is because of this fact that the Dictionnaire des architectes actifs au Portugal du Ier siècle à nos jours mentions master Huguet as “architect probably French or Flemish, but certainly of Irish origin”! In 1945, Cruz Cerqueira dedicated a study to this question with a quite explicit title (“O arquitecto da Batalha : era inglês e viveu em Viana do Castelo ? “) but without succeeding in giving solid arguments to the proposition. A more detailed view to the architectonic dispositions of the convent (the different roofing systems, the decorative organisation of the facade, etc.) as well as the formal sources of the sculpture of the doorway allow the possibility of a Catalan training for master Huguet. The contrast with the sculptures of the portal of the Castelló d’Empúries’ church, built in the first decades of the XV century, lets us recognise a tight relationship between the treatment and the conception. In the other hand, a head of a saint Paul that comes from the “Apostles portal” of Lleida’s cathedral, today preserved in the Museu de Lleida, Diocesà i Comarcal (inv. 533) and probably ascribable to Guillem Soldevila, may be related to the Batalha’s works.
It is also appreciable the use of the Catalan star shape vaults structure in the founders chapel and in the chapter house. In this last one, we can also find the four small angular volutes system that allows the union of the rectangular space with the octagonal plant of the vaults; system that also appears in the chapel of the Episcopal Palace of Tortosa (in use in 1332) or in the chapter house of Valencia’s Cathedral (converted in Saint Calyx chapel and built by initiative of the bishop Vidal de Blanes between 1356 and 1369). In spite of the fact that it was finished after the death of master Huguet, the vault of the chapter house of Batalha seems to have been projected by him from the beginning.
All of these evidences seem to enforce the hypothesis of a Catalan origin and training for master Huguet, second master of the convent of Batalha and an eminent personality of the Portuguese art at the end of the Medieval Period.
Church and building of the convent of Santa Maria da Vitória (cf. supra)
João I d’Avis, King of Portugal; Duarte I d’Avis, King of Portugal; Dominican convent of Santa Maria da Vitória de Batalha.
Documented between 1401 and 1437 as “mestre Augete, Abguete, Haete, Hueett, Huguete”. All the sources have been published in those studies, especially by Saul António Gomes (Fontes historicas… i O Mosteiro…).
Text: Jean-Marie Guillouët
TAVARES 1944; CERQUEIRA 1945; LAMBERT 1949: 243-256; GOMES 1990; GOMES 1994: 105-126; PEDREIRINHO 1994: 131; GOMES 1997; GOMES 2002-2004; REDOL-VIERA DA SILVA 2007; GUILLOUËT 2010-2: 31-44; GUILLOUËT 2011.