By : May 31st, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

In Portugal, D. Manuel 1º, the Venturoso, (1469-1521), was the one who ordered the organization of a heraldic nucleus in Portugal for the coat of arms of noble families, (almost simultaneously with the English Weapons College founded in 1484) who organized / corrected and had the Coat of Arms registered.

72 families were highlighted with prominence as the most illustrious and important in the Kingdom, having as a differential honor, history and goods and their Coat of Arms were painted on the ceiling of the Coat of Arms Room of the National Palace of Sintra .
Ordered to be erected by King D. Dinis 700 years ago, the Vila Palace was being updated and added by successive kings. Commissioned by D. Manuel I in the century. XV, the Sala dos Brasões is the most impressive piece of this very unique royal palace. But what in this room seems to be an exceptional decorative program is actually a millimeter political program: the Coat of Arms Room of the Palace of Vila de Sintra is the perfect image of the centralization of the king’s power that D. Manuel unequivocally fixes. Contrary to what had happened to his predecessors in the Middle Ages, D. Manuel I was no longer a peer among equals, but an absolute king, above all other men and from whom all light and all power emanated.
The place that each of the 72 noble families represented here occupied in the court hierarchy is expressed in the placement of the respective weapons or emblems on the ceiling of the Sala dos Brasões.
By placing his coat of arms on top of the dome of this room, D. Manuel projects himself as the center and top of a highly hierarchical, but interdependent society. His power depends on the support of the nobility, and the nobility obtains the social distinction it needs from the king.
The nobility is here represented by the coats of arms of the 72 most important families. Coats of arms reflect identities to which individuals are associated, being a form of social distinction.
Between the symbol of D Manuel and the coats of arms of noble families, there are the coats of arms of D Manuel’s eight children.
The inscription around the room reveals how the memory of the services provided by the ancestors – “the loyal services” – defined the identity and the social position of each one. As for the king, he is the supreme judge responsible for ensuring that order.
The walls of this room were covered in tiles in the 18th century with gallant scenes.

By : May 23rd, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

A very special wedding gift that of the king of Portugal D. Dinis who gave Óbidos to his wife Dona Isabel; following his example, the Portuguese sovereigns got into the habit of giving cities to their wives.

Óbidos had to be a real splendor to make a queen fall in love with it, and it still is today. What makes this town magnificent are its crenellated walls, a wall that completely surrounds the town, giving it the appearance of a fairytale castle.

The eye finds it hard to dwell on something, it only sees beauty around it: bright white houses, red roofs, paved alleys, huge climbing plants of wisteria and bougainvillea, giant cacti …

Some houses are decorated with yellow and light blue bands, and all the colors light up under the clear sky and the rays of the sun.

The Óbidos castle stands out for its grandeur over the town. Built by Dom Dinis himself in the 13th century, it is now a luxury pousada (“inn”), a truly romantic hotel. The manor is not open to visitors, but during the Mercado Medieval it becomes the hub of the festival and village life. It’s like stepping back in time.

Medieval market of Óbidos

This medieval festival animates Óbidos for two weeks in July. It is famous in Portugal and abroad, so much so that it attracts buses full of tourists to the city.

The city is filled with costumed figures: courtesans, musicians, knights, beggars, bards, prisoners, cooks, peasants… By paying a premium on the ticket, even visitors can rent a medieval dress for a day.

There are food stands, real medieval taverns. There is also a calendar of live performances: cavalry tournaments, theatrical and comic performances, fireworks and more

By : May 15th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The Chapel of Bones was built in the 17th century, at the initiative of three Franciscan friars whose aim was to convey the message of the transience and fragility of human life. This message is clearly passed on to visitors right at the entrance, through the warning: “We bones that we are here, for yours we wait”.

It was a model in vogue at the time, with the intention of provoking through the image a reflection on the transience of human life and the consequent commitment to a permanent Christian experience. Both the walls and the pillars are covered with a few thousand bones and skulls, from the burial spaces connected to the convent. The frescoes that decorate the vaulted ceiling, dating from 1810, feature a variety of symbols illustrated by biblical passages and others with the instruments of the Passion of Christ.Deep down, it shows the macabre taste of the Baroque man for necrophilia.

This chapel of skulls and bones was built in the place where the friars’ dormitory and reflection room were originally located. It is formed by three naves about 18,70m long and 11m wide. Natural light strategically enters these ships through only three small cracks on the left side. The walls of the Chapel of Bones and the eight pillars that comprise it are lined with human bones and skulls, carefully arranged, connected by brown cement. The vaults are made of brick plastered in white and painted with motifs that symbolize or allude to death. In addition to the bones, the Chapel of Bones is also decorated with statues of a religious nature and a Renaissance and Baroque style painting.

The arches are decorated with rows of skulls, cornices and white naves. It is estimated that there are about 5000 human skulls that are found there, among countless bones, from the graves of the convent church and other churches and cemeteries in the city.
In the 16th century, there were nearly forty-two monastic cemeteries in the city, which took up too much space. As a solution, those monks extracted the bones from the floor and used them to build and “decorate” this chapel.

By : May 11th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The oldest funicular in the world, endless staircases, fountains and baroque statues, surrounded by a mantle of vegetation, make Bom Jesus do Monte (or Bom Jesus de Braga) one of the most popular destinations for people from Braga and visitors.
In 1373, there were signs of activity and construction of a Chapel in Bom Jesus. However, Bom Jesus as we know it today appears in 1722 when, on the initiative of D. Rodrigo de Moura Teles, the project of the current Santuary began, with the construction of the chapels of Via Sacra, Portico, and the steps of the Five Senses. In 1784, with the increasing flow of pilgrims, Archbishop D. Gaspar de Bragança entrusts to Carlos Amarante the task of designing a new basilica, completed in 1811.
Portico Staircase
At the lower end of the Portico staircase there is an arch 7 meters high and 4 meters wide and the staircase meanders through dense vegetation along 376 steps up to the square that precedes the next stairway – the Cinco Sentidos.
The Cinco Sentidos (five senses) staircase starts next to the Fonte das Cinco Chagas or Fonte das Cinco Correntes and from there, in each flight of stairs there is a fountain corresponding to one of the human senses.
Stairway of Virtues

After the allegorical staircase of the sensory system comes the Escadorio das Virtudes. The staircase starts at a square atrium. Here you can find sources alluding to Faith, Hope and Charity

Pelican Square

In Largo do Pelicano we can admire the beautiful baroque garden

Church of Bom Jesus

Here lies a set of statues representative of biblical characters linked to the Passion of Christ: Anas, Caifas, Herod and Pilate on one side and José de Arimateia, Nicodemos and Pilatos.

Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross is represented throughout the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary with 17 chapels that show various moments linked to the passion of Christ

Funicular (or Bom Jesus Elevator)

A project by Niklaus Riggenbach and was opened in 1882. The only one in the Iberian peninsula and the oldest in the world in activity. A funicular powered by water, by counterweight. Two cabins, both with water tanks, are connected by a cable. When a cabin is at the top, the cabin tank is filled with water (the volume of which depends on the number of passengers), while the cabin cabin at the bottom is emptied. When the driver releases the brakes, the weight difference causes the lower cabin goes up.

This Sanctuary is a World Cultural Heritage from Unesco

By : May 3rd, 2021 Kings and Queens, Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The National Palace of Queluz enchants for its magnificence and for the exuberance of its architectural details. Closely linked to the experiences of three generations of the Portuguese Royal Family, and the stage for intense emotions, the palace reflects the evolution of the tastes and styles of the time, going through Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassicism.

Surrounding it, scenic gardens invite you to “stroll” through the time when the court organized sumptuous parties there and keep the memories of the gondola rides on the canal, the theater, the hunts, the musical and literary evenings, the masquerade balls, the games and outdoor recitals.

In 1747, Infante D. Pedro, third Lord of Casa do Infantado and future king D. Pedro III (by marriage to D. Maria I) instructs the architect Mateus de Vicente de Oliveira to expand the so-called “Paço Velho”. Years later, in 1760, the announcement of the marriage of D. Pedro to the heir to the throne, Princess D. Maria, motivates deeper works.
At this stage, the works are the responsibility of the architect and goldsmith Jean-Baptiste Robillion. D Pedro III dedicates his attention to this place, transforming it into a leisure and entertainment space for the Royal Family and filling it with apparatus rooms, such as the Throne Room or the Ambassadors Room.

In the gardens, the decoration is marked by several sculptural groups that evoke classical mythology, of which the lead statues of John Cheere’s London studio stand out.

After the fire at the Royal Barraca da Ajuda, in 1794, where the Royal Family had lived permanently since the 1755 earthquake, the Queluz Palace became the official residence of Queen D. Maria I and, later, of the ruling princes D. João VI and D. Carlota Joaquina
The palace is permanently inhabited until the departure of the Royal Family for Brazil

In 1821, D. João VI returned to Portugal, but the palace was only re-inhabited, in a semi-exile regime, by Queen D. Carlota Joaquina, accused of conspiring against her husband. The next generation, marked by the Civil War that opposed the brothers D. Miguel and D. Pedro IV of Portugal and the first Emperor of Brazil, ended the royal experience of the Palace of Queluz. It is in the Queluz Palace, in the room Don Quixote, where he was born, that D. Pedro IV died.

By : April 29th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

Memorial monument of the battle of Aljubarrota and royal pantheon, whose construction began in the late 14th century with the patronage of D. João I, the Dominican Monastery of Batalha is the most significant building of Portuguese Gothic. Its vast outbuildings today are an excellent example of the evolution of medieval architecture until the beginning of the 16th century, from the unprecedented experience of the late Gothic to the decorative profusion of the Manueline.
The Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, also called Batalha Monastery, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful works of Portuguese and European architecture.
This exceptional architectural ensemble resulted from the fulfillment of a promise made by King D. João I, in gratitude for the victory in Aljubarrota, a battle fought on August 14, 1385, which secured the throne and guaranteed the independence of Portugal.
Dom João I is buried there, in the Founder’s Chapel, next to his wife, D. Filipa and their children.
The works lasted more than 150 years, through several phases of construction. This duration justifies the existence, in his artistic proposals, of Manueline (predominant) Gothic solutions and a brief Renaissance note. Several additions were introduced in the initial project, resulting in a vast monastic ensemble that currently features a church, two cloisters with outbuildings and two royal pantheons, the Founder’s Chapel and the Imperfect Chapels.
The abyssal Chapter Room reveals an immense vault, without any central support. The project is considered one of the most audacious in European Gothic architecture.
The story goes that the architect Afonso Domingues, already blind, soon after having made this vault, would have stayed there for three days and three nights to see if he resisted, to watch his greatest work or die with it.
Made by D Duarte are the Imperfect Chapels which, despite the name, are absolutely majestic. Only that they were never finished and remained so, incomplete but spectacular.
National monument, the monastery is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, since 1983.

By : April 22nd, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

In 1983, UNESCO declared a priceless jewel of Western history a “World Heritage Site” monument: the Templar Castle and the Convento dos Cavaleiros de Cristo in Tomar. This vast monumental complex, built on an ancient Roman place of worship, tells us about seven centuries of Portuguese history and the most salient moments in Western history.

Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, donated a vast region between the Mondego and Tagus rivers to the Knights of the Temple of Jerusalem. Legend has it that, in 1160, the knights who arrived on the spot chose a mountain to build a castle and the name they would have given it: Tomar. In 1314, the Order of the Temple was extinguished due to the persecutions of the king of France, Philip the Fair. But thanks to D. Dinis, in 1319 people, goods and privileges were completely integrated into a new order – the Militia of the Knights of Christ – which together with the Infante D. Henrique would support the Portuguese nation in the great enterprise of maritime discoveries. of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Tomar Castle then became a Convent and seat of the Order and the Infante Henry the Navigator their Governor and perpetual Administrator.

Originally it was a fortified castle that served to defend the Christian kingdom from the aggression of the Moors, who were pressing on the borders.
Today the Convent of Christ order is a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, Manueline and Renaissance styles, but you don’t need to be an architecture expert to appreciate its beauty.
Strolling through its eight courtyards, each one different from the other, and admiring the richness of the sculptures and decorations makes you feel inside a time machine.
One of the most extraordinary parts of the Convent of Christ is the Charola, a 16-sided Templar church, built in imitation of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. It is said that its circular plan is due to the fact that the riders could participate in the functions remaining in the saddle of their horse.

Seen from the outside, the church and the chapter house are a riot of Manueline decorations: capitals, sculptures, gargoyles, ropes, Templar symbols … A beautiful example is the Manueline janela, a richly decorated window on the western side of the church, which can be best admired from the adjacent Closter of Santa Bárbara.

Among the eight courtyards of the Convento de Cristo, the Renaissance-style Main Closter or of  Dom João III leaves you speechless. It is a two-storey cloister, connected by helical staircases on the four corners, with a fountain in the center in the shape of a Templar cross. The atmosphere is truly suggestive, you feel transported back in time.

By : April 18th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The Jeronimos Monastery is the most famous and visited monument in Lisbon, and not only is it an exceptional architectural work but also an important symbol of Portuguese identity and culture.
This masterpiece of the Manueline style, an exquisitely Portuguese artistic expression that mixes late-Gothic and Renaissance elements and Arabesque elements, was founded by the will of King Don Manuel I near the place where Henry the Navigator, a key figure for the overseas expansion of Portugal , had built a church dedicated to Saint Mary of Belém, Our Lady of Bethlehem. When the sailors were about to make a long journey, they went to this church to entrust themselves to the Madonna. Vasco da Gama was no exception before his expedition to the Indies. It was then that King D Manuel promised, if successful, to build an even larger church on that church, and then decided to turn it into his family’s pantheon.
It was built in 1502 on a project by the architect Diogo Boytac and dedicated to San Geronimo; many Portuguese, French and Spanish artists collaborated in its realization. The order of Jeronimos  was dissolved in 1833: from then until 1940 the monastery was used as a school and orphanage; in 1907 it was declared a national monument and in 1983 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In its five centuries of history, the monastery has attracted poets, navigators, kings and artists and was the burial place of nobles and explorers: today it is one of the main tourist attractions of Lisbon.
The Gothic-looking Church of Santa Maria houses the cenotaphs of Vasco de Gama and the poet Luís Vaz de Camões (whose bones were transported here); the choir is also of considerable value, with finely carved wooden seats.
The cloister is probably the monastery’s most amazing attraction: one of the most beautiful in Europe, it is square in shape and measures 55 meters on each side, with two rows of windows along all sides. It is a triumph of Manueline decorations, the fantastic creatures of the upper balustrade and the symbols of the era in which the cloister was built, such as the armillary sphere and the cross of the military Order.
The entrance portal, although smaller than the south portal, is the most important: symbolically oriented to the east, it is the access point to the church, perfectly in line with the main altar. Designed by Boitaca, it was built by Nicolau Chanterenne in 1517. On both sides of the door there are statues of a monarch in the respectful act of prayer: Don Manuel I with San Geronimo on the left and Queen Maria with San Giovanni Battista on the right. On the upper part it is possible to see three niches with sculptural groups depicting the Annunciation, the birth of Christ and the adoration of the Magi. It is difficult to believe that the south door is, technically speaking, only a secondary entrance: its magnificent decorations make it the element of greatest visual impact of the entire facade. The central figure represents Our Lady of Belém with the Child, at the bottom the saints and apostles and at the top a statue of the Archangel Michael dominates the entire composition.

By : April 15th, 2021 Handicraft, Places and Monuments 0 Comments

Today is the day dedicated to Art and I decided to write an article about one of the Portuguese works of art that I love the most.

It is the most famous work of Portuguese jewelry, for its artistic merit and historical significance: the Monstrance of Belém, exhibited at the MNAA (National Museum of Ancient Art) in Lisbon.

Ordered by King D. Manuel I for the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém (Better known as Jerónimos Monastery), the Ostensory of Belém is attributable to the goldsmith and playwright Gil Vicente.

It was made with the gold of the tribute of the Régulo de Quilôa (in present Tanzania), in a sign of vassalage to the crown of Portugal, brought by Vasco da Gama on the return of his second trip to India, in 1503, it is a good example of the taste for pieces conceived as microarchitecture in the final Gothic.

Intended to guard and expose the consecrated host to the veneration of the faithful, it presents, in the center, the twelve apostles kneeling, hovering over them a oscillating dove, in white enameled gold, symbol of the Holy Spirit, and, in the upper plane, the figure of God the Father, who sustains the globe of the Universe, thus materializing, in the ascension sense, the representation of the Most Holy Trinity.

The armillary spheres, symbols of King Manuel I, that define the knot, as if to unite two worlds (the terrain, which spreads at the base, and the supernatural, which rises in the upper structure), appear as the maximum consecration of royal power in this historic moment of oceanic expansion, confirming the spirit of the King’s company that was forever linked to the era of Portuguese maritime expansion.

A work that leaves truly speechless for the artistic quality, the materials and the perfection of its realization in the smallest details.

The MNAA preserves this and many representative works of Portuguese and international art; a place that art lovers cannot miss. Even better if accompanied by an art historian in love with this Museum 😉

So, what do you expect to book a visit with me?

By : April 11th, 2021 Places and Monuments 0 Comments

The ruins of the monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha are located in the city of Coimbra, Portugal. The monastery was built in the 14th century on the left bank of the Mondego River, but was abandoned in the 17th century due to frequent floods. The well-preserved Gothic ruins of the monastery were found in the late 20th century, more than 300 years after being abandoned by the nuns.

 The Monastery of Santa Clara was built at the behest of Isabella of Aragon, the Holy Queen, to replace a small convent of Poor Clares founded in 1286. The construction of the temple, whose plan is the work of the architect Domingos Domingues, who previously had worked at the Alcobaça Monastery, ended in 1330.

The monastery of Santa Clara in Coimbra was built in the 1280s by Mor Dias as the home of the Order of the Poor Clares. This ancient monastery was abandoned in 1311, only to be used again in 1314 by Isabella, wife of King Dinis. Isabella was admired for her pious and charitable nature, and her devotion led to her canonization in 1626. The Queen’s palace, of which only ruins remain, was located near the monastery.

The works promoted by the Queen began in 1316 at the same point as the previous foundation and gave rise to the ensemble that exists today. The first architect associated with the monastery was Domingos Domingues, who had worked on the cloisters of the Alcobaça monastery. His work was continued after 1326 by Estêvão Domingues, who had worked on the cloisters of the Lisbon cathedral. The church was consecrated in 1330 and was influenced by the Alcobaça building in its floor plan and many other architectural details. Elizabeth died in 1336 and was buried in the monastery in an imposing Gothic tomb. A large cloister was built on the south side of the church in the 14th century.

Already in 1331 the monastery and the church had been flooded by the nearby Mondego river. Due to its location, the monastery was repeatedly flooded by the river in the following centuries, and the nuns of the monastery raised the floor level of the monastic buildings to reduce the damage caused by the floods. Despite the problems, the monastery was often enriched by donations. At the beginning of the 16th century, under King Manuel I, the church was decorated with Sevillian tiles and several painted altarpieces.

The complex is distinguished from its architecture by the size of the church and cloister and by the stone vault that covers three naves of similar size. In the 17th century, King D. João IV had a new convent built on an elevated point of the city, which took the name of Santa Clara-a-Nova, and ordered the nuns to abandon the structure. The last nuns left the complex in 1677. The Gothic tombs of Queen Isabella and other royal princesses were moved to the new building.

Over the centuries the ancient monastery fell into disrepair and was partially covered by the marshes of the Mondego river. Its historical and architectural importance led it to be declared a national monument in 1910, and some conservation works were carried out in the first half of the 20th century.

At the end of the twentieth century, the impressive restoration works brought to light the structures and a vast and diversified heritage of finds. Once again open to visits, the Monastery represents a recreational area in a large open-air path that includes the church and the restored archaeological structures.