Lisbon: Museu Nacional do Azulejo
Sitting near the waterfront in Lisbon pondering where we should go next, I remembered our friends at The Travels of BBQBoy & Spanky had written a post about a tile museum in Lisbon and I remembered a particular photo they had posted that captured my attention. Let’s go there!
Entering the first hall, of tiled wall murals, at the Museu Nacional do Azulejo, I think we both let out a silent gasp of wonder.
After meandering through a few exhibition rooms and being awestruck at the detailed beauty and history of the colorful tiles, we turned the corner and entered a room that just took our breath away. I looked at Abi and said, “What is this place?” It was truly stunning.
Lucky us we struck up a conversation with a staff member, Luis, who was a wealth of knowledge and he was ready to share. As best I can remember the story goes a little like this. The museum is housed in a 16th century convent founded by Queen Leonor. The convent of Madre de Deus. It was somewhat common for the daughter of a noble family to enter the order, if they could not find a husband.
As you can see, this was no ordinary little church, attached to a convent, that just happened to be a part of the Queen’s household. But, back to the tile.
On the third floor there is a panoramic tile mural that once again left us awestruck. It is 1115 x 2347cm (120′) and depicts the city of Lisbon as it was before the great earthquake of 1755. It’s known as The Great View of Lisbon, circa 1700 and it is spectacular in it’s detail.
Here’s a fun tidbit. In the upstairs choir room there is a painting – a very large painting – of The Last Supper. Legend has it that it has been hanging in the choir for 500 years and if I remember correctly there is no artist’s signature. But, what’s fascinating is that you can clearly see where a figure has been “erased” for lack of a better word. Really something, right? Take a close look, and then do a Google search for da Vinci’s Last Supper and note the differences.
There are two sites one must see when visiting Lisbon. The Museu Nacional do Azulejo should not be missed, obviously, and the second must see is the Museu Nacional dos Coches. If you got to Lisbon for no other reason than to see these two museums, then you’d be good to go. They’re that good. It takes a bit of effort to get to both museums as they are on opposite ends of Lisbon but it is well-worth the time. You won’t regret it.
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