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 – Museu Nacional do Azulejo – 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.  Not only was the sheer size of the mural incredible, but the detail in each and every tile depicting the history and the Portuguese culture, all defined in blue and white, was extraordinary.

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Antonio Vital Rifarto – Coimbra, circa 1733 – 1734

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.

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We stepped into this room and knew this was far more than simply a tile museum.  Note the wall murals.

A 16th Century Convent

Lucky for 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.  Oh, if those walls could talk the stories they would weave!

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If you look at the far end of the room, it was an open balcony (it’s glassed off) looking down into the church on the first floor. The nun’s used this room (I believe it’s the upper choir) to attend services since they could not be in the actual sanctuary.

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I sat on the stairs of the altar to take this photo of the church. Can you see the open balcony to the nun’s choir room upstairs, above the entrance?  Note the tile murals on the walls.

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The royal family’s box in the church.

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.  This was truly an extraordinary place of worship and culture. But, back to the tile.

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Wow! Right?!  Not your average stairwell.

Vista Panoramica de Lisboa

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.

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The Great View of Lisbon, circa 1700

The Last Supper & The Missing Figure

Here’s a fun tidbit from the Museu Nacional do Azulejo.  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.

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Do you see the missing figure?  The painting is huge, I just cropped my photo so the faded figure can be seen.

Museu Nacional dos Coches

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.

We had no idea of what to expect when we set off for the coaches museum.  It was Luis from the tile museum who suggested we should see the coaches.   At first we thought, um okay, why not?  How many different coaches could there be?  Ha!  There were a lot and each and every one of them stood out from the next.  The detail defied the imagination. And, it was interesting to see the changes in style and sophistication that took place over the generations.  I especially found it interesting that one royal had coaches for his illegitimate children.

One of the halls of coaches.

If you get to Lisbon for no other reason than to see these two museums, then you’d be good to go.  Yes. They are in fact 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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Stunning, right? The coach took part in the procession of the embassy sent to Pope Clement XI in Rome by King Joao V, in 1716.   Museu Nacional dos Coches.

To see more photos from our visit to the Museu Nacional dos Coches, please see our Facebook page at: One Road at a Time.

To Read More:

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Thank you, Luis, for sharing your knowledge.  It made our visit to the museum so much more rewarding.

 

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