Photograph: José Pessoa
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Name of Monument:
Church and Convent of Madre de DeusLocation:
1509–1589Denomination / Type of monument:
Architect: Diogo de Torralva (1551–n.d.); painters: Marcos da Cruz [n.d.], Bento Coelho da Silveira (1648–1708), André Gonçalves (1685–1762); tile painters: Jan van Oort [n.d.], Willem van der Kloet [n.d.], Gabriel del Barco (1649–c.1703); woodcarver: Félix Adauto da Cunha (1649–c.1703); terracotta figures in crib: António Ferreira [n.d.]Patron(s):
Widow of King João II, Queen D. Leonor, King João III, King Pedro II, King João V, and King José IHistory:
Founded in 1509 by Queen Leonor for the Order of St Claire, the Convent of Madre de Deus belonged to the queen's household. In a second phase during the reign of King João III the architect, Diogo de Torralva, designed a new (the present) larger church, while the old church became the chapter house. These alterations continued up until the end of the 16th century.Description:
During the 17th century several painters decorated the nave and main chapel. These included André Gonçalves whose painting on canvas is seen over the Triumphal Arch, and who retouched several of the ceiling panels, in addition to contributing three new works. From 1698 to 1707 Dutch tile painters, along with the Spanish master Gabriel del Barco, made the azulejos seen in the nave and main chapel. Damaged by the earthquake of 1755, the main altar was redesigned by Felix Adauto da Cunha by order of King José I.
A single nave church with plain walls and a barrel vault, a triumphal arch leads to the main chapel which is of the same width. Opposite the main chapel is the high-choir reserved for Franciscan nuns. The sacristy lies behind the main chapel.How monument was dated:
Below the high choir is the low-choir – the former chapter house of the convent – part of the original church commissioned by Queen Leonor.
The Church is decorated with oil paintings, azulejos, carved gilt wood altarpieces and sculptures. The tiles and paintings depict scenes from the Life of St. Francis, the Life of St. Claire and daily life in closure and devotion.
Historical evidence and stylistic analysis
Paintings and azulejos of the nave and main chapel
Nave and main chapel, Church and Convent of Madre de Deus
Ceiling paintings: c.1675–1690; triumphal arch paintings: c.1740–50; azulejos: 1698–1707; pulpit: 1747–1759; main altar: after 1755
Painters: Marcos da Cruz [n.d.], Bento Coelho da Silveira (1648–1708), André Gonçalves (1685–1762); tile painters: Jan van Oort [n.d.], Willem van der Kloet [n.d.], Gabriel del Barco (1649–c.1703); woodcarver: Félix Adauto da Cunha (1649–c.1703)
The 20 ceiling paintings depicting the Life of the Virgin are by the Marcos da Cruz workshop. The walls are adorned with paintings by Bento Coelho da Silveira. They depict the Life of St. Claire (upper register) and the Life of St. Francis (lower register). Paintings by André Gonçalves decorate the triumphal arch. These feature the Coronation of the Virgin by the Holy Trinity. Paintings of St. Claire and St. Francis flank the archway. The nave azulejos are by the Dutch artist, Willem van der Kloet; they were commissioned in Holland. Close to the rocaille pulpit are azulejos featuring Franciscan monks praying. The azulejos in the main chapel are by Jan van Oort.
These depict the vision of Pope Nicholas V when standing by the body of St. Francis.
The lateral altars of the Chapterhouse
Connected to the nave of the church
Completion of the lateral altars 1750–1755
These were perhaps, originally, part of the main chapel and sacristy until the reign of King João III (1521–1557). The two lateral altars were installed during the reigns of King João V (r.1706–1750) and King José I (r.1750–1777). One is dedicated to the Death of Christ the other to Our Lady of Good Death.
The Chapel of Santo António or Ante-Choir
Close to the choir
André Gonçalves (1685–1762); terracotta figures in crib: António Ferreira [n.d.] and Dionísio Ferreira [n.d.]
The beautiful floors of the Chapel of Santo António are of inlaid Brazilian wood. Azulejo panels – representing scenes from the lives of the hermit saints Anthony and Paul – adorn the walls on the lower register, while on the upper register are paintings depicting the Miracles of St Anthony of Lisbon. Behind a monumental door is the Madre de Deus crib, comprising a set of 42 sculpted polychrome terracotta figures.
The Choir or Sala do Tesouro
Opposite the main chapel
Marcos da Cruz [n.d.], Bento Coelho da Silveira (1648–1708), André Gonçalves (1685–1762)
Probably used by the nuns as a meeting place, the floor is of inlaid Brazilian wood. The chapel contains several reliquaries within gilded wooden frames above the choir stalls. Above one of the doors there is a tabernacle with the coat of arms of King José I. The Window bays are adorned with azulejos, while the ceiling and walls are decorated with paintings of the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin Mary of the 17th and 18th centuries.
General view of the Sacristy
Sacristy behind the main chapel
Woodcarver: Félix Adauto da Cunha (1649–c.1703); painter André Gonçalves (1685–1762)
The redesigned sacristy with marble floor and a marble table. The coat of arms of the Franciscans and of the Royal family are fashioned in Azulejos, above which are a series of paintings with religious themes. A Brazilian ebony chest of drawers with a Rococo gilded carved back furnishes one end.
Borges, N. C., “A Escultura e a talha”, História da Arte em Portugal, vol. 9, Lisbon, 1987, pp. 41– 63.Citation of this web page:
Caeiro, B. M., Os Conventos de Lisboa, Porto, 1989.
Santana, F., Sucena, E., Dicionário da História de Lisboa, Lisbon, 1994.
AA.VV, Igreja da Madre de Deus: história, conservação e restauro, Lisbon, 2002.
Henriques, Paulo, (…) Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Instituto Português de Museus Lisbon, 2006
Cristina Correia "Church and Convent of Madre de Deus" in Discover Baroque Art. Place: Museum With No Frontiers, 2015. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;pt;Mon11;2;en
Prepared by: Cristina Correia
Translation by: Fernando A. Baptista Pereira, Cristina Correia
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
Copyright images "DDF/IMC,IP": Divisão de Documentação Fotográfica/Instituto Museus e da Conservação,IP.
MWNF Working Number: PT 02