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Name of Monument:
Church and Convent of Madre de Deus
Lisbon, Portugal
Denomination / Type of monument:
Religious architecture
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.]
Widow of King João II, Queen D. Leonor, King João III, King Pedro II, King João V, and King José I
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.

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.
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.
View Short Description
How Monument was dated:
Historical evidence and stylistic analysis


Special features

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

Mid-18th century

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

Completed 1746–1759

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.
  Selected bibliography:
Borges, N. C., “A Escultura e a talha”, História da Arte em Portugal, vol. 9, Lisbon, 1987, pp. 41– 63.
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
Additional Copyright Information:
Copyright images "DDF/IMC,IP": Divisão de Documentação Fotográfica/Instituto Museus e da Conservação,IP.
Citation of this web page:
Cristina Correia "Church and Convent of Madre de Deus" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2016.;BAR;pt;Mon11;2;en
Prepared by: Cristina Correia
Translation by: Fernando A. Baptista Pereira, Cristina Correia
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez
MWNF Working Number: PT 02