Convento da Madre de Deus, Lisbon
The Convento da Madre de Deus is located at some distance from the city center of Lisbon - about 500m/547yd from the Estaçao de Santa Apolonia - but is well worth visiting.The former Convent of St Clare was founded in 1509 by Queen Leonor, the sister of Manuel I, on whose initiative the Igreja da Conceiçao Velha was also built. Leonor herself lived as a widow here.Until 1871 the building complex of Madre de Deus served as a convent. The Convento da Madre de Deus was originally built in the Manueline style and was renovated several times by succeeding rulers.The earthquake of 1755 caused great damage to the complex and it was rebuilt during the reign of José I. From the Manueline era there remains one of the two cloisters as well as the small side portal to the left of the main entrance on the long frontage. In contrast the main portal is a reconstruction from 1872. In creating this authentic replacement a panel which can be seen in the Museu Nacional da Arte Antiga was relied on.The panel dates from the 16th century and shows how a relic acquired in Cologne was brought to Lisbon. The scene depicted is in front of the then new Madre de Deus convent, with the original portal clearly recognizable.Apart from the particularly Manueline elements - plant decorations and the two stone side columns fashioned like ropes - a fishing net and a pelican can be seen below the crown next to the Portuguese coat of arms. These emblems of Leonor and her husband Joao II were also used in the articulation of the upper ends of the facade. Leonor's son, Afonso, died in 1491 as the result of a riding accident at Tejo near to Santarém and his body was carried by fishermen in a net to the royal palace - hence the reason for the queen's choice of her personal coat of arms. The Baroque decoration of the interior is worth seeing.The internal decoration is not particularly in the usual Baroque style but it nevertheless contains typically Portuguese elements of this period. The warm gold coloring of the over rich Talha Dourada contrasts with the cool blue white of the tiles, both combine to present a striking impression. The altars and the lavish pulpit have been fashioned in pure Talha woodwork. The one aisled building is spanned by a barrel vaulted coffered ceiling, on which 20 paintings illustrate events in the life of Mary. Large tile decorations depicting biblical and country scenes fill the lower halves of the walls, while above them can be seen pictures of St Francis.A semi circular painting above the archway leading to the chancel shows the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. Old pictures dating from the 16th century hang in the altar room itself.Immediately to the left of the entrance, the Madre de Deus convent and a fishing net are depicted on tiling. A stone net is noticeable in the small sacristy - another reminder of the emblem of the founder.Steps at the far end of the church lead to the part of the original building that has been retained. This is faced with Spanish tiles dating from the 16th century; the green color and the geometric pattern of the azulejos are characteristic of the Spanish style of that time.Two cloisters remain from the former convent - both two stories high. The Renaissance cloister used to be the resting place of the convent's founder, Leonor, with a tombstone set into the floor bearing witness to this.
Opening hours: 10am-12:30pm, 2pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
Transit: Tram: 3, 16, 27; Bus: 13A, 18, 39, 42, 59.
Convento da Madre de Deus Highlights
Convento da Madre de Deus - Renaissance Cloister
The National Tile Museum is today housed in the rooms of the Renaissance cloister. The cloister dating from the Manueline era is built on a considerably smaller area. This causes the two stories to appear relatively taller. The cloister radiates unity and peace. Archways and columns are sparingly decorated in a Middle Eastern style.
National Tile Museum
The Renaissance cloister and other rooms accommodate the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. With funding from the Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian a collection has been assembled here which gives an informative insight into the history of azulejos dating from the 15th century.Supplemented in parts by photographs, it provides a complete documentation of how tiles developed from Moorish influences and came via Spain to Portugal, spread here and developed an independent style. Materials and photographs explain the procedure behind the manufacture and decoration of azulejos.Particularly striking is a long wall picture composed of tiles showing a panoramic view of Lisbon from before the earthquake.Places that can be recognized include the Praça do Comércio, then still called the Terreiro do Paço, with the royal palace and the Casa dos Bicos. They appear in their original form and have since been reconstructed in accordance with this. The Sé Patriarchal (then with a differently shaped tower), the Igreja da Conceiçao Velha, Sao Vicente de Fora and, further to the west, the chapel of Santo Amaro, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the Torre de Belém can also be seen.
Address: Rua da Madre de Deus 4, Portugal
Opening hours: 10am-6pm; Sun: 10am-2pm; Tue: 2pm-6pm; Closed: Mon
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €2.30, Concession or reduced rate €1.30
Useful tips: Last admission half hour before closing.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Transit: Bus: 18, 42, 104, 105
The former chapter house in the high chancel is reached through the cloisters. The choir stalls date from the 16th C. From the chapter house there is a view down into the church; there once was a grille positioned in the wall which is now open. The nuns of the Order of St Clare used to leave from here to attend services unseen.
Convento da Madre de Deus - Representation Room
Opposite the high chancel lies the representation room of the Madre de Deus. For a time it served the sculptor Machado de Castro as a studio. Today a small collection of paintings can be seen here. These include a portrait of the founder of the convent; in a historical painting, Francis of Assissi hands the first abbess of the Madre de Deus the statutes of the Order of St Clare in the presence of the pope and Queen Leonor who is kneeling on the left and holding a crown.