There were two main reasons for my visit to Lisbon last October. I’ve already shared with you the first- the Jerónimos Monastery. This is the second- the Museu Nacional do Azulejo. It’s not normally recommended to walk there, but it’s not a great distance, and there’s a very nice restaurant when you arrive. So, why not?
My start point was Praça do Comércio, always an interesting space, where Lisbon fronts the water. Some people can sleep anywhere, can’t they?
I even found a tiny strip of beach, but let’s not get distracted. The road threads along the riverfront, beneath Alfama. Roadworks were a bit of a nuisance, as was a chap on a bench, who misdirected us for the price of a euro. That’s cities for you! I had it in my head that along the way I might stop off at São Vicente de Fora, for the cloisters, a coffee, and a view. Don’t try it on foot! A tuk-tuk ride would be a much better idea.
Google Maps showed that it was only 1.2 miles from the Praça to the museum, but I found myself hugging shade as it was remarkably warm for late October. Interesting rather than scenic is how I would describe the route, as we passed the cruise terminal and then Santa Apolónia railroad station. At a bridge spanning railway and docks, a tourist bus sped past. And then, amazingly, there it was!
What a wonderful use for an old monastery. Tile lovers, you are in for a treat! The convent of Madre de Deus was founded in 1509 by Queen Leonor. Over time, many azulejo panels were stored there, and in 1957 it was decided to have an exhibition commemorating 500 years after Leonor’s birth. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation undertook the restoration work needed. When the exhibition ended, in Jauary 1958, a wealth of tiles were available and it was proposed to transfer the Ceramic Section of Lisbon’s Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga to the building. It was finally opened to the public as a museum in the 1970s.
First things first! It was into the restaurant for some recovery time with delicious salads, in a prettily tiled setting, or a leafy outdoor courtyard if you preferred. Fully fortified, it was time to tackle three floors of azulejos.
The museum surrounds the courtyard and cloisters, and has an incredible collection of azulejos, dating from 16th century to present day.
The magnificently restored church is incorporated into the museum. You will be advised not to miss it and I could easily see why. The decor includes rich, gilded woodwork, fine paintings and, of course, azulejo panels.
Time to climb to the next level. There are interesting distractions along the way, but if you really can’t manage it then there’s a lift.
The azulejos change style and era on the next floor. I tried to keep track of the accompanying details but it was too difficult. Much easier to simply admire. The museum website has an App to help you identify the pieces.
One of the most thrilling aspects of my visit to the Jerónimos Monastery was the moment when I stepped through a doorway to find myself looking down into the body of the church. The same thing happens with Madre de Deus on the second level of the museum. I love the feeling of omniscience. A seat in the Gods.
There is just one more level. The exhibition culminates, at the top of the building, with an amazing 40 metre panorama of Lisbon, dating from 1730. I have to admit, my eyes were starting to glaze over by the time I’d looked my fill.
The good news is that you don’t have to walk all the way back to the centre. There’s a bus stop directly outside the museum and in 10 minutes you can be whizzed back to Rossio, and a different world.
Thanks for your company again this week. It’s much appreciated. I hope you can join me with a walk of your own soon. Details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. Meantime please do enjoy these :
Powder white, fresh snow makes for the most beautiful scenery. Thanks, Drake!
I think Pauline might be grateful for a handful or two :
Becky will be enjoying this in a week or so’s time :
You could get the impression that Jackie doesn’t do anything but eat!
And Woolly? He’s visiting War Graves again :
An old friend takes us on a hike, California style. Thanks, Kongo!
Ending with something simply splendiferous! Don’t miss this from Jude :
Whatever the week has in store, I hope you enjoy it. I’m off out with my English walking group today. See you soon!