Madre de Deus Convent-Church

Madre de Deus Convent-Church (42)

Like so many of the city’s other buildings, the “Madre de Deus“ convent was terribly damaged by the awful 1755 earthquake.

The building had been constructed a long time before in 1509, on the orders of the widow of King Joao III, Leonor. It was a renaissance style project with a heavy manueline influence.  

Belonging to the order of barefoot Franciscan nuns, this convent had the atmosphere of a palace due to its luxurious ornamentation, however the earthquake put an end to all that. Or almost all that, three parts of the convent were left standing: the crypt, a small portico and the cloister. The latter two being examples of the manueline style.  

The remaining portico was not the convent’s main one, but a small vestibule situated on the left side decorated with motifs associated with the consecrated style of Manuel I’s reign: the coat of arms, floral characteristics, a pelican and fishing net. 

Despite everything, the convent and church did not end up in ruins, as happened, for example, with the “Carmo” church, and were carefully restored. This was done following the original plans, and materials were not spared in the reconstruction, everything used was of great quality.

The church has only one nave and an impressive shafted dome with a panelled ceiling showing scenes from the life of the Virgin. Due to the large spate of building work carried out in the 18th century, the era of great wealth from Brazilian gold, the “Madre de Deus” church can claim to be one of Portugal’s most exuberant baroque buildings. It contains a golden, rococo altar, polychrome marble and exotic wood types.

In 1872 the last refurbishing work was carried out, including the restoration of some of the façade’s manueline elements and the lining of tiles from other Lisbon palaces in the cloister. The overall objective was to create a small museum.

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