Tuesday, 14 July 2015

An afternoon visit to Coimbra - The University's Palace Gate, the Courtyard, the Joanine Library, the Chapel of São Miguel and Sala do Exame Privado - The 4th of July 2015


Having been added to the UNESCO list in 2013 the University of Coimbra was founded in 1290 by King Dinis but it wasn't but in  in 1537 during the reign of King João III that it was installed in the Alcaçova Palace.

After passing through the 1634 Palace gate called Porta Férrea one walks into the courtyard which leads to the General Studies, flanked by the Law schools and the Conference Room or Sala dos Capelos, the Rectory and the Jurisdical Institute.

The Joanina Library widely acknowkledged as being one of the world's most beautiful libraries began in 1717 during the reign of King João V, hence the sobriquet of Joanina. What lay behind that Baroque entrance door is almost undescribable.

The Baroque doorway of the Library.

The main room was divided in three grand rooms entirely covered in bookshelves, the handrails having been ornamented with rich carvings. Gold seemed to be dominant in every room which communicated with each other by archs topped with shields with the symbols of the various University schools. The paintings on the ceilings were astoningingly beautiful, though the main importance of it all seems to be the number of priceless books, illuminated manuscripts and stamp collections.


(photos taken from the net)

From it we walked onto the Lower floor brick-vaulted room used as a book store and exhibition room, but once more no photographing was allowed. We briefly visited the Academic prison, being the only Medieval prison still standing in Portugal before having walked back onto the courtyard, so as to visit the Chapel of São Miguel, whose photographing was also forbidden, which was a pity, once the Chapel originally conceived as a Palace Chapel is a little "gem".


Manueline doorway crowned by  the Royal Arms and flanked by the Cross of the Order of Christ and the armillary sphere.

The walls of the church are covered in seventeenth century glazed tiles (azulejos de tapete meaning carpet composition tiles forming repeated patterns). The main Mannerist altar piece dating from the seventeenth century, together with the four panel paintings and the two eighteenth century Baroque altar pieces were worth noting, but so was the equally Baroque Organ said to have been built in 1732-33.

In fact everything was worth noting from the silver lamp to the collections of precious metalworking and gilded bronze artefacts.

(Photos taken from the net)

As we left I was speechless and utterly surrendered to the exquisite beauty and richness of it all. I didn't think anything else might catch my attention then but I was wrong, because we  soon headed to the central building so as to visit the Sala dos Capelos where an Opera peformance rehearsal hindered our access to what was once designed as the throne room of the Royal Palace. We then moved onto Sala dos Arqueiros  and finally to Sala dos Grandes Actos and the more I walked around the former Palace the more I got mesmerised.

Façade sculptures dating back to 1700 representing Fortitude and Justice made by Claude Lapadre
Sala dos Capelos (photo taken from the net) 

The Pre-Doctorate examination was almost always held at 1701 remodelled Sala do Exame Privado(Private Examination Room) whose walls were covered in portraits of the former Coimbra University rectors, the lower part being covered in blue and white Coimbra glazed tiles.

The long outside corridor that overlooked the city and the river Mondego was also covered in blue and white glazed tiles. We stopped briefly to photograph a stone angel and take a picutre of the Sé Velha as seen from high up above.


By the time we drove back to Figueira da Foz it was already late, but we were particularly happy to have been away. We vowed to go back to Coimbra some other time because it is clear the city needs to be thoroughly explored, given the number of historic buildings of interest, as well as the overall city's cultural richness.


No comments:

Post a Comment