July 26, 2018

Twenty-two IWP members and guests enjoyed a very informative and pleasant tour of the Convent and Archeological Museum of Carmo in Lisbon.  Our young guide, Pedro, led us through the museum telling us about its historical and cultural significance.

The founder of the church and convent was D. Nuno Alvares Pereira (1360-1431), a nobleman and valiant warrior.  At the time he was fighting in the war against Castille, he promised to build a church in honor of Nossa Senhora do Carmo (our Lady of Carmo).  D. Nuno invited the friars from the Carmelite Order of the convent of Our Lady of Carmo in Moura (Alentejo) to come run the church in Lisbon.  D. Nuno was a very religious person and in 1423 he donated his worldly possessions to the church and joined the Carmelite religious order.  He chose to be buried there and visitors can still see the original spot of his tomb.  However, in 1953, his remains were transferred to the Church of Santo Condestavel, dedicated to him, in the parish of Campo de Ourique (Lisbon).  D. Nuno was canonized in 2009 as Saint Nuno de Santa Maria.

Much of the building was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and its subsequent fires. Just a few years after the earthquake, the friars undertook some of the reconstruction under the reign of Queen D. Maria I, but the rebuilding eventually came to a stop in the mid-1800s with the extinction of religious orders in Portugal as decreed by King Pedro IV in 1834. With the departure of the friars, the buildings fell into abandonment and further ruin.

When the visitor walks in, one is in what used to be the nave and the lateral aisles of the church.  What is left of the origina

l church is the massive arches and side walls some of which were partially reconstructed much later.  On display around the area are pieces of artifacts from other churches, convents, and monuments.

The chapels of the church house the Archeological Museum (Museu Arqueologico do Carmo) installed in this space since 1864.  It was founded by the first president of the Association of Portuguese Archeologists who saw the urgent need to recuperate and conserve valuable artifacts especially those from the many convents and churches of the extinct religious orders all over the country.  It was the first museum in the country.  Due to its nature, the museum’s collection is eclectic including pieces of archeology, architecture, sculpture, ceramics.

In the main chapel, are several tombs the most impressive of which is the tomb of the King D. Fernando I (1345-1383).  It is impressive by its size and ornate design featuring the royal crests of his family.  In contrast to most royal tombs, his image is not featured on the top.  The guide told us that the hole in the tomb was done by Napoleon’s soldiers hoping to find some treasures but apparently found nothing.  The other massive tomb originally in marble belongs to Queen D. Maria Ana of Austria.

Another chapel houses the library of the first president of the association as well as two Peruvian mummies and an Egyptian mummy donated by the second president of the association.  The two mummies, a boy and a girl from the 16th century are well preserved.  The girl mummy still has her original hair and teeth.  They are both in a sitting position, apparently the position in which they were buried.

In the next chapel are exhibited artifacts from a pre-historic village, Vila Nova de Sao Pedro (near Azambuja) from circa 3500 AC. The spoils from this archeological find includes pottery, jewelry, cooking utensils, and flints.

Thank you to Beverly Midura for arranging this most interesting visit to this very important historical museum.  If you missed the visit, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10h00-18h00. Admission price: Adults 4.00 euros; Student with ID 3.00; Senior 65+ with ID 3.00

NB: As with any visit, each of us takes away something different.  This was my take away plus some research.

Tags: Carmo | convent | excursion

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