Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Wonder

Architecture of Light

Alcobaça Monastery, Early Gothic Church, Cistercian Style, consecrated in 1252, Portugal

I was in awe the moment I entered the Alcobaça Monastery, located in Alcobaça, Portugal. The simplicity and sense of lightness was such a contrast to other Gothic churches I had visited. Part of a large complex of monastic buildings, the church was the first Gothic style building in Portugal, following the precepts of the Cistercian Order, with its clean lines, void of decoration except for column capitals and illuminated by rows of windows. The rational style of Cistercian architecture was intended for utilitarian and liturgical purposes, without distractions. The church was consecrated in 1252.  Alcobaça is the largest church in Portugal. Click for information on Cistercian architecture.

Join Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Wonder

Week one of a wonder(ful) new photo challenge created by fellow bloggers.  Subscribe to all 4 moderator blogs to receive the challenge each week.

Week 1 – Patti of https://pilotfishblog.com/

Week 2 – Ann-Christine aka Leya of https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/

Week 3 – Amy of https://shareandconnect.wordpress.com/

Week 4 – Tina of https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/

Tuesday Photo Challenge: Height

Look Up To Heaven

Nave, Jerónimos Monastery, Belem District, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon’s Jerónimos Monastery is an important example of the Manueline style in architecture. Unique to Portugal, it is a rich and lavish style developed during the transition from the Late Gothic to Renaissance. Although short-lived (from 1490 to 1520), it was integral in the development of Portuguese art. Manueline art and architecture have a unique vocabulary, with elements of  the sea (coral, shells, barnacles, and seaweed), sailing (spheres, anchors, chains, and ropes), floral and botanical motifs, newly discovered lands (Islamic filigree, East Indian temple art), strands of twisted rope, rounded instead of pointed arches, eight-sided capitals, and the use of  asymmetry. Examples of these elements can be seen in the nave of Jerónimos Monastery, as well as in the details shown below. The nave and the two aisle are of equal height, a possible holdover from the early Gothic Cistercian stlye. The lavish ornamentation, however, is in stark contrast to simplicity of the  Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça (see earlier post), the first Gothic structure in Portugal.

Sea trade was the basis for Portuguese wealth in the 15th and 16th centuries. The highly nautical Manueline style was influenced by the voyages of discovery of Portuguese navigators, from the coasts of Africa, to the discovery of Brazil,  and to new routes to India and the East. In 1496, King Manuel I (1495–1521), for whom this Portuguese style was named, asked the pope for permission to build a monastery to the Virgin Mary in thanks for Vasco de Gama’s successful voyage to India. Construction on the complex began in 1501 but not completed in 1607. This and other Manueline style buildings were largely financed by proceeds from, as well as a stiff tax on, the spice trade with Africa and the East. A statue of Henry the Navigator stands on a pedestal between the two doors of the church’s main entrance, the south portal. Fortunately, Jerónimos Monastery did not suffer catastrophic damage in the 1755 earthquake, unlike many other Manueline buildings which were destroyed—it stands as one of the outstanding examples to Portuguese artistic innovation.

The stone tombs of Vasco da Gama (1468–1523) and Luís de Camões (1527–1580), the great poet and chronicler of the Age of Discoveries, are in the lower choir. The 19th-century tomb were sculpted in neo-Manueline style and the bodies were reinterred in 1880.

Tomb of Vasco da Gama

Join Frank’s Tuesday Photo Challenge: Height

A Photo A Week: Gold

Baptized in Gold

Chapel of John the Baptist, Church of St. Roch, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon’s Church of St. Roch is awash with gold. The Chapel of St John the Baptist, ordered by King Juan V in 1540, was constructed in Rome, blessed by the pope, then disassembled and shipped to Lisbon on three ships. It was said to be the most expensive chapel ever built at the time. The scene of John the Baptist above the altar is a micro mosaic, not a painting. The overt use of gold was a celebration of the glories of Portugal’s expansion around the world and the riches the colonies brought to the kingdom.

Join Nancy’s A Photo A Week: Gold

The Cistercian Monastery of Alcobaça

Estabished in 1153 to commemorate the victory over the Moors at the Conquest of Santarem, the Monastery at Alcobaça is the finest example of Cistercian gothic architecture in Europe. Construction of the monastery complex began in 1179 and ran through the end of the 13th century, with significant later Baroque additions, notably to the facade.

The nave and side aisles typify the clean lines and elegant simplicity of the Cisterians. Emphasis is on the vertical and on light. Alcabaça is approximately 348 feet long and 56 feet wide. Aisle vaults are the same height as the nave. The only decorations are the column capitals.

The monks were famous for their terracotta sculptures, many of which are still in the monastery. The Chapel of St. Bernard shows the death of the saint.

Two ornate sandstone tombs, one in each arm of the transcript, document the ill fated love story of King Pedro I and his mistress, Inês de Castro. Following the death of his wife, Pedro and Inês lived as a married couple and had several children. They may have secretly married. Inês was assisinated by the Pedro’s father to end the relationship. Pedro had their ormate tombs placed with feet facing each other so they would be together in eternity. Pedro posthumously crowned her queen. Legends say he exhumed her body, dressed her, then sat her a throne for the coronation.

The Royal Pantheon (Room of the Tombs) is adjacent to the transept. It is an 18th-century addition to the church. It houses several 13th-century royal tombs, including that of Queen Urraca, who died in 1220. Her Romanesque tomb is decorated with carvings of the apostles.

The Kings Room joins the church to the Cloister of Silence. Terracotta statues of Portuguese kings circle the upper walls while 18-century tiles illustrating the founding of the monastery cover the lower walls.

The two-storey Cloister of Silence dates to the 14th century.

The monks living quarters open onto the cloister, including dormotories, the chapter house, and the kitchen. A 60 ft high 18th-century chimney dominates the kitchen, which also included a fish pond.

Rooms are in the elegant Cistercian style. The refectory, or dining room, includes a unique pulpit from which the bible or other lessons would be read while the monks dined.

A Church in Need of Salvation

Saint Dominic’s Church in the historic center of Lisbon looks like the average Baroque building from the outside. Which is surprising considering the original medieval church, the largest in Lisbon at the time, dated from 1241.

I expected a riot of painted ceilings and ornate moulding inside. Instead, I found a church in need of salvation. Cracked pillars, scarred surfaces and missing architectural elements gave the nave a forlorn and abandoned atmosphere.

I assumed the building had been damaged in the 1755 earthquake that leveled much of Lisbon. But many churches had been repaired or rebuilt after the quake. The answer was provided in copies of newspaper articles posted in the back. I couldn’t read the Portugese but the pictures told the story. On August 13, 1959, the church was gutted and nearly destroyed in a catastrophic fire.

A bit of research told me that the medieval church had been damaged by the 1531 Lisbon earthquake and virtually destroyed by the 1755 quake, when only the sacristy and altar survived. It was the late 18th-century Baroque reconstruction which had burned.

I also discovered St. Dominic’s was the site of the first deaths in the 1506 Easter Slaughter, a three-day massacre during which 2000 heretics, people accused of being Jews, were tortured and killed by rampaging crowds. Many were burnt alive or torn to pieces as mass hysteria spread. The crowd, many of them foreign sailors from the port, looted houses, stealing gold, silver and other goods.

Due to pressure from Spain, the Jews had been expelled from Portugal in 1496 or forcibly baptized as New Christians in 1497. Those who refused baptism were force to leave without their children. The Lisbon Massacre created a climate of suspicion throughout Portugal. Things went from bad to worse 30 years later when the Portuguese Inquisition was opened.

Perhaps its history is why I find St. Dominic’s an unsettling space, though I wasn’t aware of it when I visited. Could it be that the fires of the Inquisition were finally extinguished?

Convent of Saint Peter of Alcantara

Built in 1681, the small church of the Convent of Saint Peter of Alcantara and the adjacent Chapel of the Lencastres are a small gem.

The convent, in the Bairro Alto neighborhood, sits across from Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara park, one of Lisbon’s top viewpoints. It is close to the Elvador da Gloria, a funicular which connects with the city center.

Baroque azulejo (glazed tile) panels lining the nave walls tell the life story of St. Peter of Alcantar. Ornate flourishes, architectural elements, and putti (with heads at odd angles) frame the story panels. The tromp d’oeil ceiling painting gives the effect of delicate moulding.

The adjacent inlaid marble chapel is dedicated to Verissimo de Lencastre, Cardinal and Grand Inquisitor, who supported foundation of the convent.

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