Earlier this month I shared with you the stunning cloisters of the Cathedral of the Assumption of our Lady in Porto, well today as it is Paula’s Traces of the Past Thursday Special I thought we could walk in the footsteps of the Bishop’s guests on the upper terrace.
You have two choices as to how you arrive up here, most visitors we noticed took the main stairs up and the back stairs down. Can understand why as the main stairs are rather splendid. It is believed they were designed by the 18th century Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, however I have come across a few articles which suggest that may not be the case, and another name – António Pereira – is put forward as the artist. So who knows?!
For some reason I cannot recall why we did it the other way round, and arrived via the backstairs. Not as impressive but still very interesting because of the panels. Plus of course this way you visit the Chapter Room first. A rather splendid room with a wonderful ceiling by Giovani Battista Pachini.
And of course did you notice lots of tile panels! Like the ones in the stairwell they are hunting scenes. Not quite what I would expect in a meeting room of a religious institution! They are 18th century and the work of António Vital Rifarto.
The main reason for coming up here of course though are the two enormous tile panels on the upper cloister. Most articles, including my previous post on the cloisters, indicate are the work of António Vidal. However I have been unable to find anything else on him, which I find slightly odd given the size and splendour of the two panels.
It then occurred to me when I was looking more closely at my photographs that perhaps they are the work of António Vital Rifarto. Further investigation suggests I am not the only person to think this! So perhaps like the staircase where the work of one historian many years ago identified Nasoni as the creator and everyone following has gone along with it. Another identified António Vidal and everyone following has again simply said the same. I don’t know either way on the panels or the staircase but my research for today’s post has reminded me yet again about the perils of internet research! And I can’t just blame the internet as I have also in the past been led astray by travel books. Original sources are always best.
Whoever created them though was a wonderful artist. The scenes though were most unexpected, and I thought rather unusual for a catholic church – idyllic countryside mixed up with hunting and mythological scenes. However perhaps I have not been inside enough catholic churches.
Swept away by the beauty of the tiles and serenity of the cloisters I forgot to mention last time the state of the tiles. Unfortunately they are not being protected and consequently there is a lot of damage in places. We even found pieces of tiles on the floor. Given how much the Church spent on them at the time of their creation you’d think they be taking better care of these incredible works of art.
Valentim de Almeida who created some of the panels downstairs in the first half of the 18th century received (if my research is correct!!) in the region of 109$000 (réis) for the work. I have no idea what this would be in today’s money however I did discover though about 20 years later the average annual wage for a master tradesman was 400réis and that a litre of olive oil would cost around 91réis in Porto. I also found that in 1854 about a hundred years after the tiles were created 1000 réis = 1.62585 grams fine gold. These tiles were expensive works of art at the time and as you may recall from comments on my post on modern day azulejos artisans a panel made today using the traditional methods would be just as expensive. It is therefore a great shame better care is not being taken of these incredible panels.