Last week I teased you with just a few shots of the azulejos in the cloister, well today I am going to share more from my cloister and Chapter hall collection. These were not the only azueljos we saw but the ones inside the attached Church will have to remain in the album until next week. There were so many!
As with many cloisters, this ones has four ‘windowed’ galleries running along the walls of a Church and other buildings, creating a quadrangle in the middle. The galleries would have been the centre of activity for the convent inhabitants. Here the younger members were educated and the elders studied, they also provided a covered way and method of communication between the attached buildings. These galleries probably would not have looked that different to when Mariana Alcoforado first came here in the 1650s.
You enter the cloister through the western corner of the main entrance gallery, and immediately your eye is drawn into the gallery known as ‘quadra de Nossa Senhora do Rosário‘. When we entered all I could do was just stop and enjoy the light, shadows and azulejos. It is such a beautiful scene.
The azulejos in three of the galleries are Portuguese from the early 17th century, with one or two of the encased panels dedicated to S. João Baptista dated late 16th century.
The azulejos change significantly in the fourth gallery; ‘quadra de S. João Evangelista’ . They are of a similar period, but are Spanish rather than Portuguese. They are surrounded by various Manueline gateways, one taking you to the Chapel and another to what was once the convent dining room as far removed from the Church with its smells and noise as it could be whilst still remaining connected. The exuberance and extravagance of the architecture is quite incredible, especially as this convent apparently followed the rule of Clare, which set out a simple life of poverty, austerity and seclusion. None of which can be reflected in the cost of creating all this splendour. I wonder if this is what Mariana’s dowry, and that of other wealthy daughters who were entered into the convent, was spent on?!
At the other end of this gallery is the Gothic portal, an opening which had been drawing us down the quadra de Nossa Senhora do Rosário. It was through here we entered the Chapter Hall to discover the truly extraordinary azulejos as well as a rather splendid 18th century painted vaulted ceiling.
The vibrant complex 16th century Spanish-Arabic designs in the Chapter Hall are incredible, almost overwhelming to look at. Again the exuberance is surprising given the order’s beliefs. I certainly would have been easily distracted by the patterns and colour in the meetings here!
It is though sad to see them and also the ceiling in such a poor state of repair, especially when they are considered to be one of the most important examples of this type of azulejos in Portugal and the entire building is now a museum.
In a couple of weeks I will return with photographs of the Church itself. Even more extravagant than the convent! But for now here’s a shot of the window in the quadra de Nossa Senhora do Rosário which allows those in the nunnery to peer into the church. When I was in the church I had assumed this was the window through which Mariana had first spied her French lover. Seems to make much more sense that she would have spied him in the church, rather than somehow spotting him from the enormous one upstairs in the nun’s lodgings!