Monumental Coimbra

Edition 55 — 09.05.2022 • 22.05.2022
Science Museum of the University of Coimbra

We have never understood why the famous fado of Coimbra says that the beauty of Coimbra strikes the most as we leave the city. It’s the other way round. As we approach this charming city knelt upon Mondego river, we can feel History in all its speechless splendour.

The University of Coimbra

The University of Coimbra, the uptown (“Alta”) and Sofia were classified by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. According to the Rector of the prestigious University of Coimbra, “the decision of UNESCO underlines the universal value of the Portuguese culture and language, as well as the major role played by Portugal in the formation of the world as we know it”.

Coimbra became the 15th UNESCO World Heritage site in Portugal. Situated on a hill overlooking the city, the University of Coimbra with its colleges grew and evolved over more than seven centuries within the old town. Notable university buildings include the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Cruz and a number of 16th century colleges, the Royal Palace of Alcáçova, which has housed the University since 1537, the Joanine Library with its rich baroque decor, the 18th century Botanical Garden and University Press, as well as the large “University City” created during the 1940s.

Joanine Library

When a single space reunites a literary treasure beyond compare and the opulence of early 17th century architecture and arts, the result is one of the most spectacular and original European libraries in Baroque style.

At Joanine Library, there are worlds inside worlds, inside worlds; here, everything is knowledge and art invites you to discovery. There are thousands of works which lay upon a lavish space full of beauty and exoticism, where the richness of the painted ceilings is in harmony with the balustrades and shelves made of golden leaves and wood from the tropics. Enjoy the scholar knowledge of this bounded treasures here protected by the magnificence of the Joanine Baroque style.

Don't miss the chance to pay a visit to Sala dos Capelos, the main room of the University of Coimbra, and to the breath-taking St. Michael's Chapel, a pearl of Manueline style.

Machado de Castro National Museum

Machado de Castro National Museum is a true icon of Coimbra. The great patio, dominated by the 15th century loggia, continues to be very appealing for visitors. It is an impressive example of the survival of the symbolic meaning of the place. This was the administrative, political and religious centre of the Roman era, as well as a Christian temple, at least since the 11th century, a Bishop’s Palace since the second half of the 12th century and a Museum since 1911. It is, therefore, one of the most complex and exciting spots of the city.

Old Cathedral

Founded during the reign of Afonso Henriques, Coimbra Old Cathedral represents, through its monumentality, the austere magnitude of the Romanesque architecture. It is seen as a treasure of the Portuguese Romanesque Style and is the only Portuguese cathedral built during the Reconquista era which has remained intact until today. It’s worth your while to cross its magnificent door, which reminds the entrance to a fortress, and discover its interior, where stone has created an impressive space characterized by an alternation of light and shadow which take us through massive columns and delicate capitals full of leaves and animal figures.

Science Museum of the University of Coimbra

The Science Museum of the University of Coimbra is an interactive science museum that aims to provide visitors of all ages an entertaining environment in which to discover science. The Museum presents the University’s collections of scientific objects and instruments as well as a series of exciting exhibits and hands-on experiments. The Museum offers many activities. Its temporary exhibits, guided tours, workshops and informal meetings with scientists have become well known and very successful amongst the public.

On May 18th the new Cabinet of Curiosities will open its doors at the College of Jesus. This is a realistic recreation of an 18th century cabinet of curiosities, showcasing "the whole world in just one place". A place bursting with exoticism in an almost magical universe.

The Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra

The Botanical Garden occupied a considerable portion of the grounds of the College of São Bento, which had been given over to the University of Coimbra, undergoing extensive remodelling dating from the time of the Pombaline Reforms (1774).

In 1854, the engineer Pezerat presented his project for a greenhouse (which is still in existence), marking a technological advance in the use of iron and glass in architecture in Coimbra. This building was completed in 1865. The works, carried out between 1944 and 1949, involved the addition of a fountain in the central square, stone benches, a cold greenhouse and the renovation of the thoroughfares between the various sections of the garden and the woodland area.

Anozero - Coimbra Contemporary Art Biennale
Diana Policarpo investigates gender politics, economic structures, health, and interspecies relations through speculative transdisciplinary research. «Visions of Excess» is an immersive sound poem that explores the figure of the Goddess in various rituals, alternative symbols and mythological frameworks. If, on the one hand, the poem appropriates the space of Estufa Fria [Cold Greenhouse], on the other, it contaminates it, temporarily transforming the greenhouse into a space that challenges and undermines patriarchal systems of oppression.

Convent of Santa Clara-a-Nova

While in Coimbra, you must visit the Convent of Santa Clara-a-Nova, housing the tomb of the Holy Queen, Isabel de Aragão, the Patron Saint of Coimbra. The tomb was sculpted in 1330 by Master Pêro in a single limestone block. The representation of St. James, which can be found in one of the niches, as well as the pilgrim’s stick and the purse of alms, sculpted on the lying statue, witness her role of Pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela.

The Holy Queen Feasts take place in July in even-numbered years. They are the greatest sign of devotion of the city towards its Patron Saint. Queen Isabel de Aragão, married to King D. Dinis, dedicated her life helping poor people and also performing miracles. The most famous miracle became known as the "rose miracle". When asked by King D. Dinis what was she carrying in her lap, she said "Roses, Sir". But she carried bread to distribute to the poor. She allegedly transformed bread into roses. This is why during the Holy Queen Feasts rose petals fly around, as a beautiful tribute to her role as great benefactor.

Anozero - Coimbra Contemporary Art Biennale
Mediated visits by Jorge Cabrera that involve the history of the place, the curatorship axis and the art works of the Anozero'21-22 exhibition at the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova. These visits take place every Saturday at 15:00, no appointment needed.

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