Museum opening hours: Temporariamente encerrado para obras de requalificação

Side-panels from the chancel of the church of the Convento de Santa Clara


Side-panels from the chancel of the church of the Convento de Santa Clara

Author: Ambrósio Coelho (carving) and Manuel Gomes de Andrade (gilding and painting)

Date: 18th century (carving – 1731 – 32; gilding and painting – 1733)

Material: Polychromed gesso on wood

Dimensions (cm): H 530 x W 785 x D 40

Provenance: Guimarães, chancel of the church of the Convento de Santa Clara

Inventory No.: MAS E 14

These side-panels are decorated with acanthus leaves, naked children, shells, birds, vases, garlands and feathers.

The Baroque woodcarving coming from the church of Saint Clare derives from the profound transformation and renewal of the interior of this conventual space that took place in 1731 and 1739. These works included a big campaign of artistic renewal that accompanied the architectonic transformation of the building: some spaces were added (namely the chancel, the house of the infirmary and the sacristy) because of the growing number of nuns and also because of the availability of financial resources.

The woodcarving that remains from the chancel of the church of the Convento de Santa Clara shows how Guimarães artists assimilated the erudite language of the period of Dom João IV while retaining an archaic interpretation of the national Baroque present in the decorative themes employed, thereby creating outlines of great originality.

These side-panels that can be seen in the museum were acquired by its first director, Alfredo Guimarães, to the Comissão de Melhoramento da Penha, which had in turn acquired them in 1924, in the public auction organized by the Comissão Central de Execução da Lei de Separação.

The Convento de Santa Clara, nowadays occupied by the services of the Câmara Municipal de Guimarães, was founded by Canon Baltazar de Andrade, school-master of the Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, in the 16th century. This convent of nuns of Saint Clare was one of the most important and richest convents in the town of Guimarães and it became famous by the delicious sweets the nuns made: the toucinho-do-céu and the tortas de Guimarães, the traditional sweets of Guimarães.

The extinction of this female monastic institution is announced by the law of 1834, but only in 1891, with the death of the last nun, was this convent extinguished and did it become national property. In 1893, this building was given to the Colegiada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira that installed there the Seminário de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, which, in 1896, was transformed into Liceu Nacional. In the 1950s, the Liceu occupied other facilities and, in 1968, the main services of the Câmara Municipal de Guimarães were installed there. In 1973, in the place previously occupied by the church of the convent, the Arquivo Municipal Alfredo Pimenta was installed and there it remained until June 2003. After this date, the old conventual church underwent requalification works, having been kept, in terms of architecture, some details testifying to the space as a place of cult. Nowadays it houses the services that offer assistance to the townspeople.