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Museum of Sacred Art




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The Museum of Sacred Art (Museu de Arte Sacra do Funchal) is housed in the what used to be the Old Episcopal Court of Funchal, in Rua do Bispo (Bishop's Road). The museum was first opened to the public in 1955.

The museum building was edified over two significant periods: in the sixteenth century - when the "São Luis" or Saint Louis chapel was built along with the balcony and arches that face the "Praça do Município"; the second period - during the reconstruction process in the eighteenth century after the 1748 earthquake. Between 1942 and 1955 significant adaptations and changes were made to the building's structure to accommodate the new museum with its valuable cache of paintings, sculptures and jewellery collected from many of the churches and chapels of the local diocese.

Most of the pieces on display are from the sixteenth through to the seventeenth centuries, including Portuguese, Flemish, and Madeiran influences.

It is the paintings that attract most the attention of visitors to the museum: for it is here that the art enthusiast will be able to find one of the most complete single collections of painted wooden boards of the Flemish School of Art. How did such a wealth of valuable Flemish works of art arrive in such a short time on the distant shores of Madeira in the sixteenth century? The answer lies in the immense wealth created on the island from the sugar cane production of the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. Immense fortunes were made as sugar was a valuable and much sought after commodity in Europe. The moneys amassed by individuals and companies made it possible for them to donate many of their purchased works of art to the church. Alternatively, the Catholic church received the financial contributions directly and purchased or ordered the ecclesiastical works themselves.

The great centres for the production of these remarkable works of art included Bruges and Antwerp. However, many important examples of works of art from other centres of production are also on display: including Lisbon and areas that now form part of Germany. The Portuguese collection of art works includes the valuable gold-plated silver processional cross donated by King Manuel I of Portugal. They now stand in great splendour for the general public to view and enthuse over.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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