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Church and Convent of Pópulo

Church and Convent of Pópulo

The construction of the Convent of Pópulo (Convento do Pópulo) began in the year 1596, by order of the Archbishop D. Frei Agostinho de Jesus who intended to have a place worthy of his grave, reserving for this purpose the presbytery of the future church of Our Lady of the Consolation (Nossa Senhora da Consolação), which he gave, together with the convent dependencies, to the religious of his own Order, the St. Augustine Hermits. The resulting building of the first work campaign is what we still know today, although the many changes the XVIII century has imposed. In reality, the church shows a mannerist architectural structure, presenting a single aisle (with endo narthex), covered by a barrel vault with stone crates, with three lateral and interconnected chapels, intern elevations of two registers separated by a frieze and rhythm marked by pillars with a chapter of the Tuscan order, and deep presbytery, with coffered ceiling. However, the baroque intervention has given another dynamic to this space, taking advantage of the altars and crown molding in gold carving and the conjugation with the blue and with glows of the tiles that cover the totality of the walls. Every altarpiece match to the plain baroque or national style, except the Our Lady of Sorrows (Nossa Senhora das Dores), that already incorporates neoclassical elements, and is, as the one of Our Lady of Conception (Nossa Senhora da Conceição), attributed to the carver from Braga, Marceliano de Araújo (FERREIRA-ALVES, 1989, p. 38). A situation that repeats itself in the main altarpiece, where the conjugation of a rococo and neoclassical language in wide golden and polychromatic structure that figures, in the tribune, the image of Our Lady of Pópulo (Nossa Senhora do Pópulo).

In turn, the tiles illustrate various themes, according to the local invocation where they’re placed. In the main chapel, the panels mention episodes of St. Augustine’s life (c. 1730); in the Holy Trinity Chapel (Capela da Santíssima Trindade) they represent Veronica and Moses and the bronze serpent; in the chapel they allude to episodes of the lives of the saints whom they’re dedicated to; in the entrance again references to the life of St. Augustine; in the old Chapel of Our Lady of Penha (Capela Nossa Senhora da Penha) two episodes related to the corteges where figures the Order’s flag and, lastly, in the superior registry of the aisle walls, 16 saints of the Order. Special mention should be given to one panel of St. Apolónia Chapel (Capela de Sta. Apolónia) because it is signed by António de Oliveira Bernardes, to whom is also attributed the Covering of St. Rita’s chapel (Capela de Santa Rita) (SIMÕES, 1979, p. 99; MECO, 1986, p. 224).

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