Museu da Misericórdia

António Tavares

Chairman, Santa Casa da Misericórdia do Porto

Museu da Misericórdia

Museu da Misericórdia do Porto Rua das Flores, 15 4050-265 Porto Portugal

Porto, Portugal
Portuguese Museum Award 2016


MMIPO - Tradition and Modernity




The creation of the MMIPO - Santa Casa da Misericordia do Porto Museum and Church - in 2015, was the realization of a dream that dates back to the end of the nineteenth century, when the Count of Samodaes was Provedor. A dream that was courageously and determinedly taken over by the current Provedor, Antonio Tavares.


The main objective of this museum is to allow a better understanding of the Santa Casa da Misericordia do Porto. It is an institution with more than five centuries of existence, more precisely 518 years, with a history that cannot remain only in the Archives. The many existing histories must be recovered to increase collective memory. Not for self-exaltation, from the height of its more than five hundred years, but for visitors to realize that the Misericordia, autonomous and independent of the Powers, but stimulated by them, has been, in its geographic area of influence, a fundamental agent in the promotion of the human being, body and spirit, social and cultural.
A museum of an institution, this space is also an art museum, given the high value of the collection gathered by the Misericordia do Porto. It is also a museum of community, with an anthropological nature, because it informs visitors about philanthropic practices, religious habits and the relationship with life and death. Finally, there is something of a museum of the city, since the history of Porto, from the sixteenth century, crosses constantly with that of the Misericordia.

The tour through the museum consists of three floors and a church. It contains 10 exhibition halls, namely: History and Action; Benefactors; Painting and Sculpture; Gold and Silverware and Vestments; Church Hall; Administration; Fons Vitae: Memory; The Misericordia and a virtual city; Hall of the Arts.

The Confraternity of Santa Casa da Misericordia do Porto, like other confraternities, is an institution of solidarity and assistance that has accumulated, through the ages, legacies of numerous benefactors. The testaments were the main instrument for the granting of donations, implying counterparts to the Misericordia do Porto, the most common being the celebration of masses in the name of the deceased. Other times, the gifts were intended for the poor, the prisoners, the orphaned maidens, the street beggars and to hospitals. The Misericordia do Porto has the largest national collection of benefactors' paintings, with more than four hundred portraits.

Most of the works of painting and sculpture date from the sixteenth to eighteenth century and are signed by artists that marked the national and international art scene.

One of the most relevant is the Fons Vitae (Fountain of Life), with authorship attributed to Colijn de Coter. Dated circa 1515-1517, it is a Flemish painting of large proportions (267 x 210 cm), painted in oil over oak wood. The theme of Fons Pietatis, central in this painting, had wide spread dissemination in medieval Northern and Central Europe, linked with the "Last Judgment". It is also associated to the worship of "Holy Blood" and, from this, to other variants that gathered great devotional receptivity, as the cult of the "Holy Cross and Vera Cruz."

/Given the complexity of the subject and its association with the Royal ideology, this painting may have been commissioned in Flanders for the Misericordia do Porto.

Worship and culture are complementary dimensions in the action of the Santa Casa da Misericordia do Porto. Such complementarity is evident in the pieces exhibited in this Museum.

The collection of jewellery is connected to the order and purchase of liturgical objects to support religious celebrations.
The execution and the decoration of the vestments worn by the chaplains of the institution, also have artistic interest.
"The Misericordia and a virtual city" is a room equipped with a 4D system that presents to visitors, through new technologies, projects of the city of Oporto in the eighteenth century. It is also available an app for mobile devices with audio guides in Portuguese and English that are activated when the visitor is in front of the piece of art.

One of the assets of this museum also lies in this mixture between Tradition and Modernity, which shows an institution that projects itself into the future, having a history of 518 years.

The building that houses all this is located on an emblematic street of the historic city center that has hosted the Misericordia do Porto since 1550. The church, contiguous to the building, dates back to a similar period, having undergone an intervention in the eighteenth century, due to structural problems largely caused by the high concentration of moisture. It was conducted by the painter-architect Nicolau Nasoni, who designed the current Baroque facade, and by the engineer Manuel Alves Martins, who produced the plants for the choir.

The museological space also includes the Gallery of Benefactors, an example of the architecture of iron and glass in the city, typical of the nineteenth century.

MMIPO celebrated its second anniversary this year with a widespread recognition of its quality.
In 2016, the Portuguese Museum Association awarded to MMIPO not only the Portuguese Museum of the Year Award, but also the first place in the "Acquisition" category with the painting of Josefa de Obidos "A Sagrada Familia" and the award for best internet site.

Already this year, the MMIPO became part of the Portuguese Museum Network, obtaining accreditation for complying with the Portuguese Museums Act, which consists of the evaluation and official recognition of technical quality.
Also, TripAdvisor, the most popular and the largest online travel community in the world, with more than 32 million members and over 100 million comments and opinions, has awarded the MMIPO with the Certificate of Excellence, using the ratings supplied by the visitors, recognizing it as a tourism equipment "offering a high quality service".


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