Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro
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Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro information
Recently reopened, this great museum is a highlight of central Portugal. It's fitting that it has become a real centre of the local community, with people gathering to admire the views from its patio and cafe, for it's built over the Roman forum, the remains of which you can see. The artistic collection is wide-ranging and superb.
Part of the visit takes you down to the vaulted galleries of the cryptoportico that allowed the forum to be level on such a hilly site. It's spooky and immensely atmospheric. The route through the museum section starts with sculpture, from the architectural (column capitals) through Gothic religious sculpture and on. Highlights include a section of the delicate cloister of São João de Almedina and some exquisite alabaster pieces from England. Renaissance masters arriving in Coimbra from other parts of Europe brought their own styles and contributed to the establishment of a distinctive Coimbra tradition. A whole chapel has even been reassembled here. The section downstairs includes impressive 16th-century terracotta figures from Hodart's Last Supper, while paintings on the higher floors include stunning Flemish panels by Metsys. A collection of gold monstrances, furniture, and Moorish-influenced pieces are almost too much by the time you reach them.