Image by islavicek Shutterstock
The Museu da Misericórdia do Porto harmoniously unites cutting-edge architecture, a prized collection of 15th- to 17th-century sacred art and portraiture, and one of Ribeira’s finest churches, Igreja da Misericórdia. Bearing the hallmark of Italian baroque architect Nicolau Nasoni, the church's interior is adorned with blue-and-white azulejos (hand-painted tiles). The museum’s biggest stunner is the large-scale Flemish Renaissance painting Fons Vitae (Fountain of Life), depicting Dom Manuel I and family around a fountain of blood from the crucified Christ.
The museum centres on a sky-lit atrium, and a visit begins on the 3rd floor, gradually working down to the church (be sure to get a photogenic glimpse of it from the gallery). It showcases an impressive stash of religious art, most of which has ties to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia (Holy House of Our Lady of Mercy), founded in 1499 by order of Dom Manuel I. This charitable organisation cared for the infirm, sick and poor for 500 years. On display are portraits of its benefactors, lab equipment (including electroshock apparatus to treat psychiatric disorders), and the treasures it amassed over centuries – sculpture, glass- and silverware, liturgical vestments etc.
The ultimate tribute to this old-meets-new medley is Portuguese artist Rui Chafes' eye-catching, curvaceous iron sculpture My Blood is Your Blood (2015), which hooks through the building to the facade.