NEAPOLITAN STATUES

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Made by Neapolitan sculptors, the statues are also lit in a dramatic way. Some are encased in plaster decorated niches at the corners under the balconies, others at the side altars in stone, all Baroque.

Coimbra, Seminário Maior.

Francesco Tamossi and Giacomo Azzolini, 1748-1765.

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RAZZLE AND DAZZLE

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The church of the Greater Seminary in Coimbra is not large, but it’s packed with theatrical devices. The plan consists of an elongated octagon as the main room, with a square chancel behind. Both have ceilings with decorative painting in perspective – the square room gets a handkerchief vault depicting a dome.

The main room receives a lantern and abundant, clerestory light. The chancel, in turn, has colored glass windows which, together with the ceiling tone, create a dramatic red glow and define it as a background scene. Both have balconies at a higher level, and in the octagonal hall they are oversized and boldly Baroque, one at each of the four diagonal corners.

The main altarpiece was made in Genoa. Directly facing it over the main door, the organ case takes over the entire bay, and spills into the Architecture as a floating, lively element.

In short, the whole is robust, sensorial and fun, and one of the most interesting interior spaces in Portugal.

Coimbra, Seminário Maior.

Francesco Tamossi and Giacomo Azzolini, 1748-1765.

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ENTRY ARCH

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The rusticated, arched entry to the Seminário’s Old House is a monumental High Classical composition, fully developed in detailing. The gates, in iron and bronze, were imported from Bologna and like the rest belong to a practically unheard-of model in Coimbra.

Coimbra, Seminário Maior.

Francesco Tamossi and Giacomo Azzolini, 1748-1765.

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BAROQUE DORIC

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The two side buildings flanking the Seminário were built in the late 1800s, and are almost Palladian in their configuration. Surely someone was looking at the Quattro Libri when detailing the Doric portico; not so much for the windows and balusters, which still refer to the main, older building. The proportions are serene and Classical and note how the imposts at the ground floor arched windows match the ones at the main door.

Easily enough, they were called Casa Nova and Casa Novíssima (the “New House” and the “Newer”) according to the order of construction, and so the central received the moniker Casa Velha, “Old House”.

Coimbra, Seminário Maior.

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BOTANICAL GATE

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The gate to the Seminar grounds was also built in the 19th c., and replicates the Botanical Garden’s right across the street. Note the graceful ironwork in contrast to the heavy, rusticated stone.

Coimbra, Seminário Maior.

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FOUR PYRAMIDS

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Another wonderful and bizarre element in the Seminário is the four-way crossing which splits the base circle into four “lakes”. With no other function than to delight (in fact it was probably made to be seen while you circled around inside your coach) it has an allegorical statue on each of the corners atop a pyramidal base.

The vocabulary is borrowed from the main building, but the realization didn’t happen until much later, in the middle of the 19th c., and already by Portuguese hands. It is entirely fitting in the fantastical style of the complex though, and wonderfully whimsical in its own way.

Coimbra, Seminário Maior.

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