On 23rd May 1905, the Museum was inaugurated due to the efforts of Queen Amélia of Orleans and Bragança, a lady of great sophistication, who was quite aware of the cultural value of the Royal House’s ceremonial vehicles.
Exhibiting Coaches, Berlins, Carriages, Chaises, Cabriolets, Litters, Sedan Chairs and Children’s Carts, the Museum allows the visitor to understand the technical and artistic evolution of the means of transport used by the European courts until the appearance of the automobile.
On 23rd May 2015 the Museum expanded to a new building emerging, not only, as a cultural site but also as a public utility space. In the words of the architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha “the Museum has no doors and relates to all of its surroundings”. The project is more than a museum; in the end it functions as an urban infrastructure providing a new public space for the city.
The new Coach Museum building comprises a suspended nave with the exhibition galleries and an annex with the working areas, connected by an overpass, enabling circulation from one building to the other. The new Museum encompasses premises for the permanent and temporary exhibitions, reception halls for rental, and a workshop for conservation and restoration, a contribution towards the development of conservation and restoration activities of this unique legacy.
New spaces have been provided for the Library and the Archive, as well as an Auditorium, which will allow for the organization of a number of cultural activities that will greatly improve the scope of the program provided by the museum to the public.
To accommodate visitors, restaurant services, a Museum Shop and a Tourist Information centre have been projected.
The building, the former royal riding school of the Belém Palace, was adapted to a museum in the first years of the 20th century. The National Coach Museum contains a remarkable collection of old aristocratic vehicles of the portuguese Royal House along with their respective accessories and a gallery with the portraits of the kings from the Bragança House, some from the 17th century.
In 1726 King João V bought the the Palace of Belém and a Riding Arena from the 3rd Count of Aveiras. It was located by the Tejo River in the pleasant neighbourhood of Belém in the western part of Lisbon where there were a number of aristocratic houses. In 1786 Prince João, future King João VI, a great devotee of the Equestrian Arts, had the old Riding Arena torn down in order to build the current structure.
The highlight of the neo-Classical style building, designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Azzolini is the large main hall that is 50 m long and 17 m wide. At the upper part of the two-storey hall runs a gallery with columns, intended to allow the Royal Family and Court to watch the equestrian games.
Elements linked to the equestrian arts are dominant among the decorative motifs used in all the ceiling and panel decoration on the upper part of the Hall.The allegorical scenes painted on canvas in the three large oval medallions on the ceiling of the Riding Arena are noteworthy: in the first, figures a knight symbolizing Portugal with four female figures representing the continents. These are easily identifiable by the animal that accompanies them: the horse for Europe, the camel for Asia, the crocodile for Africa and the parrot for America, respectively.
In the central medallion a female figure wearing a crown holds the horn of Abundance, symbolising peace and prosperity for the kingdom. In the third medallion the allegory of war is suggested by the figure carrying a lance and shield and wearing a helmet. He is riding in a chariot pulled by lions with the female figure of Victory next to it.
In 1904, under the direction of Rosendo Carvalheira, architect for the Royal Palaces, the Riding Arena was adapted into a museum. The paintings were then restored by the artists José Malhoa and António Conceição e Silva. Later, in 1940, a new project directed by the architect Raul Lino would allow the enlargement of the exhibition area with the construction of a new side hall. Between 1999 and 2001, the restoration of the roof area of the building was carried out, in addition to the remodelling of the side hall ceiling, giving the building its current appearance.
Bilhete Coches (Picadeiro Real + MNC) 8,00 EUR