When visiting the Navy Museum in Lisbon one is immediately carried back into the universe of the Portuguese Discoveries. But this is not all there to see in this unique place, installed in the west and north wings of the Jerónimos Monastery, an architectural complex classified as World Heritage site by UNESCO
By Margarida Lobato Lopes
The last time the Royal Barge crossed the waters of the Tagus River, in 1957, it had aboard a very special guest – Queen Elizabeth II, on her official visit to Portugal. The 200-year-old boat, constructed to serve the betrothal of Prince João (later King João VI) to the Spanish Infanta Carlota Joaquina, is considered to be a unique piece of naval archeology. It is now on exhibition in the Navy Museum, in Lisbon.
Open to the public since 1962, the museum assembles a collection of testimonies related to Portugal’s maritime activity. In the entrance, a huge statue of Prince Henry, the Navigator, welcomes you to a place where memories of the Portuguese Discoveries are almost everywhere.
The museum showcases are filled with all kind of caravels, frigates and galleons’ models. You can also find the remains of a pepper wreck, presumably Nossa Senhora dos Mártires, lost on 15 September 1606, when returning from Cochin, in India. Plates, pots, panels, earrings and instruments related to navigation, such as astrolabes, are among the pieces found near São Julião da Barra fortress, an important graveyard of shipwrecks.
When visiting the museum, you should not miss the Yacht Amélia room. Due to historical circumstances, the “Amélia” has become one of the most emblematic Portuguese vessels. Acquired by King Carlos I (1863-1908), considered to be a world renowned scientist in oceanographic research, to meet the needs of his scientific surveys, it would become the boat that transported his son King Manuel II into exile, when the Republicans took over in Portugal.
In this room you can see the cabins used by King Carlos and Queen Amélia, preserved after the dismantling of the yacht in 1938, as well as several pieces of furniture, china, crystal and cutlery used aboard.
The barges pavilion
The Royal Barge can be seen among other boats of its kind in a special pavilion. Also impressive are the Big Barge – the oldest Portuguese boat of this type kept up to this date -, built in 1728 by order of King João V for his own use, King Luís’ cutter or Prince Miguel’s barge.
The pavilion also houses the original Fairey 17 “Santa Cruz”, the single engine hydroplane that in 1922 made the first Southern Atlantic Crossing, piloted by Portuguese aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral.
This astonishing room leads to the end of the visit, where you can find a shop, with a great variety of books related to maritime activity, and the museum cafeteria.
The Navy Museum, which also has special sections dedicated to fishing and pleasure boats, is installed in the west and north wings of the Jerónimos Monastery, an architectural complex classified as World Heritage site by UNESCO.
The major pieces
The Royal Barge and the Yatch Amélia’s King and Queen’s cabins are definitely the pieces you should not miss when visiting the Navy Museum.
The Royal Barge
Queen Mary I ordered the construction of one of the most beautiful and imposing royal barges known today. It presents a unique gilt work by the artist Manuel Vieira. The decoration also includes pinnacles, mouldings, caryatids, rosettes and sashes preciously prepared. In the back of the dressing room, you can see a stunning painting by Pedro Alexandrino de Carvalho. The Royal Barge is under permanent maintenance in order to preserve its structure, paintings and carvings.
Yatch Amélia’s cabins
In the most genuine English style, the cabins offered a cozy and private ambience, even on a ship that did not exceed 70m in length. Personal items, tables and desk provide an almost intrusive look on the intimate life of the Portuguese Royal Family.
InformationAddress: Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa
Tel.: +351 21 362 00 19
Fax: +351 21 363 19 87
Tickets€4 (ask for discount admissions)
From 10am to 5pm (1 October / 30 April)
From 10:00 to 18:00 (1 May / 30 September)
Getting to the MuseumBus: 714, 727, 28, 729, 751 e 201
Train: Linha de Cascais (Estação de Belém)
Boat: Estação Fluvial de Belém