Museu Carlos Machado (Carlos Machado Museum) is the largest museum in the Azores and covers a diverse array of topics including natural history, ethnology, and art.
The museum was created by the naturalist Dr. Carlos Machado in 1876. However, it did not open to the public until 1888 at the Liceu Nacional de Ponta Delgada. It was orginally a natural history museum but over the years that followed it expanded into other area. The art collection was begun in 1912 and focused on religious works.
In 1930, the museum moved into a complex of buildings that had formerly been the St. Andrews convent. The collection of sacred art was moved to the nearby Jesuit College church in 2006. In 2010, the museum opened the Santa Barbara Center adjacent to the convent. That space is used for temporary exhibitions including art exhibitions. Thus, the museum now has three centers, two of which are used for art on a permanent or temporary basis.
The Nucleo de Arte Sacra is the largest of the art centers. It is housed in the former All Saints Church, more popularly known as the Jesuits College Church, a building with an elaborate Baroque facade made from volcanic stone.
The Jesuits came to the Azores and founded a college in Ponta Delgada in the 16th century. In 1760, the Jesuits were banished from island. Their church continued to hold services until 1800. For the next 139 years, the building was in private hands. It was then donated to the City Council of Ponta Delgada, which approved plans to make it into a center for the Carlos Machado's collection of sacred art.
The most striking work in the center is the elaborate woodcarving in the chantel. Begun in 1737, only a portion had been gilded by the time the Jesuits were expelled. As a result, these enormous and detailed carvings are wood colored.
Just below the carvings are two 18th century tiled panels, each five meters high. They depict the biblical accounts “The Transportation of the Bunch of Grapes” and “The Fall From the Manna.”
There are also several paintings in the center. The most important of these is the “Coronation of the Virgin” by the Portuguese painter Vasco Pereira Lusitano done in 1604. It was discovered beneath another lesser painting when the panel was sent to Portugal for restoration.
The exterior of the Santa Barbara Center recalls the traditional architecture of the adjacent convent. However, the interior contains modern exhibition space. Thi space is used for temporary exhibitions including exhibits of modern sculpture and non-religious works.
For information about visiting, see the Museu Carlos Machado's website.
Above: The Center for Sacred Art.
Below: The Santa Barbara Center.
Places to see art - - Ponta Delgado, Azores - - Carlos Machado Museum