28 Exquisite coaches of the National Coach museum Lisbon
Exquisite coaches (horse drawn carriages) of the National Coach museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) in Belem Lisbon, Portugal. Why visiting this museum is a must!
28 exquisite coaches of the National Coaches museum
What is the National Coach Museum of Portugal (Museu Nacional dos Coches).
The National Coach Museum hosts over a 100 horse-drawn vehicles, called coaches (carriages), that were in service of transporting people in style from 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century (the first cars).
This extensive collection includes coaches, berlins, chariots, phaetons, mail cars, sedan chairs and other carriages—all of which are uniquely looking, and some were lavishly decorated in Baroque style.
It’s one of the largest and the most valuable collections of its type in the world and a must see!
The Coach Museum was an initiative of Queen Amélia de Orléans e Bragança, wife of King D. Carlos I. She established Museu Nacional dos Coches in 1905 in a 18th-century neoclassical style building, the Royal Riding Hall of Belém, designed by Italian architect Giacomo Azzolini. That Hall of Belem was a part of Belem Palace, displaying the stunning wealth of the old Portuguese elite.
On its 110th anniversary, in 2015, it was moved across the street, to a new modern building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. The new premises made it possible to display accessories and carriages that weren’t previously shown for the lack of space.
Why you should visit National Coaches Museum?
The museum is quite an exciting experience for someone with vivid imagination and fascination with history. I can tell now that I have practically touched the coach in which Pope Clement XI traveled in 1715, which is pretty exciting for anyone who either has interest in history or grew up on Alexandre Dumas The Three Musketeers books!
I don’t know if the actual touching was allowed in the museum or not, as I didn’t really want to be kicked out of there😊, but I WAS close enough to touch… which was quite an experience!
Besides the historical value, it’s just fun to mentally try all the coaches on for yourself to find the right fit for you.
I absolutely loved “having” some coaches and imagined all the fun things we (the coach and me) have done together… 😊
While others made me cringe and I mentally “sent” them to my neighbors (! I can be generous at times! 😉), as I had no desire to set a foot in any of them.
What You Will See at the National Coach Museum.
Let me walk you through some of my most favorite and the least favorite. Imagine YOURSELF trying them on. I am curious if you will agree with my assessments of the coaches or disagree?
When you enter, you notice a collection of “slightly”… OK, A LOT over-the-top coaches! 😊
That is because the coaches in the museum are displayed in a chronological order and it looks like people in 17-18th centuries had an interesting notion that their coaches should look like their paintings? So that they assembled different golden God’s, Goddess, and family symbols together, put all that extravaganza on wheels to form a family or the nation glorifying story that weighed 2 tons? And just as an afterthought added a cabin to transport people, and named it—a coach? 😊
The historians later called it Baroque Italian style and invited smart words like “exuberant gilt woodwork, etc.”. 😊
Like this one…
1716 Ocean coach.
Ocean coach was a part of the set of 5 thematic and 10 accompanying carriages that made up the procession of the Embassy to Pope Clement XI, sent to Rome by King João V in 1716.
So let me explain what I mean by ‘their coaches were very similar to their paintings’.
All 16 coaches in that procession had massive statues with different representation of national history and accomplishments at the front and back of their carriages.
I was surprised to notice Summer and Spring placed at the BACK of Ocean coach, while Autumn and Winter were sent to the front… I would assume that such wonderful seasons would be proudly put at the front, while Autumn and Winter with its dark days sent to the back, where they belong? ;)… but maybe it’s because one can hardly see the front behind the horses, while the back shines in all its glory? I’ll stick to this story! :)
But the official story is this - the scene on the back of Ocean coach is a representation of a chapter in Portuguese history, with Apollo, surrounded by statues of Summer and Spring, and with two old men at his feet, representing Atlantic and Indian ocean. The historic reference here is the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope.
Cape of Good Hope is rocky headland at the southern end of Cape Peninsula in South Africa about 50 km from Cape town. It was discovered for Europeans by Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Dias at the end of 15th century on his return voyage to Portugal after exploring the southern parts of the African continent. He gave it that name because the discovery was a good sign that India could be reached by sea from Europe.
That was a wonderful discovery, indeed, but did it belong on a coach and did it need to weigh a ton? Well, I am sure a historian will have a different from my opinion! 😊 But regardless of the possible taste disagreement, these couches are still something very unusual and fun to see!
I will not cover the rest of 15 coaches of that procession (and not all of them exist now), but there is another interesting one.
1716 Ambassador's Coach
In this coach the ambassador D. Rodrigo Anes de Sá Menezes, Marquis de Fontes, entered Rome.
This is what I call “the equivalent of the modern billionaires ‘whose-rocket-is-larger’ competition”. 😉 But it makes for an interesting looking exemplar, so I am all for it! :)
OK, now that we are done with the overly lavish carriages, let’s see what other coaches are there.
Visiting the National Coach Museum in Lisbon, Portugal.
Late 16th century Philip II's Coach
This rare example of a royal vehicle is the oldest coach in the Museum's collection. It belonged to King Philip II of Portugal, who used it on his visit to Portugal in 1619.
Inside King Philip II of Portugal coach.
Looks at this fabric, it's SO old!!! It feels very special looking at it up close!
An Interesting fact:
Do you know that King Philip II of Portugal was ALSO!.. King Philip III of Spain? But that double role was not enough, I guess? So he also became the King of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia, and Duke of Milan from 1598 until his death in 1621! I think this officially makes him the most greedy-for-the-titles King ever! 😉
1715 Pope Clement XI's Coach
This couch was offered to King João V (John the 5th) by the Pope for the baptism of the first-born prince, José.
1715 Pope Clement XI's Coach up close.
The red fabric is very impressive! It oozes centuries, history, power, intrigues and crimes!
While you can't help feeling that you are, perhaps, on a set in Hollywood around many coaches, this one somehow made it feel real for me!
18TH century Coach of the "Palhavã Boys"
This coach was built for the children of Palhavã ( Meninos de Palhavã), the 3 male natural sons of King John V of Portugal (1706–1750), Infantes D. António, D. Gaspar and D. José, which were recognised by the monarch in an official document, found after the King’s death.
The expression comes from the fact these three children had lived in the palace in the Palhavã area, which in those times was outside Lisbon. Today this building is occupied by the Spanish Embassy as the House of the Spanish Ambassador and this building is within the city limits.
An interesting fact:
If you think, how sweet, even though the King was unfaithful to his Queen and had kids to prove it, at least he was with the same woman long enough to produce 3 boys with her... uh... wrong! :) All 3 boys were from different mothers! They all got a great education and D. Antonio became a Doctor in Theology and later knight of the Order of Christ; D. Gaspar became archbishop of Braga. And D. Jose became… General Inquisitor of Portugal!... ☹
18TH century Infants' Coach
This was a state vehicle used by Infantas D. Maria Francisca, which later became known as D. Maria I, who had to flee to Brasilia, and I have a story about here later in this post; D. Maria Ana, D. Maria Francisca Doroteia and D. Maria Francisca Benedita, daughters of King D. José I.
18 century coach for Marriage of D. Maria I.
This coach was used by Queen D. Maria I, and the Royal Portuguese Arms were painted on it.
An interesting fact:
Dona Maria I ( 1734 – 1816) was Queen of Portugal from 1777 until her death in 1816. She was also one of the infants in the Infant coach I was mentioning about). She was known as Maria the Pious in Portugal and Maria the Mad in Brazil (she developed a mental illness quite early on), and was the first undisputed queen regnant of Portugal, and the first monarch of Brazil.
With Napoleon's European conquests, her court, then under the influence of her son João, the Prince Regent, had to move to Brazil in 1807. Back then Brazil was still a Portuguese colony. Later on, Brazil was elevated from the rank of a colony to that of a kingdom, with the consequential formation of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarve.
1834 Coach of D. Maria II.
This is apparatus vehicle. It was commissioned by the Portuguese Royal House.
I have to say I was eyeing this one, I am pretty sure I would have enjoyed rides there! I probably would have enjoyed being a member of the Portuguese Royal house as well! 😉 On the other hand, they had no Internet…. So, probably not!:)
1834 Landau of D. Pedro V.
This is another one I would have most likely enjoyed owning. Would you?
Is is also an apparatus vehicle. I think it’s quite a stylish one. I might have even gotten this one, instead of the yellow coach of D. Maria II. Actually, the red coach below is even better!
Which one do you like more?
End of 18TH century Sunglasses coach.
Travel vehicle with two wheels and two seats. It looks… interesting...hm... 😊
The beginning of 19TH century Bed Berliner
This coach was actually a car for sleeping! (No wonder my check spelling keeps trying to spell this as a couch, not coach! 😉) It could be used as an open car, as it had a removable roof. The benches could be folded down on a platform to make a room for a bed. And it even had an evacuation door underneath for escaping! This car was suitable to be used for long-haul.
18TH century Berliner of the Royal House
Apparatus vehicle acquired by the Portuguese Royal House, presumably from the Lencastre and Meneses houses, as the coach has their Portuguese royal arms painted on it.
I would definitely enjoy owning this one!:)
19TH c. Gala Carriage
1824 Crown Carriage
Apparatus vehicle. Commissioned in London for King João VI, by the Count of Póvoa, then Minister of Finance.
The coach was changed for the coronation of King D. Carlos and was used for the last time in 1957, when Queen Elizabeth II visited Lisbon.
1824 Crown Carriage with horses
Char-à-bancs. It was commissioned by Queen D. Maria II. It’s last user was King D. Carlos, whose monogram was painted on the car. This vehicle was intended for country trips or for transporting hunters and companions.
We are entering a display of prototypes of the modern cars here!
19TH century Hunting car.
When I first saw this car, I told myself that if this coach was made for transporting hunters, AND their dogs, and weapons as was stated on the explanatory plate, then both hunters and their dogs must have been VERY skinny! I mean – if they all could fit into this coach?!... No wonder they went hunting, they were constantly hungry, poor things!:)
However, further research clarified that dogs were kept in the under-seat boxes, with breathing holes. The mystery solved!:)
19th century hunting car
This was a state vehicle built for the use of the Patriarchs of Lisbon. It also served as a field vehicle intended to transport hunters with their dogs and weapons.
A very cool looking car!:)
This passenger car owes its name to Queen Victoria of England. It belonged to the Viscount of the Court.
I think this couch looks like a photographer’s car. Doesn’t it look like something to do with photography, or is it just me? 😊
This one has an unusual design, because the service personal was riding in the back, while the owner was riding in the front and controlled the horse. The service people were employed for taking care of the horse, when the owner was not riding.
1854 Mail coach.
Travel vehicle for transporting the mail. It is made up of three parts: a coupé at the front, a roundabout or berlin at the rear and, in the center, a mailbox for the post office.
I guess you can call it a modern version of a long-distance 18-wheeler, where a truck driver can sleep?
19TH century Trousers
Commissioned by the Royal Family, it passed in 1910 to the service of the Presidency of the Republic.
It had a convertible hood and the rider could sleep there, very neat!
This city car was given to D.Maria Pia, the wife of King D. Luis I, by her father King Vitor Emanuel II of Italy.
Demise of coaches.
Carriages and coaches began to disappear in XX century as use of steam pressure began to generate more and more interest and research. Steam power won!
Nowadays, carriages are still used for day-to-day transport in the United States by some minority groups such as the Amish. They are also still used in tourism as vehicles for sightseeing in cities around Europe, New Orleans, and Little Rock, Arkansas.
I, personally, think it is time to retire horse drawn carriages altogether. Horses should be pets only nowadays. Whenever I see very sad looking horses somewhere in Europe, I always stop by to talk.
Thank you for reading. I have spent a great number of hours reading on the subject and I feel very connected to the topic now!:) And the coaches are so gorgeous! I hope you will visit and see for yourself! Let me know on social media which coaches you loved the most, I would be interested to hear that!
Keep in mind that they open up at 10 am! So maybe go to another attraction in Belem first, or visit the famous Pasteis de Belem for the best Pastels de Nata in town! https://pasteisdebelem.pt/en/history/delicious
Location and Hours of The National Coach Museum:
Praça Afonso de Albuquerque, 1300. Belém.
Tuesday through Sunday: 10am to 6pm.
Closed: January 1st, May 1st, Easter Sunday, June 13th, 24th and 25th December.
Price for admission to National Coach Museum:
Adults: € 8 (US$ 9.50)
Children (under12 years old): free
First Sunday of every month: free
Lisboa Card: free
Transport to The National Coach Museum:
Tram: line 15.
Bus: lines 14, 27, 28, 29, 43, 49 and 51.
Train: Belem, Cascáis Line.
Lisboa Card: free
Belém Tower (1.4 km)
Jerónimos Monastery (547 m)
Archaeology Museum (643 m)
Monument to the Discoveries in Lisbon (681 m)
More about carriages history can be found here:
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