Royal Riding Stables, National Coach Museum, Portugal

The National Coach Museum is located on the Afonso de Albuquerque Square in the Belém district of Lisbon in Portugal. The museum has one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world and is one of the most visited museums of the city.

In 1726, King D. João V bought the “Quinta de Baixo”, located by the Tagus River in the pleasant term of Belém, in the west of Lisbon, where there were several noble houses, including the Belém Palace and a Picadeiro.. Sixty years later, the primitive riding arena was destroyed and the following year was erected the current, for infant’s initiative D. John, the future King John VI, great enthusiast of the equestrian. This neoclassical project, attributed to the Italian architect Giacomo Azzolini, shows the main hall (51m x 17m), with two floors, which features on the top floor two narrow galleries with colonnades topped by two tribunes, where once the Family Real and the Court watched the equestrian games. Between 1792 and 1799, the painters Francisco de Setúbal, Francisco José de Oliveira, Joaquim Lopes participated in the interior decoration of the Old Picadier.said “the Bugre” and the Frenchman Nicolau Delerive. In the ornamental motifs used in the decoration of the ceiling and panels of the tops of the hall, elements linked to equestrian art predominate. Stand out on the ceiling in painted canvas, three large oval medallions with allegorical scenes.

In 1786 the old riding arena was torn down and a new riding school was built in its place, by order of Prince João, future King João VI, son of Queen Maria I and King Pedro III, a great enthusiast of Equestrian Art.

Construction works at the Royal Riding School began in 1787, and although the structure of the building was ready a year later, the exterior and interior decorations continued well into 1828.

The neoclassical style project attributed to the Italian architect Giacomo Azzolini, features a grand hall that is 50 m long and 17 m wide, with two floors. On the top floor there are grandstands connected by two narrow galleries with columns, for the Royal Family and the Portuguese Court to watch the equestrian games

In 1791 Francisco José da Costa provided the panels of azulejos (painted, glazed tiles) that decorated the tribunes. In 1793 the interior balustrade that surrounds the hall, work of the engraver Gonçalo José, was put in.

Between 1792 and 1799, the painters Francisco de Setúbal, Francisco José de Oliveira, Joaquim José Lopes, called “the Bugre”, and the Frenchman Nicolau Delerive, among others, worked on the interior decoration.

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 1904, when the Picadeiro was adapted to the Museum, works were carried out under the guidance of Rosendo Carvalheira, architect of the Royal Palaces, and the paintings were restored by painters José Malhoa and António Conceição e Silva. On May 23, 1905, the ‘Museu dos Coches Reaes’ was opened to the public in Lisbon, at the initiative of Queen D. Amélia d’Orleães e Bragança. Years later, in 1940, a new campaign led by the architect Raul Lino took place, which allowed the expansion of the exhibition area with the construction of a new Side Hall although the lack of space still made itself felt. To address this problem, the State Secretariat of Culture acquired in 1994 the former Army General Offices in Belém to construct a new building for the National Coach Museum. It currently remains in the space of the Old Picadier, a visitable nucleus with coaches and marbles, the royal family’s painting gallery, as well as a set of cavalry accessories.

Work was carried out under the direction of Rosendo Carvalheira, architect for the Royal Palaces, to modify the riding arena into a museum. The artists José Malhoa and António Conceição e Silva restored the paintings at that time.

In 1911 the museum changes its name to National Coach Museum.

In 1944, a new hall designed by the architect Raul Lino is inaugurated, allowing for the exhibition of more vehicles, although, not yet the full collection, as the lack of space continued to be a problem.

In memory of the extraordinary work, initiated by Queen Amélia, which has protected the legacy of the horse-drawn vehicles, the Old Riding School will continue to accommodate an exhibition nucleus with coaches, berlins, the portrait gallery of the Royal Family of the Bragança dynasty, as well as, a number of cavalry accessories related to the Equestrian Arts.


Collection History
The Museum brings together a unique collection in the world of gala cars or apparatuses, some traveling and traveling, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, mostly from the Portuguese Royal House, to which vehicles from the Church’s property and collections were added. private, after the establishment of the Republic in 1910. This excellent set of vehicles allows the visitor to understand the technical and artistic evolution of the means of transport of animal traction, used by the European courts until the appearance of the car. The collection includes coaches, sedans, wagons, carriages, strollers, strollers, littersand car seats. Complete the collection, shooting and cavalry harness, car accessories, uniforms, musical instruments, an armory core and oil portraits of the monarchs of the House of Bragança.

When in 1905 the Royal Coach Museum opened its doors, the collection consisted only of pieces belonging to the Crown Goods, collected in various warehouses, stables and stables of the Royal Palaces of Belém, Ajuda and Necessidades. Later, members of the Royal Family enriched the collection with museum-related objects, where they were deposited indefinitely. This collection includes some exotic harnesses such as a Mexican hunting harness (in silver), two Algerian harnesses – offered to Queen D. Amelia by Colonel Ben-Daoud -, a gaúcha saddle (Brazilian), a harness with silver applications, offered to D. Carlosby the president of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, an Indian harness (Goa) offered in 1872 by the Hindu Chief of the Sinai Dempó family to Infante D. Augusto son of D. Maria II, and also pieces of Moroccan harness offered by the Sultan of Morocco Muley Hassam to king D. Luis, along with Arabian horses, in 1878.

In 1911, under the Law of Separation of State and Church, pieces from the old convents and religious houses began to enter the Museum. Later, and thanks to the policy of acquisition and personal offers, in the direction of Luciano Freire the Museum began to have a significant collection of drawings, prints and graphic material in which studies and designs for vehicles predominate. At the same time, in 1912, the first oil portraits of the Portuguese royal family were incorporated into the MNC collection – D. Catarina de Bragança who married King Charles II of England, D. João V, D. Maria Ana of Austria, Prince D. Joséand D. Maria I – from the Patriarchal Palace of S. Vicente de Fora, along with eight coaches and marbles from the former Patriarchs. In just two years the royal series has seen a huge increase giving rise to the current portrait gallery of the Braganza dynasty, owners of some of the luxury cars in the collection.

An important nucleus are the uniforms and clothing accessories of high officials of the Court, the Royal Guard, and the Royal House servants who were part of the royal processions and ceremonies, coming almost entirely from the Palace of Necessities in 1913, and including six Tabardos of the Kings-of-Arms and their necklaces with D. José’s weapons, six maces – in solid silver – of the Gatekeepers of the Mace, twenty-two Trumpets of the Royal Charamela, some of which with the corresponding banners, sixteen halberds of the reigns of D. José, D. Maria I and D. João VI, an ivory pole (symbol of royal power), designated by Negrinha, four timpani skirts, a royal pavilion and a cover with gold stars, in addition to telizes, shawls and other accessories intended to herald the horses.

Many other pieces have been added over the years to the core of the collection, the result of donations, acquisitions or exchanges carried out by the various directors. On the other hand, the politics of incorporation of the museological institutions aiming at the uniformity and coherence of the own collections, led to that they were deposited in the MNC, vehicles that came to complete the collection with diverse typologies or vehicles with extraordinary history, such as the Landau do Regicídio from the Ajuda National Palace, field or hunting cars from the Évora Museum or the Vila Viçosa Ducal Palace Charabã, the Portuguese Communications Foundation’s Mala-Posta, among others.

Collections by Type

The Car collection includes coaches, Berlins, carriages, carriages, strollers, litters, sedan chairs, phaeton, my lord, wins, strollers, Charaba and hunting cars, landaus and urban vehicles like clarence, brougham (or coupe) dormeuse (chopping block), breaks, pants and even luggage.

Older cars 16th to 17th centuries – The museum houses some of the oldest coaches in the world. The designation originates in the Hungarian city of Kocs, where the first models were made, then exported to Italy and adopted by all European courts. From this period, in the National Coach Museum, is the Coche de Filipe II that belonged to the king Filipe II (Filipe III of Spain) that used it during his visit to Portugal, in 1619. It is the oldest car in the Museum collection.

Symbols of Power – 18th Century – It is in the reign of King John V that royal power reaches its highest exponent. This ostentation is also reflected in the decorations of the magnificent coaches used in large-scale ceremonies that impressed the people. The apparatus car built by King D. João V for the Portuguese Royal House is an example of this period.

Triumphal Cars 18th Century – Unique examples of Italian Baroque are three main coaches of the embassy of the Marquis of Fonts sent to Rome by King John V to Pope Clement XI in 1716.

18th Century Portuguese Baroque – In the cars of this period, the work of gilded carving and paintings of the boxes reveal harmonious compositions between sacred and profane themes. It is in the decoration of D. José ‘s Coche that we can best observe all the exuberance of the Baroque style in Portugal.

18th Century Princesses Exchange – The double wedding ceremony on the Caia border between a Prince of Portugal and a Spanish Infanta and a Prince of Spain and a Portuguese Infanta, reflects the resumption of good diplomatic relations between the two countries since the Restoration. of independence in 1640. Testimonials of this great event are the coaches and marbles who participated in this trip.
Marbles 18th and 19th centuries – Model car that appears in Berlin in the second half of the 17th century. It is distinguished from the coach by the type of suspension. The box is no longer suspended and now rests on two strong leather straps that give it greater stability and make travel more comfortable.

Ecclesiastical Vehicles – The members of the high clergy had a status equivalent to that of the Nobility and had their own vehicles identified by prelatical weapons. In certain ceremonies religious images were carried in processional marbles.

18th Century Seges – The Seges were vehicles drawn by one or two horses, very discreet and practical for everyday life. They could be driven by the passenger himself or by a bolleiro, a man who rode on a horse beside the sege holding the reins. They were the first rental cars in Lisbon. Sege of the Glasses (Portuguese).

18th Century Strollers – Built in the era of D. Maria I, they are light cars, decorated in rocaille style, pulled by a single horse and used by the Royal Family for walks in the gardens and roofs of the Palaces.

Litter and Seat Chairs – Litter chairs were used in Europe from Roman times to the 19th century because they were easy to maneuver on paths where other vehicles could not circulate. The chairs were used, especially in the narrow streets of the cities, to transport ladies of the nobility, sick or members of the clergy.

Nineteenth Century Strollers – These open-box, single-line, black-leather cars were used for outdoor riding in the countryside or in the city. Wins and Phaetons are models that can be driven by the passenger himself.

Strollers – Small strollers made like adult cars for little princes and princesses to stroll in parks and gardens. They could be pulled by ponies or sheep.

Hunting Cars – Hunting has always been one of the great entertainments of the nobility. In the nineteenth century the Charabans served to transport hunters and escorts to the boardwalks. The ladies could thus sit in these cars watching the hunts in high places.

Gala Carriages – Apparatus cars used by the Royal Family and Nobility at gala parties such as Coronations, Public Entrances, Wedding Courts and Baptisms and in religious ceremonies.

Urban Cars – In the nineteenth century various models of cars closed or open to circulate in cities. They feature innovative technical features that make driving easier and give passengers more safety and comfort. This is where the integrated braking systems, rubber tires, mudguards, different types of shock absorber springs and the bell come up.

Suitcases – Post – They appear in the late eighteenth century to carry mail. These were very robust vehicles pulled by two or more teams and became the first public transport between towns and cities. They carried passengers and luggage inside and on the roof. With the appearance of the train some of these vehicles were no longer useful and were acquired by noble families for tours and hunting.

Other Collections
The museum also has other collections of goods linked to the operation of coaches and courts.

Harness Equestrian
Cavalry accessories and equestrian games where stands the Staph.

Car Accessories
Campaign Bed, Wheel Change Accessory.

Court uniforms.

Weapon Boxes, Swords, Marlins, Halberds.

Musical instruments Real shawm (XVIII century)
Collection of silver trumpets with the royal weapons of D. José, D. Maria I and D. Pedro III, timpani skirts with the weapons of D. Pedro III, music books by Rimpiano, Timpano and Clarin.

Estate Documentary
Architecture Drawings, Coaching Home Decor Drawings, Printmaking & Prints, Photographs, Postcards. Copper Calcography 1ºC Coche of the Embassy of Melo e Castro.

Estate Historical-Documentary
Objects belonging to the Royal House donated or part of the Old Fund, such as the oil portraits of the monarchs of the House of Bragança and Royal Family; landscape painting with iconography of vehicles in processions; Queen D. Amélia de Bragança’s Cloak classified as (Good of National Interest); Tapestries from the Royal Aubusson Manufacturing Workshop; Old museum furniture.

Kings and Queens of Portugal
The exhibition “Kings and Queens of Portugal”has a somehow unexpected recreational approach and can be seen at the 2nd floor Gallery. The 35 paintings represent the four dynasties who ruled the kingdom till 1910.

Conservation and Restoration Workshop
The ample technical space provided by the new National Coach Museum, located on the ground floor encompasses the Conservation and Restoration Workshop site.

Given the wide range of materials and production techniques used, the conservation of animal drawn vehicles requires a multidisciplinary approach involving a cross between conservation and restoration expertise and the skills of traditional knowledge.

The Workshop has been devised to respond to the needs of the museum so as to guarantee the study and requalification of its legacy. It may also become a specialized conservation and restoration centre, operating as a training hub for national and international trainees and fellows.