Porto, Portugal – Igreja de Santa Clara

Igreja de Santa Clara in Portugese is the Church of Santa Clara.   This has got to be one of the most amazing small churches I have ever seen.  I arrived into Porto earlier in the AM and had a meeting with my customer.  Near the end of the meeting I tell them I have some time to see the sights in Porto and will plan to take some pictures.  I reel off a few of the spots I want to see and one was the Church of Santa Clara.  Amazingly he tells me he as married there many years ago!   He tells me how to get there as it is off the beaten path.

I walk up the the church and from the outside is looks like a building and not a church.  The doorway is locked and I am bummed.  But never give up!  I walk around the back and see a few people walking around a small home-like courtyard (I assume they live there and work at the church).  I ask them if I can go inside and take photos.  Now one speaks English.  They were so nice, they kept trying to find a person that could speak English for me.  So finally an older woman comes up to me…about 80+ years old.  She can speak a bit of English.  She lets me in the church and before she tells me that I cannot use any flash for my photos.  I agree and I took pics for about 40 minutes of this truly stunning and beautiful church!!     It looks like pure gold.  I shot only in HDR as then I would no need any flash.  Another couple came into the church while I was shooting…I assume wedding plans?

So here is a prime example of using HDR.  This church was very dark inside.  It only had one spotlight (you can see above).  The walls looked brown in low light.  The HDR brings out the dynamic range…and here you get to see the true spectacular golden view!!

I enjoy visiting places that after you leave…you say to yourself…wow, just unreal!!!  I could  not wait to process these photos!!   I continued on my journey and enjoyed Porto very much!  There are tons of great churches that I have yet to explore!   My next visit will include more!

The Chruch of Santa Clara is not made of gold…it is woodwork.  A style called the Baroque.  Curious about it…I looked it up on the web…  With the end of 60 years of forced Iberian unification, under the government of the Spanish kings Felipe II, III and IV, the restoration of the independence in 1640, and subsequent war, woodcarving inPortugal is forced to detach itself from the Spanish baroque models. At difficult economic times, woodcarving gains in meaning, as sculpture and painting are drastically reduced in the altarpieces, leaving behind the classical inspiration models, taken from the international books arriving to the country through Spain (consequently Spanish), and trying to develop a national approach. It turns to Portuguese art and produces the “national style”. The inspiration is clearly taken from Romanesque and Manueline portals. The set of archivolts reminds you of the first while the decoration has much in common with the naturalistic Manueline style. The altarpiece is like a powerful machine, built with concentric archivolts, classical spiral columns (pseudo salomonic), platforms and throne. The decoration is very naturalistic, based mainly on leaves, disperse, and covering, the whole set, in perfect harmony with angels and birds. The altarpiece is undoubtedly Baroque, although presenting characteristics clearly opposed to the Spanish models. Again, at a time of economic difficulty, gilded woodcarving gives an image of splendour, in an economical way, contributing to the Portuguese cause.

It is not in vain that King D. João V is called the Magnificent. Iberian peace, and the discovery of the Brazilian gold and diamonds make Portugal, suddenly, the richest country in Europe, allowing for the full development of the international Baroque art in all forms. Gilded woodcarving is no exception. In the reign of King D. João V the Portuguese taste is adjusted to international models and takes a particular shape baptised “Joanina.” It converts the archivolts to trim cut, incorporates sculpture-like angels, garlands, vegetal-like forms, birds and architectural elements. It keeps the spiral columns, gallery and throne. The decor is suggestive of sculpture and spreads throughout the church, reaching the extreme of literally covering every available surface – vaults, walls, columns, arches and pulpits. There are notable examples scattered from north to south, Portugal, but the main ones are, undoubtedly, the Church of São Francisco (Porto) and Church of Santa Clara (Porto). Both were completely covered in baroque gilded woodcarving giving it the look of a golden cave. In spite of Santa Clara being more elegant, São Francisco, a Gothic building, is surprising, boasting a better use of the space. It is also important to know that the huge list of artistic patrimony in Porto includes a large number of absolutely remarkable churches.

Interesting!   Looks like my next visit to Porto includes a stop to Sao Francisco!   Have a Golden Day!!

Talke Photography settings:

  • Camera:  Nikon D300
  • Lens: Nikon 10.5 Fisheye
  • Setting: Aperture  Mode
  • Focal Length: 10.5
  • ISO: 200
  • Exposure:  HDR 5 exposures (+2 to -2)
  • Aperture:  f/4.0
  • Gear:  Tripod, Cable Release
  • Post Process: Adobe CS4, Color Efex Pro