Restored 17th century Portuguese pieces on display at Lisbons’ Gulbenkian Museum

Part of the display on show at Lisbon's Gulbenkian Museum.

Part of the display on show at Lisbon's Gulbenkian Museum. Credit: André Afonso on Facebook

A collection put on display at the Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon includes 40 restored pieces and are part of the collection of the Holy Land Museum.

They include a silver church lamp which was gifted to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem by King Pedro II of Portugal in the 17th century.

The exhibition entitled ‘Treasury of the Kings – Masterpieces of the Terra Sancta Museum’, will be on view until February 26, 2024.

André Afonso, the executive commissioner of the exhibition informed the Lusa agency that the Portuguese lamp was one of those selected for restoration because it had been found ‘blackened and oxidized by humidity due to its use inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre’.

When did the work begin?

Started around a decade ago, the Holy Land Museum project includes an archaeological nucleus, which is already open to the public, in the Convent of the Flagellation in Jerusalem.

The second part of the project involves the creation of another to house the historical and artistic collections, currently under construction. This will eventually be located in the Convent of Saint Salvador, in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Of around 100 of the pieces in the Gulbenkian exhibition, 40 were chosen for restoration, including the black vestments embroidered with gold thread offered by the Portuguese king João VI to the Holy Land, explained Afonso.

He detailed: ‘When the museum began developing this project, around two years ago, the Museu da Terra Santa had already drawn our attention to the need for intervention in the conservation and restoration of some pieces from origins such as Portugal, Spain, and Naples, among others’.

The team visited Jerusalem twice

After traveling twice to Jerusalem to observe the ancient works in detail, those responsible decided to: ‘create synergies with other institutions to develop a more qualified project’, Afonso continued.

‘We asked for the valuable collaboration of the José de Figueiredo laboratory, from the Portuguese State, which was responsible for the scientific supervision of this entire project. We hired a team of eight restorers and conservators who were permanently in the Gulbenkian Museum’s workshops working on these pieces’, he elaborated.

‘A collective effort was needed to support the Custody of the Holy Land, which does not have the conditions, locally, to do so, nor the financial means’, the curator pointed out.

Afonso explained that the restoration work was carried out: ‘in a heritage that is truly universal, in pieces also coming from the Holy Empire, from the territory of the Holy Land itself, even more so taking into account that this heritage will be exposed in 2026’.

The future museum will have a room: ‘dedicated to Portuguese offerings from the collection, where the pieces will shine’, he added.

What is the ‘Custody of the Holy Land’?

A Catholic Franciscan institution responsible for looking after Christian places in the Holy Land, the Custody of the Holy Land has been the guardian of this archaeological, artistic and liturgical heritage since 1342.

Some of the works will also be able to be seen on a tour that starts in Portugal, before through Spain, Italy and, finally, New York, at the Frick Collection, as reported by

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at