Treasures from Kings. Masterpieces from the Terra Sancta Museum

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This exhibition shows the extraordinary and little-known artistic treasure of the Terra Sancta Museum, amassed thanks to gifts made by several European Catholic monarchs to various churches throughout the territory over the course of 500 years, which is travelling for first time to Portugal.

Among these temples, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem, is the most prominent. According to Christian tradition, this is the place of where Jesus of Nazareth died, was buried, and resurrected. Given this spiritual focal point, the sending of offerings to this and other temples in Palestine represented, for these monarchs, a significant projection of their devotion and power.

Various European sovereigns, such as Felipe II of Spain, Louis XIV of France, João V of Portugal, Carlo VII of Naples and Maria Theresa of Austria, sent material and financial resources intended to support the churches and local communities, including gold coins, wax and, in the case of the Portuguese kingdom, balsams, perfumes, spices and tea.

In addition to these ephemeral items, the generosity of these European royal houses also extended to artistic works of silverware, textiles and furniture, intended for use during worship or to decorate religious spaces.

This exhibition focuses on these gifts, which include noteworthy works of European art. The church lamp sent to Jerusalem by the king of Portugal, João V, and the baldachin that housed a monstrance or crucifix, given by Carlo VII, king of Naples, are eloquent examples of gifts used as political strategies at the time.

The exhibition also proposes a journey through the centuries-old history and spiritual symbolism of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre,  while examining the role played by the Custody of the Holy Land—the Franciscan Catholic institution responsible for guarding the Christian places in the Holy Land—in the receiving, use and preservation of these objects of Catholic worship.

Calouste Gulbenkian’s link to the Holy Land is also evoked, revealing his family’s long-standing ties to this place and brings to light an Armenian illuminated manuscript from the 15th century, which the collector gave to the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Presented here for the first time, this manuscript was gifted in the 1940s, when Gulbenkian was already living in Portugal.


Jerusalem, ‘Centre of the World’

From Constantine 'the Great' to Suleiman 'the Magnificent'

'Theatrum Mundi': Royal Donations to the Holy Places

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian and Jerusalem



Project developed in partnership with the Custody of the Holy Land / Terra Sancta Museum, Jerusalem


Jacques Charles-Gaffiot (Scientific curator)
André Afonso (Executive curator)


Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Bilblioteca Nacional de Portugal; Lisbon
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon
Custody of the Holy Land / Terra Sancta Museum, Jerusalem
George M. Al-Ama Collection, Bethlehem
Gulbenkian Art Library and Archives, Lisbon
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon
Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon
Museu Nacional Machado de Castro, Coimbra
Palácio Nacional da Ajuda, Lisbon
Parish of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios de Moita do Norte (Diocese of Santarém), Santarém

In collaboration with



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