We don’t want to impose a cultural program on you that could ruin a beach afternoon, although the reverse could be perfectly true – there are beach afternoons that risk ruining a trip to the museum. Nor can we offer you a narrative that places the Santos Rocha Municipal Museum at the top of the national museums not to be missed.
But if on the one hand we can bet that the weather in Figueiredo will play some tricks on you during your stay in the city. Figueira da FozOn the one hand, the museum is a good place to visit, and on the other, the museum is a good place to visit. Santos Rocha Municipal MuseumAlthough it is not on the most demanding cultural itineraries, it has more than valid reasons to deserve a more careful visit.
Like almost all museums, the Santos Rocha Municipal Museum also has a history. It can be read in brief at the entrance to the museum, so there is no need for an introduction.
However, we will not fail to point out and advise that the visit to the Santos Rocha Municipal Museum should start from the outside.
Superiorly framed in the largest green park of the Figueira da Foz – the Parque das Abadias – the building is a timeless architectural reference, the result of the work of Isaías Cardoso, an architect from Figueira da Foz, author of several renowned works, such as the Swimming Pool-Beach and the Grande Hotel da Figueira da Foz (now Hotel Mercure).
We started the visit with good news. The result of a new purpose for Quinta das Olaias, the João Reis 1889-1982 collection, the Intuition of Painting, which was exhibited there, now has a permanent presence in the hall at the entrance of the museum. Born in Figueira da Foz, his paintings take on forms of great dramatic density, addressing themes of a maritime nature, intimate portraits, or atmospheres lived in more distant places. A real surprise, which the municipality has decided to restore in good time.
We visit in the early hours of a sunny August afternoon. The audience is scarce, small or none, so the conditions are appropriate for sharper thoughts and focuses, and the religious art wing becomes the appropriate company for the moment. We point out an important set of Renaissance sculptures produced in Baixo Mondego, from the 14th to the 18th century, paying attention to the detail of expressions of the figures that most capture our gaze. We leave the enigmas that hover indefinitely and pass through the scarce space dedicated to modern and contemporary art, whose layout and dedication invite us to move to the lower floor rather than to observe it carefully.
Downstairs, there is a 16th century coach separating us from the numismatic series that have heroically survived the ages, and which now rest in long display cases, asking our imagination to question “What hands have all these coins passed through? What wishes will they have fulfilled?“.
Just ahead, we find an important collection of Indo-Portuguese furniture dating back four centuries, whose ornamental details resemble infinite-sized patterns and leave no doubt as to the blending of Indian and European cultures.
The trip to the Santos Rocha Municipal Museum continues, quietly, with an obligatory stop at the beautiful ethnographic collection of African and Oriental origin. It is advisable to take a longer look at the showcases, full of symbolism and charming details.
The Museum’s Armory Collection marks an important section of the Museum, offering visitors a historical journey, displaying the evolution of firearms and bladed weapons from the 17th to the 20th century.
One of the highlights of the visit is the showcase dedicated to the First World War, where the memory of soldier António Gonçalves Curado is evoked, the first Portuguese Infantry fighter to fall on the battlefields of Flanders during the First World War. His story is deeply rooted in local identity, as he was the son of Figueirans.
The Armory Collection also celebrates the story of courage and sacrifice evidenced by the landing of the English troops, led by Arthur Wellesley (later Duke of Wellington), in the bay of Mondego in 1808.
We finally enter the most engaging area of the museum, dedicated to the man – and his work – who gave the museum its name, being its founder and first director, and who contributed so much to the scientific dissemination and archaeological discoveries of the municipality of Figueira da Foz – António dos Santos Rocha.
The permanent archaeological exhibition brings together a significant and important set of pieces that portray the dedicated work of Santos Rocha, with special relevance to several objects originating from the Phoenician site of Santa Olaia, megalithic monuments, and materials collected from the expeditions of the Archaeological Society.
An interactive multimedia dashboard helps to frame and consolidate all the knowledge, so its use is recommended.
Located in the heart of the city, surrounded by a magnificent green space, in a quiet and cool place, the Santos Rocha Municipal Museum is a good choice and well worth the time spent – allow one to two hours. Knowledge, we know, never takes up unnecessary space.