King Midas had the golden touch. The goose laid golden eggs. The United States had ‘the gold standard,’ at least until the early 70’s. Gold records. Golden anniversary. Goldfinger. Pot of gold. Golden ticket. Fort Knox. Good as gold. Golden opportunity.
Even Homer Simpson is in on the act, saying “Mmmmm… Gold.”
There’s no single substance as celebrated as this cold yellow elemental metal. For centuries upon centuries it has been unsurpassed for value in trade, and used for jewelry intended to last forever.
But how about the use of gold in a stunning interior? Want to see it, and in a big way?
If so, you’ll first need to take a visit to Portugal, and the important city of Porto.
This should not constitute too much of a hardship. Porto, Portugal’s “old town” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with ancient monuments and all kinds of impressive architecture. You get green public spaces that spread out from the center of the city, with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond. There’s also, of course, the liquid named for the town–fortified port wines– and the growing interest in the wines from the Douro region—flowing like a river of gold and thrilling wine enthusiasts worldwide.
But if it’s real gold you seek, look no farther than the Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis). It’s known as the “Gold Church,” and was founded by Franciscan friars way back in the 13th century.
Don’t be put off by the Gothic exterior.
It bears no relationship to the Baroque interior and the treasures inside. So go ahead and walk in.
The baroque style of architecture technically dates from the late 16th century, and this church is much older. But it would be hard to argue that the interior doesn’t meet the standards: grandeur, drama, and of course rich surface treatments. The interior of the church is decorated with intricate carved panels– all of them are covered with a layer of real gold leaf. There’s nary an inch of surface that hasn’t been overlain with over 200 pounds of gold leaf.
It’s a breathtaking work of art that took several decades to complete.
The building wasn’t always thus gilded, however. The precious metal was added mostly in the 1700s—another reason describing the interior as ‘baroque’ makes sense. When you consider the fact that all that gold still survives after Napoleonic invasions, the Portuguese Civil War, and two World Wars is frankly amazing.
Today, the “Gold Church” has been completely restored. It’s located centrally just five minutes from Ribeira, and 15 minutes or so from Aliados Avenue and Porto-São Bento Railway Station.
Interested in seeing more, but can’t leave your armchair just yet? Take a peek at this video of the riches of the Igreja de São Francisco in Porto, Portugal.
While in Portugal, you will also want to visit Lisbon and the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, housing one of the finest collections of art in Europe—including a trove of 17th-century Persian and Turkish carpets that has been called some of the best preserved in the world. And if that visit puts you into a ‘carpet frame of mind,’ make the short trip over to the town of Arraiolos—known as “Carpet Town.” It’s famous for creating wool carpets and tapestries since the 16th Century. Today, generations of embroiders have preserved the craft that was believed to originally have been introduced by the Moors.
Gold is beautiful to most, and it’s definitely an enchanting symbol of wealth. But the metal becomes even more precious when used in custom-creating a one-of-a-kind interior like that of the “Gold Church.” The raw value of the materials used pales in comparison to the artistry and craftsmanship used to create a design that has lasted for centuries.
Elite Carpet Workroom understands the value of turning the finest raw materials into a work of lasting beauty. Elite built their reputation for excellence by catering to the demanding needs of yacht owners. These custom carpet installations required precision, planning, and top-tier craftsmanship. Elite leveraged this experience to benefit the owners of private planes and luxury homes as well.
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