Mudéjar Ceilings of the Cathedral of Funchal

The Cathedral of Funchal boasts one of Portugal’s most exceptional architectural and decorative features – its ceilings, all in Mudéjar style, over the main and lateral naves and transept. The conservation and restoration of these rare ceilings, covering 1500 m2, were carried out in partnership with the Diocese of Funchal, the José de Figueiredo Laboratory and the HERCULES Laboratory of the University of Évora; and financed by FEDER Madeira.

Mudéjar Ceilings of the Cathedral of Funchal, Madeira, PORTUGAL
The Cathedral of Funchal, in addition to its historical and cultural significance, continues to be an essential site for the daily lives of its religious community and a vital attraction for tourists. Located in the historic centre of Funchal, the monument represents a crucial stop on the cultural itinerary of the city and the island of Madeira.

The preliminary research on the Mudéjar ceilings was concluded in 2019 and the work to restore the ceilings commenced at the end of that year. The work was carried out in three phases, starting with the north body, featuring the transept and the and side nave; followed by the south body, comprising the transept and side nave; and, finally, the central nave.

Mudéjar Ceilings of the Cathedral of Funchal, Madeira, PORTUGAL

Carried out by a team of 36 professionals of different nationalities, the conservation was grounded in the principle of minimal intervention to preserve the formal integrity and authenticity of the ceilings. The work involved consolidating the supporting wood beams, cleaning the surface polychrome and gilding, filling gaps in the chromatic layer, and achieving chromatic integration, all while using components compatible with the original materials. The intervention was concluded with an opening concert and presentation of the completed work to the public at the end of 2021.

During the restoration, special efforts were made to demonstrate the importance of the heritage and its restoration to the local community. The conservation team provided guided tours to explain the complexity of the ceilings and the reason for the long duration of the conservation work, as well as the importance and need to assemble a specialised and experienced technical team. This also helped to build understanding and cooperation among the religious community of the need to adapt some rituals to ensure the long-term conservation of the ceilings, such as the use of wax candles and real plants on altars, as well as the need to change some methods of cleaning and maintenance.

“The unique style of the Cathedral of Funchal, along with its significance in Portuguese and European history, make it an invaluable piece of cultural heritage. The restoration was carried out using the best practices in wood conservation and involved an interdisciplinary approach with the participation of several research centres”, the Awards’ Jury said.

“The restoration, which has recovered a heritage asset of immense symbolic value to the community, provided an opportunity to teach about the value of restoration among the general public and to train professionals. This is an important model for others to follow in future restoration projects”, the Jury concluded.

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Contact: Ana Filipa Abrantes |