Palácio da Justiça (Palace of Justice), Coimbra
Originally a Dominican friary and house of formation affiliated with the University of Coimbra, the College of St. Thomas was established in 1538. Its name referred to Dominican saint and Doctor of the Church Thomas Aquinas. Construction began in the 1540s under the rector Fr. Martinho de Ledesma, with plans by Asturian architect Diogo de Castilho. The educational and residential areas of the college were arranged around a central cloister. In the 18th century, the upper floor on the east side was expanded and renovated according to contemporary taste, including the addition of new windows and a balcony to the facade. The building faces onto Rua da Sofia, the street where the colleges of several religious orders came to be concentrated.
After the extinction of religious orders in 1834, the building was incorporated into the National Treasury and used as a warehouse until it was acquired by João Maria Correia Ayres de Campos, 1st Count of Ameal. In 1895, architect Silva Pinto was hired to adapt it to its new residential function using a neoclassical revivalist design, but most of its significant original features, including its cloister, several of its vaulted late-Gothic interiors and its Renaissance-style portico, were maintained. The latter, which included a significant sculpture group in the style of João de Ruão, figured in the Count's bookplate, designed around 1900. Ayres de Campos famously used the complex to display his vast art collection and to house his library, both of which were among the most important in Portugal at the time.
In 1928, the building was bought by the Ministry of Justice and repurposed as the city's courthouse, becoming known colloquially as Palácio da Justiça.
Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Coimbra. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.
Palácio da Justiça (Palace of Justice) on Map
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