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VISIT Universidade de Coimbra

Great Hall of Acts

The most important academic ceremonies
still take place in the Hall of Capelos

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Great Hall of Acts

The Great Hall Acts, also known as the Hall of Capelos, is the main room of
the University of Coimbra, and the place where the most important
ceremonies of academic life take place

Former old Hall of the Palace, it was remodelled by Master Marcos Pires during the second decade of the 16th century.

It was in the Great Hall of Acts that some of the most important episodes in the life of the Portuguese nation took place. As the Throne Room of the Royal Palace in the Citadel, it was here that the Courts of Coimbra where held, in 1385, which proclaimed John I, King of Portugal. This fortress was also the place where all the Kings of the Portuguese first Dynasty lived (1143-1383).

In mid-seventeenth century the Hall of Capelos was definitely transformed by master builder Antonio Tavares, master responsible for many other works of the University. These renovations were sponsored and carried out during the rectorate of D. Manuel de Saldanha. In the early 18th century, the room underwent new remodelling works led by Gaspar Ferreira, which, among other things, renewed the covers and strengthened the walls, closing the Manueline (early baroque) windows, balconies and doors.

The ceiling panels were painted by Jacinto Pereira da Costa. All general works of painting date from the years around 1655, and were performed by Inacio da Fonseca and Luis Alvarez.

The large canvases with portraits of the Kings of Portugal, from Afonso Henriques to John IV are by the painter Charles Falch, a Dane living in Portugal. The rest are by various artists (like João Baptista Ribeiro, Columbano), and have been displayed according to the succession of the monarchs.

The carpentry work was directed by master Francisco de Morais, also responsible for the elaboration of the frames of the portraits painted by Carlos Falch. The exotic wood crates were made by Manuel da Costa and André de Almeida. The magnificent polychrome tiles were made in Lisbon.

From the various ceremonies that occur here stands as the first and most emblematic, the PhD thesis defence, an oral examination required to obtain the degree of Doctor. The applicant must be properly dressed in the Talar vest (black trousers - or skirt for the ladies, cassock, white shirt, long black robe and black shoes) before the jury, also wearing the Talar vests.

After the examination, the new Doctor is directed back to the room to receive from the Rector the doctoral insignia: the Borla (small hat that symbolizes intelligence) and the Capelo (small short cloak of silk and velvet that symbolizes science), both in the corresponding colour of the Faculty that granted the academic degree. This solemn ceremony, called the Imposition of Insignia, occurs in the presence of all the Doctors of the University, who must be wearing their own insignia.

Present at the ceremony is the charamela (located on the wooden platform at the right back of the room),which ends the ceremony by playing the Academic Hymn.

Another type of ceremony that happens in this room is the Honoris Causa doctorate. The University may grant the degree of Doctor to national or foreign individuals, who have distinguished themselves in science, art, literature, economics, politics, human rights, etc. . The protocol used in this ceremony is identical to that used during the imposition of doctoral insignia.

Other major events that also take place in this room are the Official Opening of the School Year (2nd Wednesday of October) and the Investiture of the Rector (once every four years).


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