The archaeological nucleus is apprehended here in a very wide perspective, as to permit that an important assemblage of coats of arms, dating from the 17th and the 18th centuries and that formally should be treated in a separate chapter, may be included. It comprehends a large period of time, since the 1st to the 18th century, illustrating the roman, medieval, renascentist and baroque epochs and displaying some specimens of rare quality, entirely justifying a much deeper study than the brief and generic reference sketched here.
The archaeological roman nucleus is composed by ten splendid epigraphic monuments, all of them proceeding from the city of Lamego and its surrounding region. It consists of five steles and the same number of funerary plates, in granite of the region, with a rather sober and modest decoration, some of them displaying a lateral trident which reports them as epigraphic monuments from C4rquere, a locality in the neighbouring municipality of Resende.
From the whole group, the curious plate of Cado deserves being enhanced because it’s “a collective monument of natives through which, several generations are revealed to us”, as explains J. L. Inês Vaz (1983, p. 7) and the STELE, “with a triangular front where is inscribed an astral symbol, the moon” and “three human figures sculptured on the tablet immediately underneath’, (idem, p. 12), that converts it in a singular and prized epigraphed document.
The period medieval is well represented by testimonies of great archaeological value, such as the two romanesque tombs of anthropomorphic traits, deprived of any decorative element and a simple cruciform rose window, proceeding from the tympanum in the south lateral door of the romanesque church of Santa Maria Maior, in Almacave. TWO HOLY STOUPS, from the 12th century, from unknown provenance, reflect the taste of the time, in the contention and decorative sobriety that characterises them. Nevertheless, these stoops display a salient decoration, in which the simplicity of the geometrical motives results in a really harmonious whole. The first one, with an inverted cup-shaped form, stands on a base decorated with metopes and is topped by a salient fringe all around its surface. On the cup, the decoration is defined by oblique lines all around, alternating with two hemispheres in each reserve. The second one, cup-shaped too, has deep cuts in the stone, defining pronounced ruts and decorated with ovals all around it, separated from semicircles by an horizontal line, that goes through all the surface. The stoop edge is defined by a more voluminous and salient mole of stone.
Belonging to the gothic period, more open to fancy ornamental experiences than its predecessor, the very beautiful BURIAL COFFER , where supposedly rested the mortal remains of D. Branca, the count of Barcelos’s wife, displays a fabulous low-relief with a wild boar hunting scene, a real masterpiece of the 14th century’s art, due the plastic habillity displayed by its author who has been able to extract from the rawness of the granite, a lively and mighty scene. Though showing a lack of proportion in the size of the sculptured figures and motives, this composition gets a singular strength, rather by the impression transmitted to us by the whole, than in fact, by the way their several components are depicted. In fact, the almost static wild boar, makes a great contrast with the impression of movement given by the horse and the horseman, and by the dog that furiously seizes the boar in its jaws, all of this in a simple and naive arboreal framing, of geometrical composition very close of stylization.
Belonging to this period too, the GREAT CROSS OF THE LORD OF THE GOOD DISPATCH, classified as national monument, is a splendid sculptural work, of rare beauty and grace, that on one of its faces displays the Crucified Christ and on the other, the Virgin Mary with signs of having been holding the Child.
The more expressive specimens from the Renaissance period, are the porch, proceeding from the cloister of the Monastery of Chagas, through which one had access to the St. John Evangelist’s Chapel (being at display in this museum too) and a STONED COAT OF ARMS OF D. MANUEL DE NORONHA, Bishop of Lamego between 1551 and 1569.
This stone, with the coat of arms of the Câmara’s family that in heraldry is described “green, with a silver-coated tower, capped by a small cross in red and supported by two golden rampant wolves, affronted, with red, pending tongs” has also a star in chief and its respective prelates device “This one is a good guide”. The stone is propped against an armillary sphere, the symbol anyway, of modernity and knowledge about things and the world, provided by the Portuguese discoveries. It had been, formerly, topping a marble tank ordered by the already mentioned Bishop, and executed in the locality of Rossio of Lamego.
Besides, the essential nucleus of the baroque period is formed by the stones of arms of several Prelates and those of different emblazoned families who owned a “solar” (manor house) in the city, or in the region. They are pieces of excellent handiwork with the “paquifes” (ornamental foliage on the elms) decorated with vegetable ornats where the acanthus foliage predominates, except for the Prelates, ones, that depict the ecclesial hat with its twines and tassels. The escutcheons obey to the French format, with a salient angle in the middle of the point, divided by a vertical band, or quartered (the majority) and their elms are carved on profile, thus indicating their relationship with some knight or nobleman of old ancestry, topped by their respective crests.
The 17th century specimens are more contained in what regards the decorative lavishness of the acanthus, displaying a simpler composition, still far from the obsessive fulfilment of the spaces and the labyrinthic prodigality of the ornates that we are going to observe in some of these pieces from the 18th century, as it happens with the STONE PROCEEDING FROM TIHE HOUSE OF THE WELL, IN LAMEGO in whose quartered escutcheon are displayed, by partition, the heraldic symbols of the following families: 1st Carvalhos; 2nd Teixeiras; 3rd Cabrais; 4th Pintos.
As a mere final note, we can’t help mentioning TWO STONES WITH THE ANCIENT COAT OF ARMS OF THE CITY OF LAMEGO, of clumsy execution, and proceeding from houses leased to the Lamego municipality. In the better preserved one, it’s yet possible to see the above-mentioned arms: three battlemented towers, with the central one slightly higher and topped by a tree - the “lodão” - and in the lateral ones, the little escutcheon with the five “quinas” of the national escutcheon.