Choir Stalls - Upper Choir
The Orders made up of male members usually have choir sessions in their respective Main Chapels. The woodcarving artist Machim was the one who took charge of its construction in 1513.
Due to the need of giving a proper burial to the first two Kings of Portugal and to fulfill the wishes of King Manuel I, who wanted to build a majestic mausoleum in the Main Chapel, the choir stalls were moved to the Upper Choir.
The moving of the choir stalls took place in 1523 by the master Francisco Lorete, who tried his best to respect and give continuity to the work of its predecessor Machim.
The story of the epic maritime journeys is represented in the choir stalls through its most expressive symbols. The armillary spheres on the canopies of the caravels and on the backrests of the choir stalls, along with the Portuguese coats of arms and other national elements are a clear indication of the moment of glory and national euphoria the country lived in.
Each bas-relief sculpture represents an episode of the achievements and discoveries.
The sculptures include ships, cities, fortifications, and other elements from the epic maritime journeys.
The discoveries are represented through nine bas-reliefs sculptures of different kinds of ships. Most of the sails of the ships feature an armillary sphere or the Cross of Christ.
One interesting detail about the shelf that goes along the choirs stalls are the statues that support it. They are representations of those who govern (the Kings), those who make war (the soldiers), slaves and prisoners.
The distribution of where the canons sat around the choir stalls followed well-defined rules. The senior canons occupied the highest stalls, while others with a lower rank sat in the lower stalls. The first stall was reserved for an illustrious and sacred guest. The novice master, the singers, and other Ministers of the Divine Office also had reserved seats, according to the functions of each one. Last but not least, there was a special seat for the choirmaster, whose role was to choose antiphons and verses to which singers followed accordingly with the chanting of psalms and hymns.