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Church and Convent of Saint Francis / Matchbox Museum – Thomar, Portugal

Upon arriving to Tomar, on Gen. Bernardo Faria Avenue and a few steps from the train and bus terminal, you will find the “Igreja y Convento de São Francisco” or the Church and Convent of Saint Francis.

The structure date to the seventeenth century and in architectural terms, they represent essentially a Manerist style, very noticeable in the portal and the frontispiece. The Church consists of a single nave with a high-barrel vault. One of its chapels contains the image of “Santa Iria”, patron saint of the city. The greater Altar features a scene of the Calvary by means of statues. The convent consists of two cloisters.

When crossing the inner patio and in a corner of one of the cloisters, we find the Museo dos Fósforos (Museum of Matches or Matchbox Museum). It is considered as the largest collection of matches in Europe with more than 40,000 different boxes of matches from 127 different countries of the world.

The collection is the result of the personal love of Don Aquiles da Mota Lima, who in 1953 visiting England for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, became interested in collecting boxes of matches as a reminder of his visit to the country. So it was, that in each trip he made, he accumulated these reminders. Don Aquiles kept his collection on shelves in the garage of his home. As the collection grew, Don Aquiles took measures to protect it, to the point of commissioning the construction of a small fireproof structure of 17 by 5.5 meters. In 1980, Don Aquiles donated his collection to the city of Tomar to be exhibited in a museum. Don Aquiles died in 1984 without knowing the museum that would shelter his collection. His daughter Maria Helena was in charge of making his father’s dream come true.

It’s a really fascinating collection. So many and so many boxes of matches with different motifs, full of color and different images. You have to see it!

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