Thursday, October 6, 2022

Porto's Casa Sao Roque offers art, architecture, an intriguing oasis

Entrepreneur Pedro Ribeiro, right, gives Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
a private tour of his unique art museum, a converted manor house and hunting lodge in Portugal.



Plants enhance Casa Sao Roque Centro de Arte, inspired by French and
Belgian architecture with a nod to Porto decorative arts.


BOLD SPIRITS and colorful personalities of both past and present greet visitors at Casa Sao Roque Centro de Arte.
The long gone owners of the splendid home in Porto, Portugal, left their mark. But the man who salvaged and renovated the building as it slid into neglect is the primary influence on the elegant home that greets the contemporary visitor.
Art connoisseur Pedro Alvares Ribeiro fell in love with the one-time hunting lodge, built in 1759 by a wealthy Porto merchant.
A former banker turned art collector and philanthropist, Ribeiro had a vision of what the home could become. "Besides, I wanted to give something back," he said. "I've had a lucky life."
A SUCCESSFUL banking career augmented an inheritance from his entrepreneurial professor father and a wealthy grandfather
Ribeiro talks about his restoration project in
the building's beautiful glass winter garden.

The Warhol show includes the artist's creations as well as
personal film, and other significant material from his art career.

who  presided over a flourishing port wine company.  This good fortune helped Ribeiro purchase the home and lovingly restore it.
"I have done well and been fortunate in life," he reflects, "so I had in mind a place to share beauty with others from around the world, a museum if you will, but with excitement -- with components to engage the senses." 
 Besides booking impressive international changing exhibitions, he integrated items from his private art collection. "For years, I've collected pieces. When I first saw the place, I envisioned them fitting perfectly here."
And so they do -- including 16th Century African chairs, eye-catching ceramics and paintings from his private archives. 
THE HOME has a stately feel, with beautifully crafted windows and elegant detail at every turn. Viewers admire elaborate metal work, polished wooden finishes and new stucco with an "old" look to perfectly match the original.
Said my engineer-contractor-photographer partner, Bruce Keller,  "It's a show piece for meticulous detail. Every room is unique."

Every detail in the house
is exquisitely designed.

The elegance of the home has survived. Here the former
 dining room, now exhibition space, is painstakingly restored

In 1759 when the home was constructed, it was on the outskirts of Porto, a charming northern Portuguese town which vies with larger Lisbon for tourism.  A four-acre park where gentry once hunted now attracts families.
São Roque was also Casa Ramos Pinto, and before that, was part of Quinta da Lameira, where the lord of the manor hunted. "It was typical of those owned by bourgeoisie and noble families from Porto," says Ribeira, explaining its various incarnations. Several more wealthy, noble names inhabited the place. In the 19th
Immaculately restored
and polished banister.
Century, it belonged to the family of Maria Virginia de Castro. In 1888, she married António Ramos Pinto, a well-known exporter of Portugal's famous port wine. They put their two fortunes together to improve the mansion, commissioning an intricate remodeling and expansion project supervised by distinguished architect José Marques da Silva. It took 11 years -- between 1900 and 1911 -- and included design of an elaborate garden, under the watchful eye of another well known figure, Jacinto de Matos.
That remains today, with carefully groomed camellia trees now over a century old. They are prized and cared for by Ribeiro and his staff.
RIBEIRO IMAGINES life of the gentry in the day -- a small group of friends gathered at the manor house for dinner and a glass of port, to discuss art and politics, gaze at the rich valley below, watch wildlife and enjoy conversation as a pleasant breeze refreshed them. 
Perhaps they'd stroll the gardens, admiring the camellias,
The extensive Warhol exhibition
borrowed from New York City
galleries and museums.

stooping to inhale the scent of herbs in the vegetable gardens, harvested by servants for meal preparation.
Now, fast forward to 2023. Art lovers from around the world come to see the fruits of Ribeiro renovation.  He's traveled the world to connect with fellow art aficionados, gallery owners and museum directors. As president and CEO of Casa Sao Roque, he books exhibitions to complement the building's unique architecture, art and history.
On view now through Jan. 31 is an exhibit by Andy Warhol, famed American visual artist, film director, and producer. Americans know him as a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art.
 "Warhol, People and Things" is reason enough to visit the Casa, with an affordable admission under $10. The extensive exhibition focuses on Warhol and his influence across several generations of photographers, filmmakers, musicians and multi-media artists.
We watched fascinating films with Ribeiro -- and admired  works by Warhol, close friends and other contemporary artists from New York, Porto and Lisbon. The collaboration reached across the Atlantic to New York's Mishkin Gallery and Baruch College of the
After a tour of La Casa Sao Roque, a Porto
family enjoys beverages and dessert in a
charming cafe and art book library.

City University of New York. Ribeiro uses his international art connections to the museum's advantage.
Also on view is the inaugural exhibition of one of his favorite artists.  Ana Jotta's "Inventoria," is chapter one in a series of exhibitions devoted to the notion of Casa Sao Roque.
A well stocked art library and pleasant cafe attract visitors for refreshment and reflection after they've toured the museum.
THE CASA alone is worth a trip to the exciting city of Porto. You'll find endless opportunities, diversions, and amusements in this northern Portuguese town which has been quietly garnering attention and attracting visitors from the southern Portuguese city of Lisbon.
More info on the museum or to plan a trip to Porto:

UP NEXT: Sailing the waters off the coast of Lisbon is an exciting way to spend a few hours.  In a city famous for its bridges, Tagus Cruises offers unique sailing tours designed to show off the city's historic sights and famous bridges.  We take you under the bridges and across the waters to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and the historic Belem Tower. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, the arts, nature, family and more, at: Please share the link.


  1. What an interesting man -- and mission. Hope to visit next year.

  2. Portugal has long been on our bucket list. You've inspired us to move it up the list.