The Museum?s buildings were declared a National Monument in 1910. The former Bishop?s Palace was built on top of the cryptoporticus ? the foundation of the forum of the Roman city of Aeminium. It dates back to the first century AD and is the most important preserved Roman building in Portugal.
The various buildings that we see today were built between the 12th and the 18th centuries as a residence for the bishops of Coimbra. From the various remodelling and renovations over the centuries mention must be made of the remains of part of the Romanesque cloister of the Condal period (c. 1100-1140), the graceful classical loggia from the late 16th century, and the baroque church of São João de Almedina, built in the end of the 17th and in the beginning of the 18th century.
The name of the Museum pays homage to one of the greatest Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro (1731-1822), who was born near Coimbra and was sculptor to the royal house in the reigns of José I, Maria I and João VI.
The Museum?s artistic patrimony is formed of various collections that evince the wealth of the Church and the importance of royal patronage, seen in important works of art and in religious vestments and objects. Its collections were further enriched with a variety of acquisitions from private donations.
Of particular interest here are the monochrome and polychromatice statues in stone and wood, including several fine pieces from the workshops of well-known Flemish masters, as well as the development of Portuguese schools throughout the Middle Ages up to the 18th century. However, collections of jewellery, painting, ceramics and textiles are also important and representative as they include both imported items and national production.
The architectural and museological spaces of the museum were recently refurbished and expanded, in a project signed by the architect Gonçalo Byrne.