The Great Hall of Acts is arguably the most important space at the University of Coimbra. Once the Throne Room when the University was the Royal Palace, this room was where all the Portuguese kings of the First Dynasty lived and was where John I was proclaimed King of Portugal in 1385.
Today, the room is where Doctoral candidates face their PhD. thesis defense, a formal oral examination required to obtain the degree of Doctor. Other ceremonies taking place in the Great Hall of Acts are the Official Opening of the School Year, the Investiture of the Rector, and the awarding of honorary degrees.
The large paintings hung around the room are portraits of the kings of Portugal, beginning with Dom Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal. Interestingly, there’s a 60 year gap in the chronology. The kings who ruled during the Iberian Union, Philip II, Philip III and Philip IV, are not included in the room. During this period, Portugal was under Spanish control and, 400 years later, this is still a sore spot with the Portuguese people. Hence, the omission of the three kings.
There are many beautiful spaces in the old University. A tour of Coimbra University is a required stop on any visit to Coimbra. It’s well worth the time.