Metal Eagle, more than a symbol

Conservation and restoration of the Metal Eagle sculpture by Domingos Soares Branco

The Metal Eagle on the Estádio da Luz frontage, September 2016
SLB Collection

In 2016, the Metal Eagle sculpture underwent a conservation and restoration work, returning to the frontage of Estádio da Luz with a new look in September, after a two-month intervention. Five years later, we recall the multidisciplinary project of this intervention and the work that has been developed to ensure the preservation of the monumental sculpture. In addition to the symbolism associated with the Club, this work is the legacy of one of the greatest Portuguese artists of the 20th century Domingos Soares Branco and is one of his most remarkable sculptural creations.
Today, the imposing Eagle continues to inspire athletes and supporters, guiding them in the present and towards a promising future!

Technical drawing of the Metal Eagle sculpture, June 1985
Floriano Contreiras Fonds. SLB Collection

From concept to construction

On 21 September 1985, and after a year of construction works, the 3rd tier of the Estádio da Luz was finally inaugurated, and an enormous copper and iron eagle was placed over the stadium’s new frontage.
Designed by the sculptor Domingos Soares Branco and built by Edimetal, the work took about three months to be executed, a record time considering its dimensions and technical characteristics. More than 6,500 hours of work were spent with 33 technicians dedicated to its construction, always under the watchful eye of the sculptor. Made up of a structure of iron beams with 325 riveted copper plates, it formed a hollow volume with a span of 16 metres and a 7-metre height. The elements of the body were built separately, and, in parts, the sculpture made its way to the Estádio da Luz in the early days of September. At dawn, the various components were lifted and assembled on the structure previously fixed to the frontage, 20 metres above the ground.
In 36 years of existence, the sculpture has only been removed from the frontage on three occasions: the first, in March 1991, during the modernisation of the facilities; in 2001, for the demolition of the old Stadium; and finally, in 2016, when it underwent a conservation and restoration intervention.

Installation on the Estádio da Luz main frontage, September 1985
Domingos Soares Branco personal collection

Conservation challenge

In the conservation of outdoor sculptures, a category in which the Metal Eagle is included, there are parameters extremely difficult to control, which can trigger processes of degradation, compromising its preservation. The factors that most contribute to this deterioration are the climatic conditions, such as variations in temperature and humidity, combined with the proximity to the sea and the dust and dirt produced by atmospheric pollution, a critical factor for this sculpture located near the 2nd Circular Road and Lusíada Avenue. These agents can alter the properties of the metal, enhancing chemical alteration processes and unwanted effects such as corrosion, colour change, and surface deposits.
Due to its considerable size, technical characteristics, and difficulty of access – more than 20 metres above the ground – the conservation of the Metal Eagle is a permanent challenge. Apart from structural issues, the surface stability and aesthetic integrity assume in this work a greater significance given its symbolic meaning.

Pathology mapping, June 2016
SLB Collection

The conservation and restoration intervention

Taking these assumptions into account, in 2016, a conservation and restoration intervention was carried out, the largest ever developed in the facilities of the Estádio da Luz. Through the establishment of strategic partnerships, it was possible to bring together a multidisciplinary team with over 60 elements, ensuring the technical and scientific knowledge required for the intervention, from the following institutions: Sport Lisboa e Benfica Storage, Conservation and Restoration Department, Nova School of Science and Technology, Institute of Welding and Quality, Duartesfer, and Laborspirit. The work demanded intricate logistics, which involved lowering a 3-ton volume from a height of 20 metres and fixing it to a provisional metallic structure that allowed the works to be done at ground level, while ensuring the conditions of access and safety to carry out the intervention.
The process took 8 weeks to be carried out and its aim was to guarantee the physical and chemical stability of the surface and structure of the sculpture. The 325 slabs that make up the Metal Eagle were intervened on and all structural connections were reviewed, in order to guarantee the good conservation of this monumental work of art.

The removal of the sculpture from the frontage to carry out the intervention, June 2016
SLB Collection

Monitoring to preserve

Since then, monitoring actions have taken place biannually, whose objective is to assess the current state of conservation of the sculpture. The most recent monitoring took place in August 2021 and all changes were recorded, comparing them with previous ones. The effectiveness, durability and performance of the materials used in the previous intervention were checked and a detailed photographic survey and mapping of all the pathologies present was carried out. In addition, a survey of the interior of the sculpture was carried out to ensure that the structure is still able to perform its function properly.
This continuous and complex follow-up, monitoring, and recording work is essential to ensure the proper conservation of the work and to anticipate unwanted effects or irreversible changes due to the agents of degradation to which it is exposed.

Condition assessment, August 2021
SLB Collection

The cultural meaning and symbolism of this work of art goes beyond its materiality, as it is through its shape, grandeur and imposing nature that this sculpture inspires the Club and its supporters. But it is through the conservation of this materiality that it is possible to continue to contemplate it and maintain its grandiosity. On that account Sport Lisboa e Benfica invests daily in the preservation, valorisation, and dissemination of its historical heritage, because this is the only way to remember and understand what it is like to be and feel Benfica!

The Metal Eagle during the restoration intervention, August 2016
SLB Collection
salas de reserva

Technical drawing of the Metal Eagle sculpture, June 1985
Floriano Contreiras Fonds. SLB collection


salas de reserva

Scale model of the Metal Eagle sculpture, 1985
Domingos Soares Branco personal collection


salas de reserva

Construction process of the Eagle Metal in the Edimetal workshops, Edifer’s metalworking department, August 1985
Domingos Soares Branco personal collection


salas de reserva

Metal Eagle transportation, September 1985
Domingos Soares Branco personal collection


salas de reserva

Installation on the Estádio da Luz main frontage, September 1985
Domingos Soares Branco personal collection


salas de reserva

Installation on the Estádio da Luz main frontage, September 1985
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Estádio da Luz frontage, 1988
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

The newspaper O Benfica informs that the future sculpture will be placed on the Estádio da Luz frontage
O Benfica, no. 2231 (24 July 1985), p. 1. SLB collection


salas de reserva

The Metal Eagle on the Estádio da Luz frontage before the conservation and restoration intervention, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the Metal Eagle’s head, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the Metal Eagle’s wing, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

The removal of the Metal Eagle from the Estádio da Luz frontage, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Conservation and restoration work on the Metal Eagle, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

A detailed infographic on the work, the sculptor, and the ongoing conservation and restoration process was available next to the intervention’s site, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the conservation and restoration intervention, cleaning and metal stabilisation, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the conservation and restoration intervention, cleaning and metal stabilisation, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the conservation and restoration intervention, cleaning and metal stabilisation, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Placing the Eagle on the Estádio da Luz frontage, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the conservation and restoration intervention: application of a protective layer on the metallic surface, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Detail of the conservation and restoration intervention: application of a protective layer on the metallic surface, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

The Metal Eagle on the Estádio da Luz frontage after the conservation and restoration intervention, 2016
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Condition assessment, 2021
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Condition assessment, 2021
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Condition assessment, 2021
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Condition assessment, 2021
SLB Collection


salas de reserva

Condition assessment, 2021
SLB Collection


We use cookies to improve your browsing experience.
By your continued use of this site you accept our cookie use policy.

Accept