Christian churches in Portugal

Jerónimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery is one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of architecture in Lisbon. It was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the nearby Tower of Belém, in 1983. The Jeronimos Monastery is the most impressive symbol of Portugal's power and wealth during the Age of Discovery. King Manuel I built it in 1502 on the site of a herm ...
Founded: 1502 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Carmo Convent Ruins

The Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel medieval convent was ruined during the sequence of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The destroyed Gothic Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the southern facade of the convent is the main trace of the great earthquake still visible in the old city. The convent was founded in 1389 by the Constable D. Nuno Álvares Pereira (supreme military commander of the King), from the small C ...
Founded: 1389 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Sé Catedral (Cathedral of Lisbon)

Lisbon's cathedral has a stark interior and differs from other European cathedrals in looking more like a castle.It was built over an old mosque and mixes the Romanesque and Gothic styles. While in other cities the cathedral is the grandest religious monument, in Lisbon that honor actually goes to the Hieronymus Monastery or even Basilica da Estrela. The site where it stands was the principal mosque of Lisbon when it wa ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja de Santo António (Saint Anthony Church)

This is the Church of Santo Antonio, or Saint Anthony of Padua (Italy). Despite his name, the saint was born in Lisbon 1195 in what is now the crypt of this church. The site of the family house where Anthony was born was turned into a small chapel in the 15th century. This early building, from which nothing remains, was rebuilt in the early 16th century, during the reign of King Manuel I. After long missionary pursuits, ...
Founded: 1730 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja da Madalena (Magdalena Church)

The original church was erected in 1150 over a roman temple build in honor of the goddess Cybele, the mother-God. Three times destroyed, three times has been rebuilt. In 1363, a fire completely destroyed the church. In 1600 it was partially destroyed in a cyclone before succumbing to the earthquake in 1755. Queen Maria I of Portugal, in 1783 ordered to rebuild the church again. The Vestibule of this ch ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja de São Roque

The Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch) in Lisbon was the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, and one of the first Jesuit churches anywhere. It served as the Society’s home church in Portugal for over 200 years, before the Jesuits were expelled from that country. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the church and its ancillary residence were given to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de L ...
Founded: 1506 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal. The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriq ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Convento da Graça (Graça Convent)

Graça Convent is one of the oldest convents in Lisbon. According the legend, in 1362 the statue of Our Lady of Grace appeared in the network of a fisherman. The convent part is nowadays used by the army and is not open for visits, but the church is still in use. Most of the original Graça Church collapsed in the earthquake of 1755, so what you see today is an 18th century baroque monument. Inside it is partly decorated ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Estrela Basilica

The Estrela Basilica is a former carmelite convent built by order of Queen Maria I of Portugal, as a fulfilled promise for giving birth to a son (José, Prince of Brazil). The official name of the church is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Construction started in 1779 and the basilica was finished in 1790, after the death of José caused by smallpox in 1788. The Estrela Basilica was the first church ...
Founded: 1779-1790 | Location: Lisbon, Portugal

Igreja de Santa Maria

The parish of Santa Maria de Sintra dates back to the time of Portugal’s foundation as a nation, when Dom Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, conquered Sintra from the Moors. At that time, a small chapel was built here, later reconstructed in the 13th century by the prior Martim Dade. The great earthquake of 1755 caused serious damage to the church, but the original Gothic portico survived, displaying the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Convent of the Capuchos

The Convent of the Frairs Minor Capuchin, popularly known as the Convent of the Capuchos, is a historical convent consisting of small quarters and public spaces located in the civil parish of São Pedro de Penaferrim. The convent was founded in 1560, consisting of eight monks that arrived from the Convent of Arrábida. Between 1578 and 1580, the Chapel of Santo António was constructed, along with the erection of a wall ...
Founded: 1560 | Location: Sintra, Portugal

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.