Religious sites 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 was ...
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

Porto Cathedral

The Porto Cathedral one of the city"s oldest monuments and one of the most important local Romanesque monuments. Unlike what"s often written, the current Cathedral of Porto was not built under the patronage of Bishop Hugo since the pre-Romanesque church is still mentioned in the De Expugnatione Lyxbonensias still extant in 1147. This means the present building was only started in the second half of the cent ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Porto, 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

Clérigos Church

The Clérigos Church ('Church of the Clergymen') is a Baroque church in Porto. Its tall bell tower, the Torre dos Clérigos, can be seen from various points of the city and is one of its most characteristic symbols. The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (Clergy) by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter who left an extense work in the north of Portugal during the 18th cent ...
Founded: 1732-1750 | Location: Porto, Portugal

Church of São Francisco

The Church of Saint Francis (Igreja de São Francisco) is the most prominent Gothic monument in Porto, being also noted for its outstanding Baroque inner decoration. The Franciscan Order was established in Porto around 1223. They began building the convent and a first, small church dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi around 1244. In 1383, under the patronage of King Ferdinand I, the Franciscans began to bui ...
Founded: 1383 | Location: Porto, 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

Serra do Pilar Monastery

The Monastery of Serra do Pilar has been a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site since 1996 and provides an unequalled view of the city of Porto. Its construction began in 1538 and it was completed in 1670. It housed the Augustinian Friars of the Monastery of Grijo until it became occupied by the Liberal army during the Civil War of 1832-1834, during which it was damaged. The Royal Brotherhood of Nossa Senhora do Pilar, esta ...
Founded: 1538 | Location: Porto, Portugal

Santa Engrácia Church

The Church of Santa Engrácia is a 17th-century monument which was converted into the National Pantheon (in which important Portuguese personalities are buried) in the 20th century. The current building of the Church of Santa Engrácia substituted previous churches dedicated to a martyr of the city of Braga, Saint Engrácia. The first church dedicated to the Saint was sponsored by Infanta Maria of Portu ...
Founded: 1681-1712 | 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 part ...
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

Main Church of Caminha

Solid church in granite built inside the medieval town walls. Work began in 1488 under the guidance of Biscay master Tomé de Tolosa, and using parts of a primitive Romanesque chapel (remains are visible in the north side); it pursued slowly, until the completion of the tower of the main façade in 1556. Important architects involved in the construction include João de Tolosa and Pero Galego. Inside, th ...
Founded: 1488-1566 | Location: Viana do Castelo, 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

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.