Portugal has a rich heritage in art and architecture and visitors to this beautiful country must definitely take in the sights of various historical structures that draw tourists by the thousands. Being a country with a rich Catholic tradition, Portugal has invested in constructing many churches of great architectural magnificence that date back centuries and are an indication of the architectural timeline through the years. Here are a few of the best churches to visit while in Portugal.
- Sé de Lisboa: Known to many as Lisbon Cathedral or the Santa Maia de Maior de Lisboa, this church can be traced back to the 12th Representing the time period when Portugal was wrested back from the power of the Islamic Moorish rulers, this church was commissioned by Afonso I who was the first king of Portugal after the recapture of Lisbon. The church has been reconstructed and expanded over the years showcasing the change in architecture as well as impressing upon the visitors the weight of the Catholic religion in Portugal.
- Igreja de São Roque: This church holds the reputation and the honor of being one of the first Jesuit churches to be built anywhere in the world. This structure is a contradiction of sorts with the exterior reflecting the austerity and simplicity of the faith, whereas the interiors are lavished with many extravagances that represent the wealth of the Jesuit order. The main attraction in this church is the Capela de São João Baptista which was regarded to be the most expensive chapel at the time when it was installed. It was constructed in Italy by Italian architectural masters Luigi Vanvitelli and Nicola Salvi, disassembled and then sent to Lisbon.
- Mosteiro dos Jerónimos: This monastery is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a symbol of Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Funded by the proceeds of lucrative trade routes between Lisbon, Africa and India, this monastery is a splendid example of the magnificence of the Manueline or Late Portuguese Gothic architectural style and took 100 years for the structure’s construction to be completed. With the 5% tax on commerce from goods from Africa and the Orient, the funds exceeded the equivalence of 70 kgs of gold per year. This allowed the architects and designers to not limit themselves to small scale plans but could think ahead for grand structures that would be backed with a constant influx of funding. This should definitely be on your list to visit as it is also the resting place of many historical figures like Vasco da Gama, Fernando Pessoa and Luis de Camões.
- Convento da Ordem do Carmo: Portugal was a huge global empire but after the devastation of the 1755 earthquake, the empire started crumbling. It was founded in 1389 by a knight and general Nuno Álvares Pereira who helped Portugal receive independence from Spain four years prior to the construction of the convent. It now serves as a museum and is a standing reminder of the destruction of the earthquake that devastated Lisbon.
- Igreja da Santa Engrácia: This church was built in 1681 but finally opened its doors only in 1966. The constant construction that took place over the years spawned a popular expression “the works of Saint Engráçia” which refers to an endless process. It was designed to be Portugal’s National Pantheon and holds the remains of various notable figures like Manuel de Arriaga, Almeida Garrett and Amália Rodrigues who have their tombs in this church. It was constructed on the remains of an earlier church that was torn down after being desecrated by robbers in 1630.