Churches

Churches

Churches, Cathedrals and Monasteries in Portugal

Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca
Mosteiro de São João de Tarouca
Vitor Oliveira | BY-SA

With construction beginning in 1154 this was the first Cistercian monastery to be built in Portugal. As with most sites of such antiquity there are a mix of architectural styles reflecting development over the centuries; from Romanesque through to Baroque.

Unlike most other Cistercian monasteries, São João de Tarouca is dedicated to St John as opposed to the Virgin Mary. This is probably due to the fact the monastery was established before this became the tradition. An other unique feature of the monastery is the large dormitory which is constructed over two stories. This was built...

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Sé de Lamego - Cathedral
Sé de Lamego
Pedro | BY-SA

The fine cathedral in Lamego is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture dating back a far as the 12th century. This makes the Sé de Lamego the oldest cathedral in all of Portugal, although the only surviving feature from this time is the Romanesque base of the bell tower. 

Dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption (Sé Catedral de Nossa Senhora da Assunção) Lameg Cathedral was built on the site of an older chapel and consecrated in 1175.

Much of the cathedral's facade was constructed in the 15th century. This includes the striking central section with its triple...

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Convento de Santa Clara-a-Velha
Convento de Santa Clara-a-Velha
José Luis Filpo Cabana | BY-SA

Founded in 1314 by Queen Isabel (Elizabeth of Aragon), the Gothic Convento de Santa Clara was built close to the banks of the River Mondego, across from Coimbra. Isabel was the wife of king D. Dinis and it is said she was most generous and sympathetic towards the poor. In fact the story goes that the king had to reign in Queen Isabel's spending.

Upon the death of King Dinis, Isabel retired to the Santa Clara convent and joined the Order of St Francis, devoting herself to helping the poor and the sick. She died in 1336, 10 years after her husband, and was buried in the convent that...

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Sé Nova de Coimbra
Sé Nova de Coimbra
José Luis Filpo Cabana | BY-SA

Sé Nova means new cathedral, but this is only relatively speaking. The cathedral building dates back to the late 16th century and was built by the Jesuit Order. However, in 1759 were banned from operating in Portugal by then prime-minister, the Marquis de Pombal.

With this spacious, modern church now vacant it was decided in 1772 that the episcopal seat be transferred from the old Romanesque cathedral to here. Henceforth this was referred to as the Sé Nova (New Cathedral) and the older church the Sé Velha (Old Cathedral).

The church itself still retains some of its Jesuit...

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Se Velha - Coimbra
Se Velha - Coimbra
Concierge.2C | BY-SA

The Sé Velha (Old Cathedral) of Coimbra is said to be the finest example of Romanesque architecture to be found in Portugal. Dating back to the beginning of the 12th century it was built as a statement of the new nation's triumph over the Moors at the Battle of Ourique. Unlike many of Portugal's grand early buildings much of the original Romanesque design remains intact, although there are many subsequent embellishments.

First impressions of the cathedral, particularly from the main façade, can be a little underwhelming. It is somewhat austere resembling a fortress with its thickly...

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Igreja de Santa Cruz - Coimbra
Igreja de Santa Cruz
Rei-artur | BY-SA

The Monastery or Church of Santa Cruz in Coimbra is rich in both architecture and history. Founded in 1131 by the canons of St Augustine the current building dates back to the 16th century and is a rich example of early Manueline styling.

Originally the monastery would have been a fairly simple Romanesque structure, although the order accumulated considerable wealth and influence. Such was its importance in the early days of Portugal that the first two kings, Afonso Henrique (1109-1185) and his successor Sancho I (1154-1211) were...

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Convento de São Bernardo
Convento de São Bernardo
Sacavem1 | BY-SA

One of Portalegre's fabled seven convents, the Convento de São Bernardo is without doubt one of the loveliest buildings in the city. The convent features a mish-mash of architectural styles ranging from 16th century Manueline and Renaissance to 18th century Baroque.

Consecrated in 1572 the convent was built to house "maidens without dowry" who would serve as nuns.

It is well worth making the effort to look inside the convent. The corridors feature arches and beautiful 18th century azulejo panels depicting scenes from St...

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Sé de Portalegre
Sé de Portalegre
Hugo Cadavez | BY-SA

One of the first things you will see as you approach the small Alentejo city of Portalegre are the bell towers of the cathedral (Sé). Set on what is probably the highest point in the town it is visible from far and wide.

Built on the site of the church of Santa Maria do Castelo work on the cathedral began in 1556 by order of king D. João III. The cathedral was completed in 1575 with the laying of the final stone, the tip of the vault. The Sé de Portalegre was consecrated to Our Lady of the Assumption under the Diocese of Portalegre's first bishop, D. Julião de Alva.

...

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Igreja de Santa Clara interior
Igreja de Santa Clara interior
António Amen | BY-SA

Porto's Igreja de Santa Clara is a fine example of my favourite kind of historic Catholic church; these are the one that are fairly austere and humble on the outside, but when you pass through the doorway you are almost overwhelmed by the opulent decor.

The exterior of the church is largely 15th century in origin and built in the Gothic style. The exception is the main entrance which was remodeled in the Baroque style. Sitting in a courtyard, just off a leafy square, the church has a very peaceful feel to it. You wouldn't know you were only minutes from Porto's famed Ribeira and the...

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Igreja da Misericórdia - Porto
Igreja da Misericórdia
António Amen | BY-SA

The Igreja da Misericórdia do Porto is located on the historic Rua das Flores in downtown Porto. The church does not stand alone but is instead sandwiched between the offices and shops that line this typical Porto street.

Originally built in the 16th century the church's facade was redesigned by Northern Portugal's favourite Baroque architect, the Italian Nicolau Nasoni. He was responsible for designing a number of buildings in the city including the Clerigos tower and church, and the...

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