The church of Santo António in Lagos is one of the finest in the whole Algarve. Dating back to 1707, and then re-built after the Great Earthquake of 1755, it stands as a fine example of the Baroque style of architecture. However, what really sets the church apart is that it has one of the most breathtaking interiors of any of Portugal’s many beautiful churches. Such is the quality of this lavish interior that the church is classified as a National Monument.
The church is dedicated to Saint Anthony, who was born in Lisbon and has a special place in the affections of the Portuguese people. A follower of St Francis of Assisi, he was known for his humility, his powerful sermons and his devotion to the sick and poor. Since very soon after his death in Padua in 1231, Portuguese Catholics have asked for his intercession in helping to find lost things, helping newly married couples and helping those looking for a spouse to find one.
Within the church there are six paintings depicting scenes from the life of St Anthony with explanatory signs in English as well as Portuguese. The church has a single aisle, a vaulted ceiling and two bell towers of differing heights which stand out as a city landmark. The lower walls are decorated with traditional blue and white azulejo tiles. Above the tilework, the church interior is almost entirely covered in intricately carved gold-plated woodwork, thought to be the work of Custodio Mesquita. Everywhere you look there seems to be shimmering gold. One cannot help wondering what Saint Anthony himself would have made of all the worldly splendour on display.
The altar has a statue of St Anthony holding The Child Jesus. It is believed that this statue may have accompanied the local regiment to the battlegrounds of the Peninsular War in the early 19th century. Look out also for a statue of St Eloi (Eligius), patron saint of horses, vets and also (you guessed it!) goldsmiths.
The church is accessed through the Museum Municipal Dr. José Formosinho (Lagos's main museum). There is a small entry charge and visitors are requested to dress appropriately. Photography of the interior is forbidden, although we managed to source a few photos for your enjoyment.