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Igreja de Santo António

Igreja de Santo António
© Miss Quarrel / CC BY-SA 3.0
Igreja de Santo António interior
© Paulo JC Nogueira / CC BY-SA 3.0
Igreja de Santo António
© João Carvalho / CC BY-SA 3.0

Church of Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony is Lisbon’s main patron saint and this church, dedicated to his memory is thought to have been built on the exact spot where he was born in 1195.

The church, which is found between the Baixa and Alfama district, was built in the Baroque-Rococo style and the exterior bears a closer resemblance to a theatre or grand civic building than to a Catholic church.  There is thought to have been some kind of chapel here since the time of the saint’s death in the 13th century.  However, the structure we see today was built on the site of an earlier church which was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1755

Most Catholics know Saint Anthony as Anthony of Padua.  In Portugal however, he is revered as St Anthony of Lisbon.  He was, after all, born here, to a wealthy Lisbon family and in his youth he went by the name of Fernando Martins. After training as a priest he joined the Franciscan Order and after travelling in North Africa and Italy he came to the attention of St Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order, who became a friend.  During his lifetime, Anthony was known for his humility, his devotion to the poor and sick and his powerful preaching.  He died in Padua aged only 36 and was canonised the following year. 

The inside of the church is simple but contains a number of beautiful images and items which are still objects of veneration for many.  One of the altars contains a canvas said to be a true effigy of the saint.  The crypt beneath the church is thought to have been built on the site where Saint Anthony was born and contains his relics.  Also of note in the main chapel is a wooden statue of Saint Anthony, which pre-dates the 1755 earthquake. 

The church dome lets in abundant natural light. Below the dome is a marble floor with a geometric pattern.  Look out for the symbol of the lily and books around the church, both of which are often associated with the saint. 

Attached to the church is a small museum which houses a number of objects and manuscripts connected to Saint Anthony.

To many Catholics, St Anthony is venerated as the patron saint of lost things.  In Portugal he is also seen as the patron saint of those looking to find a wife or husband and of newly married brides. The 13th June is St Anthony’s feast day and is a cause for great celebration in the city of his birth.  In the days leading up to the event, areas of the city are festooned with brightly coloured decorations and there are pop-up barbecues and street entertainments all over the city.  On the 13th June itself, a special kind of bread is distributed and a procession through the district leaves from the church.  Mass marriages, known as "St Anthony's Weddings" still sometimes take place around this time.

The church is open from 8am to 7.30pm daily, although sightseers are not admitted during church services. 

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