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São Vicente da Fora

São Vicente da Fora (40)

This church with its impressive facade will take your breath away. Not because it stands at the top of a steep street but for the superb lime white façade which makes it one of the most magnificent buildings in the whole city.

The church’s name comes, firstly, from the fact that it was consecrated by the patron saint of Lisbon, Saint Vicente, whose remains arrived here from the Algarve in 1173. Secondly, the “de fora” (outside) derives from the church’s location outside the city walls.   

Its architect was Filipi Terzi, who had also designed another of Lisbon’s jewels, the “Sao Roque” church. As with the latter, the façade’s sobriety and renaissance style contrast with the baroque exuberance of the interior. Even though the project was conceived of in the 16th century, the building work was not completed until 1627.

Worth noting in the facade is the sober and symmetrical renaissance design of the central porticos, over which statues of Saint Agustin, Saint Sebastian and Saint Vicente stand. The two towers that flank the façade have the same characteristics. 

Inside, the scenery changes and becomes more baroque. Particularly marvellous is the pink and yellow square marble panelling.

The “Sao Roque” church only contains one nave with two side chapels. However, in the “Sao Vicente” there are six and each one is worth viewing. These include the ´Our Lady of the Infirmary` nave, with a polychrome marble mosaic, and that of ´Our Lady of the Pillar`, made up of a sculpted altarpiece in gold-plated wood. 

In addition, the altar contains a baroque canopy with wood cuttings made by Machado de Castro.  

The artistic relevance of the “Sao Vicente de Fora” church does not stop here. In the old “Agustinas” convent, next to the church and accessed through the nave, there is more to see.

The prime attraction for visitors are the tiles that line the walls of the cloister and the inside of the entrance pavilion.

In the vestibule the squares of tiles date back to the 18th century and represent various scenes from the Portuguese conquests. But be wary of their credibility, experts have declared them not to represent genuine historical events.

In the cloisters you will be able to observe various landscape scenes featuring flowers and cherubs. These are illustrations of La Fontaine’s fables.

Lastly, “Sao Vicente de Fora” keeps hidden one last treasure: the Pantheon of Braganza. In 1885 all the sarcophaguses of Portugal’s kings and queens started to be kept here, from the very first Braganza, Joao IV to Manuel II, the last monarch of Portugal. 

“Sao Vicente de Fora”, with its impressive white silhouette, really leaves its mark on this Lisbon district and its dome chapels look over the neighbourhoods of Graça and Castelo. Despite needing a lot of effort to reach the top, it is well worth the visit. 

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