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The National Pantheon - Santa Engrácia Church

The National Pantheon - Santa Engrácia Church (39)

This solid construction is the origin of a popular Portuguese expression. When someone mentions an interminable project or something which is forever being postponed, the Portuguese always comment, ´like the Santa Engrácia building work`.

From the day the first stone was laid in 1682, it actually took two-hundred and eighty four years to finish this impressive, baroque building. 

This, however, was not the first time that building work had been started. The original building had been erected earlier in the 16th century on the orders of Princess Maria, daughter of King Manuel I, as part of the creation of the Santa Engrácia district. But in 1681 a storm knocked it down.

So big was the construction project, finished eventually in 1966, that it was impossible to keep the building’s dimensions small. That is why every part of the “Santa Engrácia” is made to big proportions. 

Its huge dome crowns the building and Lisbon itself, seeing that it can be seen rising above all the other roofs of the city. Inside, its coloured marble further increases the feeling of space and width.

If possible, the building grabs your attention even more when you find yourself in the lovely area of “Campo de Santa Clara” which consists of a number of small buildings of different architectural styles. Twice a week, the church is surrounded here by the stalls of an antiques’ market. 

If you get the chance, go to the top in the elevator because the view is incredible.

Since 1916, the temple has also been the National Pantheon and houses the tombs of Portugal’s greatest individuals.

Between the church’s walls, Portugal’s historic heroes lay. They include the explorer Vasco de Gama, Henry the Navigator, who though he never set sail, put plans in place for Portuguese maritime expansion, Pedro Alvares Cabral and the viceroy of India Alfoso de Albuquerque. 

The Pantheon also consists of the remains of various presidents of the Republic, such as Manuel de Arriaga, Teófilo Braga and Sidónio Pais. 

There are also other great individuals like writer Guerra Junqueiro, the fado singer Amália Rodrigues and Humberto Delgado, the illustrious personality who did so much to fight fascism in Portugal. It seems paradoxical to find his remains next to those belonging to António Óscar de Fragoso Carmona, the third president of the republic during the national dictatorship.

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