Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa)
9h00 - 19h00
The Lisbon Cathedral, known initially as the Church of Santa Maria Maior, is one of the city’s oldest monuments. Its construction began in 1150, on the spot of the main mosque, soon after the conquest of Lisbon from the Moors, by King Afonso Henriques. The construction of the church followed the militarized plans of Friar Robert, who gave it a robust structure, with defensive towers and battlements. Martyred by the earthquakes that rocked the city in the fourteenth century and in 1755, the Cathedral of Lisbon is today a mixture of architectural styles as a result of successive restorations. It was built with three naves, triforium (a narrow gallery) on the aisles, salient transept (the transverse gallery that separates the choir of the largest nave) and tripartite chevet (the opposite side to the main entrance). The Romanesque facade is decorated with a rose window and two bell towers. To the North of the main entrance is the Chapel of Bartolomeu Joanes, the rich merchant who sponsored it and that is buried there.
An ever-expanding Cathedral
In the fourteenth century, the chapel was reorganized in an ambulatory (the passage surrounding the central area), with nine radiating chapels. The works of the Gothic cloister, to which you enter through the third chapel of that ambulatory, began at that time. This cloister has double arches decorated with carved capitals and one of the chapels has a wrought-iron gate from the thirteenth century. D. Afonso IV was the first king to be buried in Lisbon, and his tomb has been deposited in the main chapel, in the family pantheon that this King ordered to be erected there. Directly behind, in the chapel of San Ildefonso, are the sarcophagi of Lopo Fernandes Pacheco, comrade in arms of D. Afonso IV and his wife, decorated with their carved figures. A new sacristy was built in the seventeenth century, where curiously all of the statues that are here depict Portuguese saints.
The Cathedral’s treasures
The chapel at the left of the Cathedral’s entrance keeps the font where St Anthony (patron saint of Portugal since 1934) was baptized in 1195. This chapel is decorated with tiles depicting the Saint preaching to the fishes. The treasure of the Cathedral is at the top of the stairs, at the right of the Church’s entrance. It consists in a collection of ecclesiastical robes, pieces of religious jewellery, statuary, illustrated manuscripts and relics of St Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon. The most precious piece is the ark that contains the remains of St Vincent. Legend says that two crows stood in vigil on the boat that transported these relics to Lisbon. Eventually, the crows and the boat became the city’s symbols.
From Romans to national monument
After the 1755 earthquake, some parts of the cathedral collapsed, such as the main chapel, which had been rebuilt by D. José in a neoclassical style. In the early twentieth century, Augusto Fuschini started another restoration, seeking to recover the Cathedral’s original style, which became a national monument in 1907. Inside the cloisters, archaeological excavations show the site’s occupation since the Iron Age. There are traces of Roman times, consisting of a road lined with shops and taverns, which linked the Roman Theatre to the city’s waterfront. Dating from the first century after Christ, this route was closed 300 years later, becoming a space for private households. Remains from the Visigoth period are still visible and a large public building, drains and tanks from the Islamic era were also discovered.
The visit to the Cathedral is free, except for the cloister and the treasury, for whose each ticket costs 2.50 euros (the group ticket costs only 4 euros). The Church can be visited every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (on Sundays and Mondays until 5 p.m.). The cloister is open from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (only until 5 p.m. during winter time). The Treasure of the Cathedral can be seen from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. These two areas are closed on Sundays, holidays and Holy Days.