St Vincent: Lisbon’s Church dedicated to its Patron Saint

The Church of the Monastery of St Vincent Outside the Walls, Igreja de São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

In the Alfama area of Lisbon is the culturally significant church dedicated to St Vincent.  The original monastery was founded by Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, and was dedicated to St Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought to the city in the 12th century.  It was built outside the walls – hence the name de Fora – and became an important monastic centre in Portugal.

The church is in itself quite plain, but the side altars are all heavy baroque – both the church and monastery are apparently important examples of 17th century Portuguese Mannerist design, but I am mainly writing about the church because I was being cheap and we didn’t go into the monastery.  However, it would be interesting to visit next time, because it contains the tombs of the royal Braganzas.

With Philip II of Spain becoming King of Portugal in 1580, the church was rebuilt, and while it was completed in 1627, the monastery buildings weren’t finished until the 18th century.  Designed by a Jesuit, Filippo Terzi, and Baltasar Álvares, the church was inspired by the architecturally influential Il Gesù, in Rome.  As the mother church of the Jesuit order, Il Gesù naturally spawned its own new style which was reinterpreted in countless churches in Portugal and its territories – and elsewhere across the Catholic world.

It was very dark in the church, so my pictures are pretty bad – still, hopefully they’ll give you an idea of the place.

The facade of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal.  From left to right to in the central section are statues of St Vincent, St Augustine, St Sebastian - the work is attributed to Baltazar Álvares.

The facade of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal.  From left to right to in the central section are statues of St Vincent, St Augustine, St Sebastian – the work is attributed to Baltazar Álvares.

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There was once a big dome above the crossing, where there is now a strange design with eight windows and a cobbled-together look about it.  The original dome collapsed in the 1755 earthquake and I gather this replacement is made out of wood.

The strange, dangerous looking columns holding the dome of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

The strange, dangerous looking columns holding the dome of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

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St Michael in a side altar, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

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Getting ready for Easter, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Ornate altar in São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal...which hides...

Ornate altar in São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal…which hides…

...this little figure of Mary and Child in its centre, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal.  Altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar...this little figure of Mary and Child in its centre, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal.  Altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar.

…this little figure of Mary and Child in its centre, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal.  Altar dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar.

Ornate garments of St Vincent, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Ornate garments of St Vincent, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Cherubs theatrically pulling back the curtains on the Crucifixion, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Cherubs theatrically pulling back the curtains on the Crucifixion, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

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Sacred Heart of Jesus,  São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

The baroque main altar was commissioned by João V of Portugal in the 18th century, and is by the famous Machado de Castro.  It’s ornate, but strangely not as much as the side altars.

Main altar, Joaquim Machado de Castro, 18th century, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Main altar, Joaquim Machado de Castro, 18th century, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Detail of the main altar, Joaquim Machado de Castro, 18th century, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

Detail of the main altar, Joaquim Machado de Castro, 18th century, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, Portugal

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So In Summary

While I found the church quite interesting, I wasn’t as impressed by it as I had expected to be by such a famous and historically significant building.  Perhaps I would have had a different impression of it if I’d actually visited the monastery as well.  It made quite a contrast to the cathedral, which seemed even more dignified after this visit.

Further Information

Entry into the church is free, but there is a fee to enter the monastery.

How To Get There

I found the Lisbon transport system somewhat unfriendly.  It’s not bad, but I just had problems with it during my stay.  However, their transport is run by these people, and their site is English: www.carris.pt

 

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