There are some wonderful churches in Lisbon, even for someone who has visited rather a lot over the years. The first I visited blew me away, Igreja de São Domingos was completely different on the inside to what the plain and moderate exterior suggested. It’s a surviver of the huge 1755 earthquake, from which the scars are still apparent inside, contrasting with the textured red ceiling.
I found this to be typical of churches in Lisbon, with generally plain exteriors but intricate ceilings and detailing inside. Church Noosa Senhora da Conceição Velha was refreshingly quiet. There are only a handful of churches on the typical tourist itinerary. I went in everyone I walked past, finding some gems.
Lisbon Cathedral is definitely on the tourist itinerary though, as the oldest in the city, dating from 1150, an impressive surviver of earthquakes and fires. It was surprisingly small inside, in contrast to the imposing facade.
Top of the tourist itinerary is Mosteiro dos Jeronimos (Jeronimos Monastery). This had a frustratingly small sign by the main entrance stating that tickets had to be bought from the archaeological museum next door, not very helpful when joining the already sizeable queue before it opened. There was a steady series of people leaving the queue to run and get tickets, a couple more signs or someone checking along the queue would have been helpful… Inside had some of the most extensive and elaborate stonework I’ve seen, in wonderfully organic shapes. The place soon filled up with people, but I managed to get a few photos without them.
Which was more of a challenge at the even busier Church Santa Maria de Belém next door, with the experience not helped by the loud building works going on inside…
Back in the old centre of the city I spent a few hours exploring every church I came across, a much more enjoyable experience. Igreja dos Italianos Nossa Senhora had a fantastic ceiling.
Igreja de Sao Roque had a series of over the top gold covered side chapels.
Igreja de São Nicolau had another elaborate ceiling.
Igreja e Convento da Graça was an unexpected gem of a church, with tile clad neighbouring rooms and access to the overgrown convent courtyard.
Church of São Vicente of Fora had a more impressive than usual exterior but an unusually plain interior.
The National Pantheon had the most impressive exterior though I didn’t go inside as it was 4 Euro and I’d just visited over half a hour dozen churches in an hour…
The last church I visited was the pleasant Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Penha de França, which had a neighbouring water tower and lookout at Miradouro da Penha de França.
To end with the enormous Cemitério do Alto de São João. This was home to seemingly endless rows of rather similar looking tombs stretching in all directions.