Igreja de São Vicente de Fora

Attractions São Vicente 
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Igreja de São Vicente de Fora
© Lydia Evans / Time Out

Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques, laid the foundation stone for the first church of St Vincent 'Outside' - that is, beyond the then city walls - hardly a month after taking Lisbon from the Moors in 1147. He was fulfilling a vow to construct Christian houses of worship on the sites where Portuguese soldiers and northern European crusaders lay buried. In 1580, Portugal's then ruler King Philip II of Spain decided to start from scratch and brought in his own architect, Juan Herrera (builder of the Escorial). With Italian architect Filippo Terzi, Herrera designed a new church in Italian mannerist style. It was inaugurated in 1629, but was severely damaged in the 1755 earthquake, when the main dome and roof collapsed on a crowd of worshippers. The big draw are the cloisters, richly decorated with early 18th-century tile panels, some illustrating La Fontaine fables. Inside there's the royal pantheon of the Braganza family, the last dynasty to rule Portugal. The figure of a weeping woman kneels before the twin tombs of Dom Carlos I and Crown Prince Luís Filipe, shot by assassins in 1908.


Venue name: Igreja de São Vicente de Fora
Address: Lg de São Vicente
Opening hours: Church 8am-1pm, 2.30-5pm Tue-Sat; 8am-noon Sun
Price: Church free. Cloisters €4; €2 reductions; free under-13s

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After going to Italy last year, I didn't think I would ever see more beautiful churches than I saw there. So it was a great surprise on visiting Portugal that churches were also a 'thing' to see here.

Igreja de São Vicente de Fora is one such perfect example. Inside, the church itself is lovely with a beautiful tiled floor and impressively high stone carved dome. But the most aesthetically pleasing area of the church is the cloisters, which you have to pay to go and see. Three euros well spent.

As you wander through, simple arches frame the walls adorned with blue and white tiles, pieced together, with hand-painted images on them depicting historical scenes and fables from Portuguese history. The effect is so beautiful - from a distance, when the light is right, you see simply the colours and shapes and it's only when you get up close that you see the great detail within each alcove.  

An absolute must-see on your exploration of Lisbon - allow a little time to really explore this church and take in the wonderful details of the cloisters. 
An absolute must-see.