Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Many people walk past Lisbon Cathedral when they visit Alfama’s neighbourhood. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city, and its enormous rosacea will definitely grab your attention. But is this landmark worth a visit? Let’s go inside Sé de Lisboa and discover what there is to see!

Inside Lisbon Cathedral

What to expect at Lisbon Cathedral

  • What to see? The Cathedral in Lisbon is located on Largo da Sé in the heart of Alfama. It’s one of the most significant monuments in the city with an undeniable historical value. 
  • Costs? € 5,00 for adults, € 3,00 for children between 7 and 12. There is a 20% discount with the Lisboa Card.
  • Where? The cathedral Lisbon is in the neighbourhood of Alfama.
  • Worth it? It’s definitely worth discovering if you like religious monuments and want to learn more about Lisbon’s history. 

Lisbon Cathedral history

Sé de Lisboa is an important and iconic religious building in the city, and its construction started in 1147. The Lisbon Patriarchal Cathedral is, therefore, classified as Lisbon’s oldest church. The building has over 800 years of history, and its walls have many stories to tell! After the earthquake in 1755, most churches in Lisbon were entirely destroyed, but Sé the Lisboa survived. There was a lot of damage, and the south tower of the façade and the roof of the nave collapsed.

But the 1755 earthquake isn’t the only ground-tumbling moment Lisbon Cathedral survived, and the Catholic church has been renovated and restored on many occasions throughout the centuries. Since 1910, Sé de Lisboa has been a national monument with many different architectural styles. The official name is the Cathedral of Saint Mary Major (the patron saint of the Cathedral of Lisbon). Still, Sé de Lisboa is more commonly used.

The structure

Construction of Sé de Lisboa began after the conquest of the Moors by D. Alfonso Henriques. It’s built on a mosque, but archaeological excavations have proven it was built on a previous Visigothic Christian temple. In recent years, excavations revealed more of its ancient history, and the Roman, Arab, and Medieval past was visible inside the cloister.

Cathedral in Lisbon

In the 12th century, at the time of the Christian Reconquest, works started under the guidance of English crusader Gilbert de Hastings, who was then appointed Bishop. Mestre Roberto designed the original Romanesque-style building.

The construction of the cloister in Gothic style started in 1261, and they were completed around 1325. This was during the reign of D. Dinis, and King D. Afonso IV ordered the construction of the ambulatory. Later, in 1649, a sacristy was added. The Roman façade is stunning, and on each side, you will see two large towers.

The treasury

In the treasury, you’ll find an exhibition with pieces of artistic and religious value, all linked to the cathedral and its history. The collection is one of the most unique collections in the world. The exhibition’s highlight is the monstrance of the Lisbon Patriarchal Cathedral, a masterpiece from the 18th century. Can you believe more than 17 kilos of gold and 4120 gemstones have been used to make it? Other objects in the collection are robes, sculptures, paintings, jewellery and other religious artefacts. If you’re interested, visit the Museum of Ancient Art for another extensive collection.

The sacristy

In 1649, the sacristy was added to Sé de Lisboa, containing many sacred objects. The space, designed by architect Marcos de Magalhães, is unfortunately closed to the public. The walls are covered with polychrome marble, and the room holds objects from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The most fundamental pieces are a shrine, an altar, a chest of Palo Santo and a stone hand-washer.

The ambulatory and the radiant chapels

Since the addition of the ambulatory, Lisbon Cathedral became a pilgrimage for the devotion of the relics of St. Vincent. Behind the main chapel, you’ll discover nine radiant chapels. It’s those of Saint Vincent, Saint Sebastian, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, Saint Ildephonse, Saint Mary Major, Saint Anne, Our Lady of Penha de França, and the Holy Spirit Chapel.

The rosace

On the first floor, you’ll be rewarded with a fantastic view of the entire central nave. The High Choir gives you a great perspective of the church’s interior. You also get a close-up look of the rosace with Romanesque ornaments. The stained glass windows contain a scene with the twelve Apostles around Christ the Saviour. The ancient rosace was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, and this reconstitution was made in the 1930s.

You can also walk to a small balcony outside of the cathedral. Enjoy a fantastic view over Alfama

Alfama Tour in Lisbon Old Town
Alfama Tour in Lisbon Old Town
See the heart of the city, Portugal’s oldest district, Alfama. This Free Tour let’s you inside the mazy narrow streets of Alfama, the coloured small houses, the balconies, the tile façades. You’ll get to know Lisbon’s most important traditions, legends and cultural aspects that truly make the “Alfacinhas” a unique people. This Walking tour will take you through 3.000 years of history showing you the true Lisbon, Alfama, and offering you dozens of local tips and plenty of things to do in Lisbon.

Other sights in Lisbon Cathedral

Other spaces within the cathedral are the transept with original Romanesque vaults, the Medieval Cloisters (closed at the moment of writing), the chancel with a stucco ceiling, and the Patriarch’s Dressing Room with robes. You’ll spot the Baptistery near the cathedral entrance, surrounded by tile panels.

Saint Anthony

There is also a strong connection with Saint Anthony. He was born around the corner, where he lived until he was 15. Lisbon’s most popular saint was baptised in Sé de Lisboa, and he joined the choir. Take a close look when walking along the wall of the staircase leading to the high choir. Here, you’ll find the famous cross of Saint Anthony. He was also known as a bit of a matchmaker, and the Marriages of St. Anthony have been an annual tradition since June 12th, 1958. You can witness some of these celebrations if you’re in Lisbon during Festas dos Santos Populares in June each year!

Lisbon Cathedral tickets

You can buy your ticket at the entrance of the church. Usually, there isn’t a long queue, but in the high season, it will be busier. Adults pay € 5,00 to visit Lisboa Cathedral, and children between 7 and 12 pay € 3,00. Children up to 6 years old can enter for free. Do you have a Lisboa Card? Then you’ll receive a 20% discount on the entrance price!

Cathedral in Lisbon opening hours

Lisbon Cathedral is open from Monday to Saturday between November and May from 10 AM to 6 PM. The opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 9.30 AM to 7 PM in the summer, between June and October.

During opening hours, you can also do a guided tour to learn all the ins and outs of the famous landmark. The last entry is 45 minutes before closing. Lisbon Cathedral is closed on Sundays and Holy Days. If you want to attend a mass, you can do so on Wednesday at 6.30 PM (currently in Igreja São João da Praça) or Sunday at 11.30 AM.

How to get to the Cathedral of Lisbon

You can reach Sé de Lisboa by tram lines 28 and 12 or by bus line 37. From Praça do Comércio (closest metro station, Terreiro do Paço), it’s only a 5 to 10-minute walk to the famous landmark.

Other things to do in Alfama

Alfama is the oldest neighbourhood in Lisboa, with many other sights to visit. Highlights are the Fado Museum, the Pantheon, São Vicente de Fora, São Jorge Castle, and the many viewpoints. In the evening, you can enjoy Fado at the many restaurants in the winding streets of Alfama. It’s a great place to enjoy a traditional Portuguese meal and some wine. Due to the hills in Alfama, a popular way to see all the sights in this neighbourhood is by TukTuk.

Where to stay in Alfama

Alfama is a quiet neighbourhood and a popular place to book a hotel. From here, you can discover Lisboa easily by foot and by public transport. Lovely hotels in Alfama are Chafariz d’El-Rei (in a former palace!), Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel, and São Vicente Alfama by TRIUS Hotels. Take a look at the map below to discover all accommodations in Alfama.

Connclusion about the cathedral Lisbon

Portugal has many religious sights, and even though you might not be religious, visiting some churches and monasteries is worth it. Lisbon Cathedral is one of these, as it’s the oldest remaining church in Lisbon. One hour should be enough time to do a self-guided walk, depending on how busy it is. Will you have a look inside?



By Lala