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6 posts from December 2013


The monastery of Jeronimos

This post is by Hannah (Germany)


On Tuesday,  we visited the Monastery of Jeronimos in Belem. It is one of the most important buildings representing Lisbon‘s Great Discoveries. We went there on a weekday in the morning and I had never seen this place so crowded before. The Jeronimos Monastery was originally meant as a church for the burial of the House of Avis, but also became a house of prayer for seamen leaving or entering port. The cornerstone for that work was made by King D. Manuel I.


The actual intent to build this monastery derives from his ambition to unite the first two peninsular kingdoms – Portugal and Spain – under the same crown. In 1496 a bill by Pope Alexander VI giving permission to build the monastery was the start. After that in 1498 Vasco da Gama arrived in India being the first man finding the sea route to India. Before leaving from Lisbon Vasco da Gama and his men spent the night in prayer before departing for India in 1497. This new „spice-route“ was the reason for Portugal‘s wealth. The Jeronimos Monastery was financed by that money.

In 1501 the first stone was set and in 1502 the construction of the Monastery began. It took over 50 years to complete it. The works started with Diogo Boitaca in 1514. After him three other architects were working on it. Joao de Castilho was responsible for the cloister, Diogo de Torralva for the upper choir and the frise of the cloister and Jeronimo de Ruão for the chancel.


The Jeronimos Monastery is a beautiful building made of „pedra lioz“, a local gold-coloured limestone. It is late-gothic style called Manueline, named after the king that rouled at this time (King D. Manuel I.). It is one of the most famous monuments from the manueline architecture. Inside there are three naves, four bays, a transept and a main altar. But the uniqueness of this church are the vaulted arches, held by pillars, almost as if the trunks of palm trees.

The Royal palace of Ajuda

This post is by Sahib Singh Dhillon (UK)


Just a few steps off of a crowded Lisbon bus, and we were fronted with the monumental grandeur of the National Palace of Ajuda. A true testament to Neoclassicism (a special thanks to architects, José da Costa e Silva and Francisco Xavier Fabri), It is barely even noticeable that it remains unfinished. An unfinished masterpiece, one might say.


Trying to find the entrance is a mission in itself. Take note that what is considered the main point of entry to the palace, and where we as a class rendezvoused, was in fact the eastern façade of what was intended to be one of numerous sub-entrances. This certainly does not make it small by any means, for it all in all houses a museum, library, ministry for culture, archaeological institute, and gallery. Much like that of London’s Buckingham Palace, the façade follows a symmetrical structure with a central body complete with arched windows and supported by Roman columns that reaches out toward two elevated towers.


We were met with our very own tour guide, Portuguese hospitality and all, and were indeed guided through the palace’s vast array of lavish dining rooms, music rooms, and even Egyptian-esque rooms (yes, you heard that right!).


After being ushered into the grand waiting room, we embarked on our journey through room after room, adorned with Christian iconography, tapestries harking to tales of Greek mythology, and monuments to those who inhabited these very quarters. It becomes clear the memory of the royal family members is still very much alive, as seen in the symbolism etched into walls like the initials of the king and queen, or more obviously in the portraiture.

 The Pink Room is more than a pretty ladies room, quite frankly. It is a statement of Portuguese innovation, believe it or not. The decorative porcelain plates, chandeliers and tiles were amongst the first to be manufactured in Europe, after the Portuguese had acquired sufficient knowledge of the age old Chinese method.


The Marble Room (known also as the Winter Garden or informally as the Egyptian room) breathes exoticism and brings a heightened sense of adventure and mystery to its character.  It forms part of a 19th century modernist trend whereby the outside world is recreated indoors. The replica fauna draped along the Egyptian marbled walls and ceiling, the bizarre bird cages and outlandish fountains, all add to the room’s quirky appeal.

In keeping with the oriental theme, prototype bamboo ceilings and thick wooden door frames painted red with intricate designs printed in yellow give reference to the Far East. The Portuguese were undoubtedly proud of their Japanese excursions.

It becomes clear as we enter the Games Room that interior design has the power to create a personality of its own. In the centre of the dimly lit room lies a billiards table, while solid leather sofas are lined against the wall, which is finished with wallpaper and the occasional portrait of a nude woman, all giving off an air of masculine energy. The Dining Room that precedes it furnished with the original silverware used by the royal family and guests, as well as menus in French, as was the language spoken by all the royal courts throughout Europe during that era.


The Grand Dining room certainly lives up to its name. At first you may be mistaken for thinking the rows of tables and chairs continued on forever, but it is just was one of many illusions created by the use of mirrors that add an element of symmetry, and let us not ignore the immense brightness brought about by their reflections.  

Along with being complete with the standardised interior layout of a palace - a magnificent boudoir for the queen, a smoking room for the gentlemen, music rooms and thrones rooms, all of which speak a thousand words of history – the National Palace of Ajuda has a unique charm comparable to no other I have visited, and I’m sure my classmates would agree. It was ordained to emulate the then contemporary Baroque style under the planning of Manuel Caetano de Sousa, but fate had other plans. This blend of styles, stories, fables, legend and mystery is eloquently portrayed in its architecture, and it’s still incomplete! One thing is for sure, you certainly won’t feel complete without visiting this wonder.


This post is by Agnieska (Poland)

On Wednesday we visited the National Palace of Ajuda on a hilltop of the central part of the parish of Ajuda overlooking the historic centre of Lisbon and the Tagus River. The Ajuda National Palace is a neoclassical building from the first half of the 19th century, built upon plans drawn by the architects Francisco José Fabri  and José da Costa e Silva. The museum is located on the eastern and southern wings of the palace. Open to the public in 1968, is was a particularly important royal residence, revealing important collections from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: the textiles from the furniture to the cutlery and ceramics as well as paintings, sculptures, gold and silver works and photography. On the ground floor you can see rooms such as the dining room for everyday family meals, the living room, the Blue Room, a billiards room. The main floor was reserved for ceremonial receptions. The most important state ceremonies held by the President of the Republic still take place here.


On 1 November 1755, Lisbon faced a great earthquake, followed by fires and a tsunami, which caused near-total destruction. The Portuguese royal familywas then living in Belém. Absolute panic took over the king, José I (1714-1777). After this event, the King did not want to live in brick buildings anymore. The district of Ajudawas thus chosen, as it seemed like a safe place, to installthe Royal Tent– a temporary wooden structure to accommodate the royal family. The King lived in the Royal Tent until his death in 1777. In 1794, during the reign of the Queen Maria I of Portugal, a fire broke out and burned down the royal tent. The wooden tent would be replacedwith a new palace that now housesone of the most interesting museums  in Lisbon.  In 1796 came the first idea to build a royal palace. This idea was given by Manuel Caetano, but was rejected. The newly begun to consider the construction of the palace but it was then re-evaluated in 1801. The first project was executed by Manuel Caetano de Sousa-Baroque style, but the buildings have proven  to be overly complicated and convoluted (this work was later criticized by Costa e Silva and Fabri in 1801- adaptation to the new fashionable current neoclassicism). In 1802, Manuel Caetano de Sousa died, and Costa e Silva and Fabri were major, ultimate architects of this investment. They decided to change the current design. Consequently, the plan was simplified and reduced to a core structured around two courtyards, with the same level of ornamentation, but now much more refined. The palace began to be used as a Royal Residence in 1826.


The palace is an irregular rectangular building, divided into four wings (with the western wing being incomplete) around a large quadrangle, paved with Portuguese “calçada” (pavement) in geometric designs. It is an architecture of residential civil sort of neoclassical style of substantially square plan, organizing around a quadrangle, four wings, whose parallelepiped shape is covered by a gabled roofs, articulated in the angles. Each wing is occupied by distinct entities. The main symmetrical façade is oriented towards the east, with a central body and tympanum, extending to two lateral towers.  Palace from the outside looks simple, classic, without any unnecessary, decorating details, which is characteristic for this style.

Fronteira Palace

This post is by Katie (Boise State)


On November 5, 2013 the Art and Architecture class took place at the Palace of Fronteira.  The Palace of Fronteira was built during the Post-Restoration period.  After the War of Restoration, when Portugal’s independence had been restored, those who fought beside the King were bestowed with royal recognition and favors consisting of titles and properties. This brought about competition for a leading place on the political chessboard of which the Palace of Fronteira is part. The first Marquis de Fronteira, D. João de Mascarenhas, commissioned the building circa 1670.  The fifth Marquis de Fronteira, D. José Luís Mascarenhas would oversee construction in expansion and improvement of the property in the 18th century.

On our beautiful tour of the Palace, we were able to see rooms inside the house, including the main room, library and dining room, the family chapel, garden, the “Casa de Fresco” and the Gallery of Kings. 


The main room consists of elaborate tile decorations depicting the most important battles of war as well as highly significant persons.  The ceiling of this room consists of sculpture in which Venus, the goddess of peace, stands on one side and Minerva, goddess of war, stands on the other accompanied by slaves representing the Spanish.  Interestingly enough, mistakes in spelling and grammar appear on the tiles due to the fact that the artisans were not educated at that time.

Outside of the main room on the first floor there are various statues along a large tiled deck called the Gallery of the Arts.  The first two regard the story of Marsias and Apollo.  This story was of most prominence to us visitors in which it relates to Greek mythology and is very much unheard of.  The statues depict the story in which Marsias regarded himself as the best musician and Apollo, the God of music, very much disagreed and agreed to hold a competition.  If Apollo won he would take Marsias’ skin…and thus, he did.       


The library, from the 17th century contains important documents (such as treatises with France) still belonging to the family. The dinning room is very much still in use by the family and used to hold conferences and elaborate dinners.  The tiles in this room are imported from Holland.

The family Chapel was first built on the property in the 16th century and then redecorated in the 18th century.  The style seen today is a baroque style known as rococo in which consists of ornate ornamentation and colorings.  It is said that St. Francis prayed here before his journey to India on a mission to spread Christianity in the 16th century.


The garden is designed with box wood and contains geometric characteristics known as a geometric parterre also surrounded by lead sculptures on stone pillars.  The main axes contain 5 fountains.  In the back of the garden stands the Gallery of Kings, above the water mirror.


This post is by Katarzyna (Poland)

During our architecture class we visited The Palace of the Marquesses of Fronteira which is located outside the center, but not too far from the Jardim Zoologico’s station.
Actually the Palace is a former hunting pavilion, built in circa 1670 to D. João de Mascarenhas, 1st Marquis of Fronteira. It was a period knowing from a great construction.

2012.10.03 22 Palacio Fronteira

The Palace is located in very quiet district, which makes it much more mysterious.
Next to the entrance, we found out that part of the "new" aisle is still habited by the family. I expected that the palace would be larger, but lots of colors and beautiful decorated with "azulejos" still made an impression on me.

The major room depicts lots of war scenery and panels representing scenes of the Portuguese Restoration War, one of them shows D. João de Mascarenhas fighting a Spanish general. From the library we can see great view on the garden which is very "geometrical laid out". Despite the fact that is still property of the Marquis of Fronteira, some of the rooms like the Library and Dining room are open to public visit where we'll know everything about the family and history of the Palace. The dining room is decorated with portraits representing some members of the Portuguese nobility.
One of the most exciting moment of our tour came when we step out of the house to the terrace.  Everything makes that look really beautiful, surrounded by blue. I was truly bewitched by this vibrant blue, which except white tiles –“azulejos”- is big part of this Palace.


From the terrace we can see the particularly charming view of the chapel .We went to the oldest part of the palace: the chapel, dating from the end of the 16th century. The façade of the Fresh House is built with stones, shells, porcelains and broken glass. 

There are family relates on how the future kind Dom Pedro II used the dishes and how the service was smashed and used to decorate the Fresh House.


We also cannot miss the big water tank with the fantastic wall called the "King's Promenade". Each niche of the wall shows a former king of Portugal .I have to admit that Palacio Fronteira is a beautiful place, one of the most colorful I've seen in Lisbon. It is an experience of colors, especially blue one, great panels of tiles and richness of architecture which everyone should see.


This post is by Sarah, Arizona State


One of the things I love most about living in Lisbon is the opportunity we have to actually see the history that we’ve learned about in class. Some of the buildings and sites we visit are so old that it’s difficult for me, being from such a young country, to comprehend the countless events and stories that have taken place there. Our visit to the Palace of Fronteira, built circa 1670, was no different. However, the palace has one unique and defining detail - it is still currently used as a residence for the 12th Fronteira Marquês, D. Fernando Mascarenhas! I couldn’t believe that we were actually entering into someone’s home, and such a beautiful one at that!


Our tour of the palace began in the main room on the first floor. Here is where guests are traditionally entertained, and main activities take place - in America, we call this a “great room”. Intricately decorated tiles depicting important battles of the Restoration War and a line of 18th century Mascarenhas family portraits surround the room, adding to the stately atmosphere. On the ceiling, the Roman goddesses Venus and Minerva silently quarrel from their magnificent plaster.


From the main room, we continued into the library, which is still fully functioning and affords an excellent view of the gardens. The library still to this day contains original 17th century books and collections of treaties: how amazing!

Next, we reached the grandiose dining room, decorated with portraits of members of Portuguese nobility and numerous gold accents. Here, the rich blue and white tile work - known as azulejo - is also a main focal point of the room. The dining room leads out to a beautiful terrace, also known as the gallery of art. From here, the Marquês can enjoy looking out into his well-manicured gardens and contemplate the great arts. For extra inspiration, each facet of liberal arts is represented here, with Poetry being the first and foremost. It is interesting to note that, even today, there are poetry meetings in the palace organized by the Marquês, so the significance certainly lives on. Equally spaced statues of each planet - represented by their Greek mythology counterpart - adorn the rest of the walkway.


We were led by this path into a small chapel, which happens to be the oldest part of the entire palace. It was built in the 16th century before the other parts of the estate were completed. The graceful Rococo style of the chapel made it a peaceful place to pause.

We continued into the casa de fresca, or “fresh house” which was adorned with small pieces of broken ceramic and shells - or embrechado. This was probably my favorite area of the palace, because it is beautiful as well as functional. Before air conditioning, the palace residents would use this area as a place of refuge because it remained significantly cooler than the ambient temperature. It is certainly a feat of architectural genius.

Palacio marques de fronteira 157

Finally, we arrived at the palace gardens, which are representative of the geometric parterre layout - following a symmetric pattern. Black swans swam peacefully through the water mirror while our class discussed the numerous works of art. The Gallery of the Kings, situated high above the water mirror, contains symbolism of many portuguese icons. Busts of King D. João IV and his sons, Pedro and Alfonso, begin the archway into the gallery, followed by King D. Manuel and others. The tile work beneath the statues shows images of various Portuguese knights, reinforcing the idea that knights should always support the nobility. We ended our tour by walking through the picturesque hedges and gravel paths, surrounded by even more azulejo depicting typical activities for each month of the year.

I believe that applying our in-class knowledge to outside field trips such as this truly allows us as students to make the valuable connection between history and the issues of today. Besides, it’s not every day that I get to walk around a palace older than my entire country! By combining my classes with something I would already be doing - traveling - I can truly gain more from my time here in Lisboa.

A Walk Through Baixa Chiado: Artists, Churches and Royal Power

This post is by Quincy (Bates College)


We began our exploration of Lisbon’s architecture and history in Chiado, the center of Lisbon’s downtown. We met at Brasileira, a café that was a favorite of the famous Portuguese poet and translator, Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century and one of Portugal’s greatest literary artists. After examining the modern statue of Pessoa at his favorite table at Brasileira, we visited Pessoa’s apartment across from the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. In the square directly across from Chiado (and the statue of Pessoa), Luís de Camões stands, surrounded by the most important intellectual figures of the 16th century, in a monument considered to be most representative of romanticism. Camões is known as Portugal’s “Shakespeare” and is the country’s most famous poet. Down the hill from Pessoa and Camões is a statue depicting José Maria de Eça de Queirós embracing a naked woman. Eça de Queirós was a 19th century Portuguese novelist known for writing in the realist style.  In the statue the woman’s nudity represents the truth because she has nothing to hide. Surrounding all of the artist’s squares, which give the city room to “breathe,” are tiled façades of houses that add life and color to the city. It was appropriate that we began our tour in Chiado because of its prevalence in contemporary Portuguese culture and everyday student life, as well as its roots in past literary and architectural history.


(This is what Chiado looked like back in the day)

Chiado is also home to many “igrejas” or churches.  The three churches we visited were constructed during various periods but were all re-built in the Late-Baroque style after the 1755 earthquake. The churches are built in the Latin-cross plan without transepts or fully developed lateral chapels. The marble in Igreja da Encarnação demonstrates a strong Italian influence on Portuguese architecture. In the chancel there is a statue of the Virgin Mary that was carved by Joaquim Machado de Castro who also constructed the equestrian statue of King D. José I in Praça do Comércio. On a historical side note: during the initial planning of the Virgin Mary statue Machado de Castro was accused of heresy because his initial designs contained two angels, rather than the sole angel of annunciation. However, Machado de Castro defended himself saying he would rather no angels than only one, and after removing the angels from his designs, was allowed to continue with his project. Throughout the church, paintings suggest still sculptures, an interesting artistic innovation. In the second church, Igreja “dos Italianos”, marble also plays a prominent role. The church is whole, with no formal divisions or columns.  As in Igreja da Encarnação, frames are used to suggest sculptures in the undeveloped lateral chapels. The last church we visited, Igreja dos Mártires, was built in the Late-Baroque style and was frequented byLisbon’s high-class families. Until the 19th century people were buried in and around churches in an effort to be closer to god after their death, but as people became more knowledgeable about the consequences impacting public health the tradition ceased.  However, I felt remarkably close to those who had come before me knowing they were directly under the stones our group was standing on. Furthermore, by visiting the churches I have begun to have a better appreciation for the role religion plays in Portugal’s history and contemporary society.


We left the peaceful churches and headed down from Chiado to the crowded and vibrant Praça do Comércio, the crowning achievement of the Marquis of Pombal’s re-construction of Lisbon. Initially, the Praça was built by King D. Manuel I, who moved the royal palace from the Castle of São Jorge to Terreiro do Paço on the shores of the Tagus in an effort to intercept ships and control the harbor more effectively. However, after the earthquake destroyed the Praça, the Marquis of Pombal rebuilt it as a commercial center. In the center is a statue of King José I astride a horse, which served as a symbol of royal power. Praça do Comerico was not completed until the 19th century when the triumphal arch was finally installed in the style of the French royals. We ended our tour in Rossio, the only other square the Marquis of Pombal included in his plans. In the center of the square is King D. Pedro IV Portugal / I Brazil, who became the emperor of Brazil as a consequence of the royal family’s temporary relocation there as a result of the threat of a Napoleonic invasion in Portugal. Although we ended our tour there, the two hours we spent exploring downtown introduced us to Lisbon’s rich history and architecture, giving us a taste of what is to come and allowing us to better understand and appreciate our new home. 


São Vicente and the national pantheon

This post is by Ilana (George Washington University)


The Monastery of São Vincente-de-Fora is a 17th century church and monastery in Lisbon. The monastery was founded in the early 12th century by King D. Afonso Henriques and was built in Romanesque style. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of Lisbon. The current buildings are the product of reconstruction efforts done by Philip II of Spain, who became Philip I as King of Portugal in the latter half of the 16th century. The church of the monastery was built between the 16th and 17th centuries, with the remaining buildings finally being finished by the 18th century. The main altarpiece is in the Baroque style, with statues made by Joaquim Machado de Castro’s workshop. The architects involved in the project were Juan de Herrera, Filippo Terzi, Balthazar Alvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco. It is a truly beautiful testament to Baroque architecture. Amazingly, this part of the city was not majorly affected by the infamous earthquake in 1755, so the architecture of this area is almost exactly as it was many centuries ago.


Lisbon’s National Pantheon, otherwise known as the Church of Santa Engrácia, is a 17th century monument of Lisbon that took over three centuries to build. In the 20th century, it was converted into a Pantheon where important Portuguese personalities are buried, such as Fado queen Amália Rodrigues. The first church was sponsored during the reign of King Pedro II in the 17th century. The author of the design was João Antunes, a prominent baroque architect of the royal court. The church’s floor plan was in a Greek cross shape, with baroque-style façades. The floors and walls of the church are also done in baroque style marble. When Antunes passed away, the reigning King John V lost interest in the building of the church, instead concentrating on his own architectural goals. Later in the 19th century, the monastery housed a British military hospital and orphanage. The church was left unfinished until the 20th century when the dome was added. The roof of the Pantheon has the most breath-taking view of Lisbon, and seeing the city on such a breezy, sunny day only exaggerated the elegant beauty of the structure.


This post is by Hanne Dons (Belgium)

After visiting Castelo de Sao Jorge and Lisbon’s cathedral, this late summer day turned out to be the perfect time to discover another part of Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood: Alfama. In between the small streets and little houses, two great buildings rise : Sao Vicente de Fora and the National Pantheon are Lisbon’s great works of art of the sixteenth and the seventeenth century. Both churches are built in baroque style, but whilst Sao Vicente represents the Portuguese baroque, the National Pantheon is a model of Roman baroque.


Sao Vicente de Fora was built in the twelfth century by King D. Afonso Henriques. When Portugal lost its independence to Spain though, the church was rebuilt, from 1582 until 1624, by Spanish king Filipe II. Sao Vicente was a typical model of Portuguese baroque, by means of the plain style, gilded wood, tiles and ‘talking statues’. Resulting from this plain style the church is not highly decorated, but still, it is a wonderful piece of art. The baldachin, at the altar, is obviously inspired by Bernini’s baldachin in the Vatican.


After a five-minute walk, we arrived at the National Pantheon. The construction of this church began in the late sixteenth century under King Pedro II, but was only completed in the twentieth century under dictator Salazar. That’s why Portuguese people still use the expression “Obras de Santa Engrácia”, meaning “work that never ends”. This church, as a model of Roman baroque, was inspired by St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, designed by architect Bramante. Typical of this style is the decoration with colorful marble on the walls and the floor, which gave the church a particular, amazing look. Inside the pantheon, we saw also a lot of tombs of important Portuguese persons, such as Vasco da Gama, Albuquerque and Pereira. After a long and exhausting climb to the roof of the pantheon, we got an amazing view of the Tagus. A perfect ending of lovely visit to two of Lisbon’s masterpieces of the baroque.


This post is by Monika Molinska (Poland)

Lisbon is full of magnificent examples of different architectural styles. Walking through the streets you can find and compare a lot of monuments and churches.

Even if constructions represented the same style you can find the differences, because of various influences. One of the best ways to compare two examples of baroque style is a visit in Monastery of São Vicente de Fora and National Pantheon of Santa Engrácia. These two churches are located in Alfama, a 5-minute walk from each other.


From the name of Monastery of São Vicente de Fora you can identify two things. First, Portuguese word “fora” means “outside”, the church was situated outside Lisbon’s walls. The second, that church is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, who is saint patron of Lisbon. His relics were brought from Spain through the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The first church in this place was built in 12th century in the time of King Dom Afonso Henriques. After the loss of independence (in 1580), King Philip II of Spain who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) decided to rebuild the monastery between. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Filippo Terzi. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints – this kind of sculptures are named “talking statues” because they are full of expression what is the opposite of Romanesque. The façade is flanked by two towers and you can see the influence of Classic Style. It is impossible to recognize the interior of the church only by looking at façade. Instead of three aisles (what is suggested by towers), we have a hall church built on Latin cross plan (even if the arms of transept are shortened) and lateral chapels.


Inside, you can find beautiful main altar, which is a Baroque work of the 18th century with sculptures made by Joaquim Machado de Castro’s workshop. It has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels – some make by gilded wood, some in stone.


The Church of Santa Engrácia was started around 1568, when the first church located in this place was sponsored by Princess Maria, daughter of King Manuel. Unfortunately in 1681 the building collapsed. The author of the new, roman baroque design was João Antunes, royal architect and one of the most important baroque architects of Portugal.

The church has a centralised plan, with a Greek cross shape and has a high central dome which was completed in the 20th century. The floor and walls are decorated with baroque, polychromed patterns of marble. It is really interesting to admire the floor-to-ceiling marble in patterns of pink, gold, grey, black and beige. Probably, the whole building was inspired by masterpieces of Donato Bramante, especially by the plan to St. Peter’s church at the Vatican.  

DSC_0150 (2)

In 1916, during the First Portuguese Republic, the Church of Santa Engrácia wasturned into a National Pantheon. You can find here tombs of the most important Portuguese personalities like: Vasco da Gama, Henry the Navigator, Luís de Camões, Amália Rodrigues and more others.


The additional thing is possibility to go upstairs to get the bird’s eye view of the patterned floor. After that, you can go through the small door to the rooftop for amazing views of Lisbon and the River Tagus.

Lisbon’s Downtown

This post is by Linda (Washington and Lee)


One of the classes offered to CIEE and Erasmus students covers Lisbon’s birth, growth, and reconstruction after the earthquake in 1755. The course is aptly named: Lisbon: City and Architecture, wherein we delve into Lisbon’s history, from Roman times to present day—from Alis-Ubbo to Lissabona to Lisboa. After learning about Lisbon’s development in the classroom, it was only right to experience it first-hand.


For our class’s first visit, we took off on a little history-packed jaunt through Lisbon’s cobbled and tiled downtown. Our first stop required us to descend Rua de Alecrim to Largo Barão do Quintela where we saw the monument of writer Eça de Queirós. Largo Barão do Quintela itself is a wee garden situated not far from Rio Tejo. The statue in the garden is an homage of sorts to Eça de Queirós, who is recognized as one of the greatest Portuguese writers, among others such as Luis de Camões and Fernando Pessoa. The statue depicts a nude, but cloaked, woman leaning against de Queirós. The nude female figure, covered only by a cloak of fantasy, represents the undeniable truth found in art (ergo, her nakedness).


Just a hop, skip, and jump away from the jardim we were introduced to another figure—Luis de Camões, Portugal’s prized poet. His statue is found in what is rightfully named “Largo do Camões” or “Camões Square.” His statue, which is sculpted grandly and resolutely, is surrounded by smaller sculpted figures of different prominent intellectual people of the 16th century—mathematicians even. His monument is considered to be one of the most representative sculptures of the Romanticism movement.


Well within walking distance of his statue are breath-taking churches of the Late-Baroque period—Igreja do Loreto (above) and Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação, both of which are highly adorned and contain a plethora of paintings disguised to resemble 3D sculptures. Rather than consisting of tiles and gilded wood (talha dourada) as was most typical, the churches are constructed out of stone and marble. Igreja do Loreto is known especially for it’s Lady of Conception at the altar, who is agreeing to birth the Son of God from not one but two angels on either of her sides. These churches not only house chilling design and aura, but they themselves are art forms on their own.


Afterward, we weaved our way down to the waters of Rio Tejo to get a better front- view of Praça do Comérçio, what was once Terreiro do Paço. From this vantage point, to our left we saw what was once the royal palace. In the center of the square is the statue of King Jose I, who reigned during the time of the 1755 earthquake. The sculpture depicts the horse treading on snakes, a symbol of power that is based on French culture.

We meandered our way up the transformed strip of shopping stores, something to which we students were probably all already accustomed, but this time, we gave heed to all the tiles and renovations we had previously missed. Our first class and formal visit to the downtown area was an insightful sampling of Lisbon’s many delights. We eagerly await our next opportunity to roam and learn together.