Historical Churches, Porto

Historical Churches (Self Guided), Porto

Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe and is deeply rooted in Christianity, notably Catholicism. The latter explains the abundance of historic chapels, churches, and monasteries in the country. Porto, a city with a rich historical and cultural heritage, boasts several old churches of its own. Remarkable architectural gems, they reflect the city's profound religious tradition.

Among the notable local landmarks is the Carmo Church (Igreja do Carmo), combining two structures from the 1600s and 1700s. Its striking exterior clad in blue tiles narrates the history of the Carmelite order.

A few blocks away from it stands the Chapel of São José das Taipas, a testament to the city's devoutness, featuring a modest yet elegant design.

Another significant sight to behold is the Church of Mercy (Igreja da Misericórdia), known for its Baroque style and on-site museum.

The Church and Tower of the Clergymen, an enduring symbol of Porto, is the work of an 18th-century Italian architect, who left a significant mark on the city with this iconic project.

Likewise, the Saint Anthony Church of the Gatherers captures the imagination with its elegant Baroque facade richly adorned with fabulous tile work.

In turn, the Santa Clara Church exudes a sense of reverence and enchants visitors with its lavish interior, featuring elaborate wood carvings gilded in real gold and a stunning portico.

While the Church of Santo Ildefonso stands out with its distinctive twin bell towers, the Chapel of Souls (Capela das Almas) captivates passers-by with its mesmerizing azulejo panels depicting scenes from the lives of saints.

Lastly, the Trinidad Church (Igreja da Trinidade), with its imposing facade and grandeur, invites visitors to marvel at its architectural splendor.

These historical places of worship are repositories of Porto's cultural heritage, preserving centuries of tradition and craftsmanship. As you explore these sacred sites, regardless of whether you're a devout pilgrim or a curious traveler, take a moment to reflect on the city's enduring legacy of faith and artistry. This way, you may get a glimpse into Porto's soul and experience its spiritual and cultural richness firsthand.
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Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Historical Churches
Guide Location: Portugal » Porto (See other walking tours in Porto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: ChristineS
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church)
  • Capela de São José das Taipas (São José das Taipas Chapel)
  • Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy)
  • Church and Tower of the Clergymen
  • Saint Anthony Church of the Gatherers
  • Igreja de Santa Clara (St Clara Church)
  • Santo Ildefonso Church
  • Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)
  • Igreja da Trinidade (Trinidad Church)
Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church)

1) Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church)

One of the oldest buildings in the historic part of Porto, Igreja do Carmo is actually a combination of two buildings: one dating from the 1600s and the other from the 1700s. Originally, it was built for the Carmelite order of the Roman Catholic Church and was used as a convent. The Baroque style structure features golden woodwork in the interior along with neoclassical tiles. It has a classic façade with a bell tower. The oldest of the two parts of the church – built with a single nave – has seven altars created by Francisco Pereira Campanhã.

The exterior wall of the building is covered in tiles depicting the history of the Carmelite order. Connecting the right and the left side of the structure is a narrow building which measures only one meter in width and was meant originally to keep the monks separated from the nuns of the convent, thus preserving the nuns' chastity and helping the monks keep their vows of celibacy.

Why You Should Visit:
Stunning inside and out; a glorious example of Porto's traditional 'azulejos' (tiles), which are often blue and white and have been handpainted.
The organ is a piece of art and highly unusual, in that there are horizontal horns protruding from the pipe area.

Be sure to visit the 1-meter wide house separating the two churches – one of the world's narrowest buildings.
Capela de São José das Taipas (São José das Taipas Chapel)

2) Capela de São José das Taipas (São José das Taipas Chapel)

Capela de São José das Taipas is located on Rua Dr. Barbosa de Castro. Construction on the church began in 1795 and finished only in 1878. The delay was caused not only by a lack of cooperation but also by a number of disruptive social and politic events that occurred at the beginning of the 19th century. Inside, the church has a nave, along which runs a balcony with iron railings. Behind the main altar there are another four side altars dedicated to health, conception, the Lady of Sorrows and St. Anthony.
Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy)

3) Igreja da Misericórdia (Church of Mercy)

Church of Mercy is a fantastic church that can be found in the center of Porto on the Rua das Flores. It is a very popular attraction with visitors to the metropolis. The structure has a history which begins in the 1500s. Although the building has gone through several renovations over the years, there are still many of the original elements. The façade is reminiscent of the Baroque style of architecture and was added in the 1700s.

Visitors will enjoy exploring the museum inside the building which exhibits many 15th century artworks and artifacts. One, in particular, is the Flemish Fins Vitae that shows King Manuel I and his wife, Leonor, kneeling before the crucifixion. King Manuel I was a 14th-century ruler, under whose reign Portugal became a world power.

The street – Rua das Flores (Flowers Street) – where the structure is located has a history dating back to 1521. It is lined with beautiful homes with wrought iron balconies and iconic embellishments. For those who are fascinated with architecture and design, this street will be well worth setting aside some time to explore.

This stunning church is open for only a few hours a day, but you can get to see it as part of your entry to the adjacent museum (10am-6:30pm) that boasts a collection of sacred art.
Church and Tower of the Clergymen

4) Church and Tower of the Clergymen (must see)

Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter of the 18th century, did a lot of work throughout Portugal. His most memorable project is the Church and Tower of the Clergymen. His other works include the construction of the Misericordia Church, the Archbishop's Palace and the lateral loggia of Porto Cathedral.

Construction of the church was completed in 1750. The bell tower and divided staircase in front of the church were not finished until 1763. The facade is ornate with Baroque decorations such as garlands and shells and an indented pediment. The frieze above the windows has spiritual symbols. The sides show an elliptical nave.

The Church of the Clergymen (Clerigos) was among the first baroque style churches to have an elliptical floorplan. The polychromed marble altarpiece in the large chapel was done by Manuel dos Santos Porto.

The Tower is in a Roman Baroque style of Tuscan bell towers. It is 245 feet high and it takes 240 steps to reach the top for an incredible view of Porto. The tower is one of the recognizable symbols of Porto.

Nicolau entered the Clerigos Brotherhood and when he died he was buried in the crypt of his masterpiece, The Church and Tower of the Clergymen.
Saint Anthony Church of the Gatherers

5) Saint Anthony Church of the Gatherers

Located in Porto, Portugal, the Igreja de Santo Antonio Congregados, also known as the Saint Anthony Church of the Gatherers, is dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. This Portuguese born saint, St. Anthony was born in the 12th century and became a Franciscan priest. The Franciscans were the largest member of the Order of the Friars Minor and were founded by St. Francis Assisi. As a missionary, he eventually found his calling in Padua, Italy.

The building was constructed during the late part of the 17th century. The church replaced the original church which stood on this land for several hundred years. Designed by the very popular and world renowned architect of the time, Joaquim Jaime B. Ferreira-Alves, it is elegant and elaborate with Baroque features including the fabulous tile work which was created by the famed artisans, Jorge Colaço and João Baptista Ribeiro.

The tile work tells the story of St. Anthony and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Baroque style is characterized by sharp details and larger-than-life motion which, it its architectural constructions often appear as if they are seamlessly reaching for the sky. Many of the Roman Catholic Churches throughout Europe have some style elements of the Baroque period of art and architecture.
Igreja de Santa Clara (St Clara Church)

6) Igreja de Santa Clara (St Clara Church)

Santa Clara's structure dates back to the 1400s and is an excellent example of Baroque architecture. The building was constructed for the Roman Catholic Church. The interior holds a vast selection of some of the best gilded Baroque woodwork in all of Porto. Originally it housed both a monastery and convent and continued to be used in this fashion until the 19th century.

The entrance of the structure has a large Baroque door which is flanked by Renaissance characteristics, including Solomonic columns with Corinthian capitals. These were added during one of the several renovations which took place over its lifetime. Solomonic columns typically can be described as having a twisted corkscrew shape which cannot be mistaken with other column designs. Corinthian capitals are usually seen embellished with scrolls and acanthus leaves.

The interior of the church is definitely the place a guest to the city who is fascinated with elaborate décor will want to explore. The interior of this facility has elaborate wood carvings throughout it with many of them gilded in real gold. The portico, which was created by famed artist, Miguel Francisco da Silva, is something special to admire.

You should expedite your visit as they should close soon (5/2019) for 2 to 3 years of rehabilitation works.
Santo Ildefonso Church

7) Santo Ildefonso Church

The Igreja de Santo Ildefonso is an 18th-century proto-Baroque style church in Porto. It is named in honour of the bishop of Toledo. The building took thirty years to complete, inaugurated on 18 July 1739.

The church suffered storm in 1819 and damage from artillery fire in1833 during the Siege of Porto. Over the years it has undergone structural modifications, including replacement stained glass windows in 1967, created by the artist Isolino Vaz. Constructed of granite, the shape of the church's main body is that of an octagon. The facade is regular and plain, with two bell towers and a recess where a figure of the church's patron stands.

Two notable features of the church are the retable and the blue-and-white tiling. Nicolau Nasoni designed the retable, which was created and installed by architect Miguel Francisco da Silva in 1745. 11,000 tiles cover the facade of the church and depict scenes from the life of Saint Ildefonso and figurative imagery from the Gospels.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls)

8) Capela das Almas (Chapel of Souls) (must see)

At the end of the eighteenth century the Brotherhood of Souls moved from the Monastery of Santa Clara to the chapel of Santa Catarina. The addition of the Brotherhood swelled the size of the Santa Catarina faction of devotees to the point where a new building was needed. The chapel therefore was expanded and restored in 1801.

The facade has a framed door under a circular pediment. A coat of arms is set on the tympanum showing St Francis of Assisi and Santa Catarina. The bell tower has two floors. On the first floor is a door with a window. The second floor has four windows and a balcony. Atop the dome is an iron cross.

The style of the church is basically neoclassical, but the church is noted for its covering of azulejo tiles. The tiles were made at the Viuva Lamego Ceramic Workshop in Lisbon. The 16,000 glowing blue and white tiles depict scenes from the lives of Saint Catherine and Saint Francis of Assisi.

The stained glass windows, made by Amandio Silva, show the souls in Purgatory washed with the redeeming blood of Christ. Inside the chapel is the 18th century image, Virgin of Souls. On the main altar is the large painting called "The Ascension of the Lord" by Joaquin Rafael, a professor of Fine Arts in Lisbon.

This is without a doubt, the most beautiful church in Porto. It must not be overlooked.
Igreja da Trinidade (Trinidad Church)

9) Igreja da Trinidade (Trinidad Church)

The Igreja da Trinidade, designed by architect Charles Amarante, was built in the neoclassical style, popular during the 19th century. The interior frescoes represent the Baptism of Christ and were created by the famous Portuguese painter José de Brito. This holy building is located on Trinity Square behind the Porto City Council building.

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