Last Days in Lisbon, Portugal


My last days in Lisbon were busy and fun. David left on Friday and I had the weekend to run around Lisbon before leaving on Monday, September 9.  


Friday afternoon, I walked to the church Sao Roque, near the Sao Pedro de Alcantara Plaza, to take the tour.  It such an interesting church that I wanted to learn more about it.  As it turned out, I was the only one on the tour, so I had a private tour!  Sao Roque (in English, Saint Roch) was a French saint who was a protectant of diseases. Upon the death of his parents, when he was in his twenties, he distributed the family wealth to the poor, like St Francis of Assisi and made his way to Italy. When he arrived in Italy, there was a plague, he diligently tended the sick and according to legend, through prayers, the touch of his hand or the sign of the cross, he miraculously healed many. 

In 1505, there was an epidemic of the black plague throughout Lisbon. Those who died from the plague, were buried outside of the city wall in the area where St Roch Church stands today.  In the same year, King Manuel I asked the Republic of Venice for a relic of St Roch……for help to heal and protect from the plague?..I am not certain. At any rate, the relic arrived and 1506, a shrine to house the relic was built.  During this time, a group of men, created a brotherhood and devoted their lives to St Roch and looking after the shrine.  


In 1534, the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was formed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola and six other students from the University of Paris.  In 1540, the brotherhood was approved by Pope Paul III.  Through the help of King Joao III (1521-1557) and his Queen Catarina of Austria, the order was established in Portugal.  The Jesuit priest chose the location of the Shrine of St Roch in Lisbon and in 1553, after negotiation with the Brotherhood of St Roch, they took possession of the shrine.  

In 1555, the Jesuits built a church and since St Roch, was not part of their beliefs, a chapel, dedicated to the saint, was reserved inside of the church for the brotherhood. Although, the church wasn’t finished, it was open for worship in 1573.  


The Jesuits did much social work.  They were very involved with treating the sick and education. Many of the nobles were educated by the Jesuits.  When the trade routes opened to India and Asia, the Jesuits sent missionaries there.  


In 1759, the Marquis de Pombal expelled the Jesuits from Portugal.  He felt that they were to wealthy and influential and they were a threat to the noble family.   When the Jesuits were expelled, the Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa took over the church. This order was involved with social care and health needs for the people of Portugal so they were able to continued the social work started by the Jesuits.  


The church has a wooden ceiling, which is painted and unlike any ceiling I have seen in a church before.  My guide book refers to the perfect acoustics for the sermons.  Is that the reason for the ceiling made of wood?  It is painted in the Trompe-l’oeil (French for deceives the eye). It appears to be a vaulted ceiling.  It was very unusual for a church ceiling.  


Along the sides of the church are individual alters, which were originally confessionals.  Around the beginning of the 1600s, the confessionals became private chapels for the nobility and the rich.  When this practice started, each year the chapels would be redecorated and become more elaborate.  If you look closely, you will see many different styles because of the annual changes made. 


My guide explained to me that Mary ascended to heaven with the angels escorting her.  However, with Jesus it was the assumption as he went to heaven alone.  In this  chapel, the Virgin Mary is ascending to heaven with angels all around her.

On the alter of this chapel, covered with the green cloth, is a monstrance that holds a consecrated host.  Not being Catholic, I didn’t understand exactly what a “consecrated host” was.  Again, my guide explained to me that once a host – what is offered to you for the body of Christ during communion – is blessed, the Catholics then believe that the blessed host is actually the body of Christ.  It is placed in a monstrance – a container that holds the host upright and is displayed in a transparent receptacle – for the believers to pay respect to.  

It is the same for the wine – the blood of Christ. Once consecrated, it is believed to actually be the blood of Christ.  (To my Catholic friends who are reading this….did I understand this correctly or was something lost in translation?)  


King Joao V (King John V) 1707-1750 commissioned large architectural projects and works of art to be made.  It was during the time when there was much wealth coming into Portugal from its various colonies around the world.  Many works of art from gold were made.  In 1742, all the commissioned works were copied into the Weale Album by artist.  It was an inventory for the King so he would know how much money he was actually spending. Today, this book is invaluable, as it shows all the works of art that were made during this time.  Sadly, after the earthquake, it is believed that many of the gold pieces were melted down to help pay for the reconstruction of the city.  Also, when Napoleon invaded, it was believed that he melted some of the art down as well. They had some of the drawing from the album on display. Each sketch was a work of art with all the details that they had in them.  


During the last half the the 1500s and the first half of the 1600s,the Mannerism style was popular in Portugal. It was rather austere. This chapel, dedicated to St Francis Xavier; one of the original Jesuits, is a good example of the Mannerism style.  It is very classic and balanced with the fluted Corinthian columns on each side of the statue of St Francis.  

King John V felt that Portugal needed to become as advanced with their art and encouraged more decorative designs, similar to the Italian art.  That is one reason why the chapels are so ornamental.  


St John the Baptist chapel is one of the most impressive chapels in the church.  It was commissioned by King John V in 1742 and was designed by the Pope’s architect.  The initial design was refused.  Eventually, with the proper changes, the design was approved and building of the chapel began in Rome from 1742 until 1774.  Nine months after the completion of the chapel, it was blessed by the Pope, dismantled and transported by 3 ships to Lisbon.  It is all done in marble and lapis.  The artwork is done in mosaic.  

This is an example of a painting, which the king liked and was worried that eventually it would fade or get damaged, so he requested that it be recreated in mosaic.  

This is the mosaic piece.  Imagine the incredible engineering and precision everyone involved on this project had. They had to make certain the initial measurements were correct in order for everything to fit when it was sent to be installed.  This chapel was the only part of the church not damaged in the earthquake. 


At the top of the alter, is a painting of the Virgin with her cloak open.  It is the symbol of the Virgin that the Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa adopted to show that they extended their services of care to all social classes from the clergy to the poorest of poor.  My guide, also, explained that about once every four month the painting is changed to coordinate events of the church calendar.  


This is a collection of various relic holders.  I had never heard of this practice until my first trip to Europe in 1977.  Very different and odd to me…maybe it was to give the masses of believers something solid to encourage their faith to grown stronger.  A visual, maybe, of a saint who had suffered in order to commit his life to following his faith in God?


These are relic holders of the female saints.  On the opposite side of the alter, there is a similar display for the male saints.  In the museum are two paintings that fit over the windows so that they could be covered.  Not certain if it was for protection for the relics to hide them or if it was for a certain time of year that they didn’t want them on display. 

Saturday was my trip to Fatima, which I have written about in an earlier post.

I arrived back in Lisbon around 5:30 that evening and was getting off at the Metro stop at the MARQUES DE POMBAL station when I saw a young women trying to get a large suitcase and smaller one up over the stairs…I could so relate and sympathize with her, so I offered to help her carry them up.   That is how I met Samantha who is originally from Windsor, ON, Canada but is now living in Dubai and working for Emirates Airlines as a flight attendant.  We must have talked for over an hour at the metro stop.  After we decided that we both needed to get to our destinations, we exchanged phone numbers and a promise to get together at least one more time before I left on Monday.  


Saturday night, I walked all over Lisbon taking pictures of the city at night.  I have to justify bringing my tripod over and carrying it around.  I am wondering if next time, I might just bring one of those smaller ones for the few times I have used it.  Here are some of my favorites: 

Rossio Square


Rossio Train Station

Side street that show the night life in Lisbon

Carmel Square..again, the nights consist of eating and drinking
at a restaurant or cafe.

Calcada do Duque stairway with St George’s
Castle in the background

Street cars of Lisbon and St George’s Castle in the background.


Sunday, was a day to pick up a few souvenirs and wander through the Alfama neighborhood.  The Alfama area is my favorite part of Lisbon.  I don’t know if I would want to stay there, but I enjoyed visiting it.  I made my way to the Se Cathedral, where St Anthony, the patron saint of Lisbon, is buried.  The cathedral is the oldest in Lisbon.  It was built in 1147.  Over the years, it has been added onto and has survived many earthquakes.  

Inside Se Cathedral
Around the corner, is the Church of St Anthony which is built on the site where St Anthony was born.  This current church was erected between 1767 and 1787.  The original church was heavily damaged in the 1755 earthquake.  It is said that this church was built by the children who begged for coins for St Anthony.  
Today, it is still common to find coins at the alter that acknowledges where the saint was born.  You can see the  coins on the alter. 
Inside St Anthony’s Church
I made my way up to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia and had a coffee while looking out over the neighborhood and the Tagus River.  It was pleasant sitting in the shade of a tree, sipping coffee and listening to the guitar player entertain us with songs from the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkle.  



From the nearby terrace, I saw the Italian Navy tall ship that we saw from the train as it was coming into port.  It left the following day. I later learned that they were giving tours on Sunday.  That would have been fun to go aboard…to see the ship and those men in their cute uniforms!   
Just another picture of Alfama that I like
It was around 3:00 and I decided that I needed to head home and pack as Samantha and I were going to try to meet for dinner.  Shortly, after I clicked this picture, I was making my way back down the hill when low and behold, who do I see in front of me, but Samantha!  She was so surprised…as was I.  We started walking to find a cafe near Rossio Square. As we walked through Commercial Plaza, I told her what little history I could remember of it.  From the plaza, we walked through the arch, down the pedestrian street of Rua Augusta and spent the rest of the afternoon visiting over a nice cool glass of water at the Pastelaria Suica Cafe.




She had a co-worker coming to Lisbon on a flight Monday and the two were going to explore Lisbon.  So, I walked around the Alto Barrio district pointing out places, took her to the St Roch Church and explained about the different alters and pieces of art.  It was about 7:00 when I headed home to pack.  I was sad to say good-bye to my new friend but I am hoping that since she flies everywhere that our paths will cross again in the near future.

Before I finish this post, I need to mention the Fado music.  It is the folk music for Portugal of songs about the sea, lost loves and the life of the poor.  It is a bluesy type of sound as they sing about their fate and longings.  Throughout Lisbon there are many restaurants that offer Fado music.  David and I were going to go to one that was recommended to us by a local. It is Señhor Vinho. He claimed that was where the locals went to hear Fado music and it wasn’t a real touristy place.  I looked on line and read reviews.  It was good but all said how pricey the meals were.  We weren’t really that hungry.  I finally came across just a show of Fado music…no food involved and it was at 7:00 PM at night. That was the other thing about the restaurants, the music started anywhere from 9:00 to 11:00 at night.  Sorry, but David and I tend to go to bed early.  Fado in Chiado is in the Espaco Chiado building on Rua Misericordia, 14-2nd Floor. It was for 50 minutes and I thought it was good.  It would have been better if I had understood what they were singing about but still you understood the emotions through their singing.  I especially loved the instrumentals that the two guitarist played.  One of the accompanist was playing the Portuguese guitar.  It is a twelve string guitar and the body is in a teardrop shape.  It was a nice evening…topped of with an ice cream from Santini, where we had gotten one previously. 
I have throughly enjoyed my time in Portugal.  I loved the cities that I visited and their quaintness, the history that I learned over the 3 weeks here.  I would highly recommend Portugal for a trip but not during the summer months, unless you are planning on spending your time at one of there many beaches or resorts. 


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