It may not look like much on the outside, but there is a world of treasures awaiting inside the São Roque Church and Museum in Lisbon. This attraction is both a church and a museum, and the two parts adjoin each other. Both sides are must-see places to put on any traveler’s list when they visit Portugal.
The church was founded by the Jesuits in the late 1500s. It is richly decorated and has some serious museum-quality treasures of its own. These include a chapel dedicated to John the Baptist, which was designed by famed roman architect Luigi Vanvitelli. The chapel was added onto the already existing church in 1747 under the orders of King Joao V. It is extra special because it was actually made in Rome from materials that were blessed by the Pope. Alabaster and lapis lazuli are among the materials making up the chapel. It was disassembled after it was made, then shipped to Lisbon and put together again in its current location.
The chapel is noted for its wooden ceiling that is painted with an Apocalypse theme and its highly detailed mosaics that are done so finely they look like paintings. While this splendid chapel is the centerpiece of the church, it isn’t its only attraction. The church also holds a remarkable collection of paintings depicting the lives of the saints who were revered by the Jesuits. In addition, the 1700s-era baptismal font made from a polished conch shell is still there and available for admiring.
The museum next to the church houses an astounding collection of art, silver, sculpture, and more that speaks to the rich and varied history of Portugal. It has a very large collection of paintings from the 1500s, all of which were painted by Portuguese artists. Many of these paintings depict royalty, such as the painting of the wedding of King Manuel I.
The museum also houses one of the largest collections of baroque silver in the world. The highlights of the silver collection are the silver salver. There are also some extremely gorgeous cloth-of-gold vestments from the late medieval era.
The museum underwent some updating in 2006 and was closed for two years. It reopened in December 2008. The additions to the museum from the updating include more exhibition space, a cafeteria, and a gift shop. This makes the museum much more friendly and accessible to visitors who may want to spend the day there at their leisure and bring home a souvenir.
The São Roque Church and Museum is one of the finest examples of 16th and 17th century architecture and art in Portugal. Any visitor to Lisbon must see this remarkable attraction to get the full feel of the history of the nation and the city. It is a day trip worth taking on any trip to Portugal and will leave visitors speechless with wonder.