The São Vicente de Fora Church is an operational church and former monastery in Lisbon dating to the 1600s. It is considered one of the most important monasteries in all of Portugal. Not only is it a masterpiece of medieval architecture, it also contains the tombs of the royals of the Braganza dynasty.
The current monastery is a reconstruction of the original. The original building was constructed in 1147 for the Augustinian order of monks on the instructions of the first king of Portugal. Dedicated to Saint Vincente of Saragossa, who is the patron saint of Lisbon, the idea for the monastery arose when the saint’s relics were brought to the city around this time.
The current building is a reconstruction of the original that was ordered by King Filipe II of Spain, who was also King Filipe I of Portugal at the time. The reconstruction was begun in 1582 and completed in 1629. This reconstruction comprised the church and main monastery building. Other monastery buildings were added to the structure until the 1700s.
There are many stunning features of the church and monastery that can be seen today. A good example of this is the Baroque altarpiece done in the 1700s and serves as the main altarpiece of the church. There are other artistic altarpieces in additional chapels within the church that are all worth seeing.
The church is usually the first part of the building seen by visitors. The monastery buildings come next and are accessed through an extraordinarily ornate baroque arch. There are tiles from the 1700s in the entrance to the monastery portion. These tiles are mosaic tiles that tell the story of the building going all the way back to its original founding in 1147. There is also a large painting on the ceiling of the monastery entrance that was done in 1710.
The church and monastery were both active until 1834, when religious orders were done away with in Portugal. Though the monastery portion of the church no longer housed practicing monks, it remained as an important artifact to Portuguese history and was re-purposed to be a palace for the archbishops of the city. In the mid-1800s, King Ferdinand II turned the ancient refectory into a pantheon display for the Braganza monarchs. The Braganza tombs, which had been located in the main chapel of the church, were then transferred to the new pantheon. They can still be seen there today, making the São Vicente de Fora Church a wonderful place to visit for those with a passion for Portuguese royal history or Portuguese history in general.