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Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

From royal tombs to azulejo tile panels depicting La Fontaine’s famous fables, this magnificent monastery is full of interesting details. 

Standing prominently on a site overlooking the red roofs of the Alfama neighborhood, the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, meaning St. Vincent Outside the Walls, is one of the most important religious buildings in Lisbon. Explore the site, and soak up the serene and reverent atmosphere. Inspect the varied design details that lend this complex its eclectic architectural character. 

Learn about the history of the monastery. The first monastery by this name was built back in 1147, shortly after Christian crusaders recaptured the city of Lisbon from the Moors. The present-day monastery dates back to the 17th century. The complex was designed by Spanish architect Juan Herrera, who was responsible for Madrid’s El Escorial royal complex, and the Italian architect Filippo Térzi. Other architects later made their own additions and changes to the site.

Examine the monastery’s eye-catching white church building. Bearing Italian Renaissance influences, the limestone façade features two bell towers, balustrades and statues of religious figures.

Inside, the monastery is adorned with eye-catching decorative and architectural details. Admire the striking sacristy, whose walls are covered with multicolored marble. Turn your gaze upwards to see the large-scale painting on the ceiling. 

Look for the mausoleum containing the grave of the Portuguese Braganza royals. Here, a statue depicting a weeping woman watches over the tombs of former Portuguese royals. Also of note are the tile panels in the cloisters which show fantastical characters and scenes from La Fontaine’s fables.

While wandering around, note the high number of azulejos, elaborately painted ceramic tiles, present here. These can be seen throughout the complex in courtyards, halls and staircases. Because of its elevated position, the monastery offers excellent views over the Alfama district and beyond. 

To get to the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, take the metro to Santa Apolónia and walk southwest for just over 10 minutes. The monastery is open Tuesday through Sunday. Adults must pay an admission fee. Children enter for free.


Guide to Exploring Monastery of Sao Vicente de Fora


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