Churches of Alfama

Churches of Alfama

Share button Share


Duration - 2 hours

filled-star filled-star filled-star

Difficulty - Medium

Strolling through Alfama is getting to know one of the most typical neighbourhoods in Lisbon. Walking through narrow streets and alleys, where sailors and fishermen lived. Remembering noblemen and dandies, palaces and popular housing, descending the hill to the river. Alfama derives from Hal-Hamma, which in Arabic means thermal water springs, once abundant in the area.

It is said to be the oldest fountain in Lisbon. Built between two towers of the old Moorish Wall, it has a façade in neoclassical style, rebuilt in 1864, when the fountain underwent the last change. Boats came here to water, that is, to furnish with a supply of water for long trips across the sea, such as those of the Way to India. For centuries, water from this fountain had a reputation for curing digestion, liver and catarrh problems.

This original eclectic palace, built in the 20th century, occupies the site of the former palace of the Marquis of Angeja, which was adjoining the old Moorish Wall and collapsed with the 1755 Earthquake. Today it is a hotel with Art Nouveau interiors, neo-Moorish stucco and an arbour in the small garden overlooking the Tagus river.

These arches or walkways connected the two parts of the palace of the Count of Vila Flor, one located on Travessa de São João da Praça and the other on Rua Cais de Santarém.

São João da Praça São João da Praça

Here was a small chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, founded by Saint Anthony’s father, as a thanksgiving for having been acquitted of a charge punishable with death by a miracle operated by his own son; reformed in the reign of King Dinis, it was destroyed by the 1755 Earthquake. The current church dates from 1789. Inside, it is worth noting the Barroque imagery dispersed among the side altars, especially the Virgin with the Child, by the famous sculptor Machado de Castro, and the altars with “embrechado” shell-finishing.

There are visible traces of the old, late Roman wall, built in the 4th century, and of successive reutilizations made throughout time, such as a 13th century barbican. The signs put there by the Lisbon City Hall help to identify.

This tower, an old Arabic turret, was later connected to the new defensive fence of Lisbon, the Fernandine Wall, built by King Fernando between 1373 and 1375. In the 14th century, the tower served as a prison. The name of Saint Peter evokes the patron of the ancient church that existed here since the 12th century and that was destroyed by the 1755 Earthquake.

The name resembles the Small Jewish Quarter of Lisbon, or of Alfama, as it was also known, that existed here until 1492, date of its extinction by order of King Manuel I.

On the right side of the public fountain, the ashlar with the carved Saint Peter’s keys reminds once more of the missing Church of Saint Peter.

This open wicket in a section of the wall was sealed for centuries. At the end of the 15th century, beginning of the 16th century, a palace was built here, from which remain two twin Manueline windows and modillions sustaining a balcony.

The name alcaçaria derives from the Arabic and means shopping street, but also a place where tanning is carried out. The term was also used to mean thermal baths. Two beautiful 18th century panels decorate the square. From the middle of the 19th century, the famous Fountain of the Rats, whose mineral-medicinal water was famous for being miraculous, was located here. The fountain was closed in 1963, giving rise to protests from the population.

São Miguel São Miguel

From the 12th century, there was a small church in this place, which was quite damaged and was, thus, rebuilt in 1673 by the Brotherhood of the Blessed Sacrament. The interior, rich in gilded woodcarving and covered by a “brutesco” ceiling, shows paintings attributed to Bento Coelho da Silveira (1617-1708), royal painter of King Pedro II. The image of Saint Michael, to the left of the high altar, takes part in the procession of Saint Anthony on the streets of Alfama, every year, on June 13. On the left side of the façade, two beautiful tile shrines represent Our Lady of the Rosary and the Souls in the Purgatory.

The five-storey rebound house with wooden shutters on the windows, on the corner with Saint Michael Alley, is one of the few in Lisbon dating from the 16th century.

Old rebound houses at number 6, 8 and 10. House number 16-18 has thick, Doric style columns supporting the upper floor.

The fountain dominates the square and ows its nme to the fact that is has been built within the perimeter of the new city wall, the Fernandine Wall. Its origins seem to date back to the Roman period. On the left, a stone with the old coat of arms of the city of Lisbon states that the fountain underwent repairs in 1622. The water springs that existed here emerged from geological faults; some of those, at more than 20ºC, were used for public baths explored by private individuals.

The Baths of the Monastery of Alcobaça were on the square at no. 8; the Baths of Doctor Fernando were at no. 19 and 20. Further down, on Terreiro do Trigo Street, at no. 52 to 60, the Duke of Cadaval’s Tanneries operated from 1716 to 1978, and the baths of D. Clara were at no. 62 to 68.

The Museum of Fado, inaugurated in 1998, exhibits a varied and rich heritage and is worth a visit to get to know the history of fado, the popular songo f Lisbon, recognised as Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2011.

Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Nossa Senhora dos Remédios

Built in the 16th century, it was the seat of the Brotherhood of the Holy Spirit of the fishermen of Alfama. The dedication of the church has changed when a completely dry image of the Virgin was found in a well of water here, a miracle that caused the sailors and their families to looked for the miraculous virtues of the water and the Lady. Outside, it conserves the Manueline portal and, inside, tiled panels from the 16th and 18th centuries.

On the Sidewalk of Saint Stephen, on the right side, at no. 2, there is a Manueline door. On the Square, at no. 19, you will find a Public Bathhouse.

All covered in tile, its ceiling has a dove evoking the Holy Spirit.

Santo Estêvão Santo Estêvão

The parish of Saint Stephen is very old, with the early church dating back to the 12th century. The church was modified in the 16th century and was rebuilt between 1733 and 1740, when it was given a Baroque style. The 1755 Earthquake caused some damage on it, and it was only reopened to the cult in 1773. With an octogonal plan, designed by the architect Manuel da Costa Negreiros, it preserves in its main altar a sculptore of the Crucified Christ, by José de Almeida, which had been provisionally placed in the Basilica of Mafra.

It is one of the first traffic signs in the city of Lisbon, hence its curiosity. The text says: “YEAR OF 1686 HIS MAJESTY ORDERS THAT CARS, CARRIAGES AND SEDAN CHAIRS COMING FROM THE SALVADOR DOOR HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE SAME PART.” Numerous conflicts arose when two vehicles met in these narrow streets, since neither side wanted to give way to the other. There were even deaths because of that. Failure to comply with this law of King Pedro II led the offender to be deported to Brazil for five years and to pay fines.

Made in Portuguese pavement by Alexandre Farto, better known as Vhils, the face of the famous Queen of Fado, Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999), is a piece of art.

The “sun gate” was the entrance of the Moorish Wall facing the East, from which the name comes. From this square you have one of the best views of the city of Lisbon.

The patron saint of Lisbon is present in the square. Saint Vincent holds in one hand a boat with two crows, which would have accompanied the Saint’s relics on the journey between Sagres and Lisboa, then becoming the syombol of the city of Lisbon, and in the other hand a palm, symbol of martyrdom.

The museum is housed in the Azurara Palace, which stands against the Moorish Wall. The palace was bought by banker Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva and fully recovered to host part of his private collection. In 1953, the Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Foundation is born, aiming to disseminate the know-how of the Portuguese arts and crafts, thus ensuring the conservation and restoration of decorative arts in Portugal.

The name of the street honours a famous journalist and Lisbon historian, author of Pilgrimages in Lisbon, one of the first tourist books, published in 1939. Under the arch, on your left, you will find the history of Lisbon in comics, from the 5th century to the 20th century.

It is one of the most typical corners of Alfama. At no. 33, a stone indicates that these houses paid taxes to the Convent of Saint Peter of Alcantara.

This wicket opened in the wall in the 18th century permitted the passage to the palace of the Marquis of Lavradio.

In the 18th century, the palace belonged to D. Francisco de Mascarenhas (1662-1685), the second son of the Marquis of Fronteira annd first Count of Coculim, a town in the State of Portuguese India. The building, where you can still see the coat of arms in stone of the Mascarenhas family, was practically burried in the 1755 Earthquake.

The inscription placed over the door indicates the house where the first Duke of Terceira, António José de Sousa Manuel de Meneses Severim de Noronha (1792-1860), 7th Count and 1st Marquis of Vila Flor, was born and died.

Follow us

Follow us in the social networks