One warm summer morning I was wondering around downtown Lisbon in Rossio Square. While taking some pictures before people got out and about, having an espresso and amazing custard tarts, I stumbled across The Church of São Domingos. Just on one of the many side streets that lead off Rossio Square (just to the right of the National Theatre) I found this non-descript looking church. The outside promised nothing more than many of the churches that dot the city streets of European countries.


What I found was a church, with an amazing history and character showing signs of its past still visible today.

Facts about the Church of São Domingos

Foundation stone was laid in 1241

Suffered a severe flood in 1531

Ravaged by the great earthquake of 1755, Its library destroyed along with 9000 books

In 1955 the entire roof and wooden portions were destroyed by fireThe church is of Roman Catholic denomination.

It was once the site of an execution in 1761 when a Jesuit Missionary was charged with treason

Royal weddings were frequently held from 1506 to 1886

Verdicts in the Portuguese Inquisition were read out here in the 15th Century


The inside of São Domingos is truly unique

It’s hard to explain the uniqueness of São Domingos. When you first walk in the door aesthetically it is confusing. You are not sure what you have found. It appears someone has built a church around some ancient ruins or you have a found a church that is in the process of decaying but what you have found is a Church showing the scars it was dealt from standing up against the forces of nature. Centuries of tragic events that have struck this church from fires to earthquakes have scared this church like no other.


Rebuilding over the centuries has tried to incorporate many original structures of the building. There are still clear signs of the fire that struck the church in 1955 including the faint smell of smoke which still resonates throughout the church and the black scared pillars. It is a contrast that stands out against the red colors of the roof and the gold that adorns the statues and the altar. I found this church fascinating I spent a good 30 minutes sitting in here and exploring the area inside. It is unique, unlike any other church I have visited in Europe.

There is a quote in the brochure I picked up from the church which perfectly describes this church it reads:

This is a single church in the world for its history

The memory of greatness and the misfortune and the scars of fire

A sanctury in the centre of Lisbon, that leaves no one indifferent.

This church is either lucky or unfortunate depending which way you look at it. What can be said is that São Domingos is the ultimate survivor.

When in Lisbon we choose to stay at Lisbon Centre Historic Apartments just steps away from Rossio Square 

Lisbon historic central apartments

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