How many times have I walked across Largo de São Domingos, this small square with beautiful mosaics, located between Rossio and Praca Martim Moniz? Countless times, I guess. Almost the same as the number of times I have walked along Igreja de São Domingos and never thought that I could also visit the church.
When the moment I walked into the church finally came, I was overwhelmed with a weird blend of emotions. It’s such an imposing church, with so much charisma and visible drama happening, the first thing we did was look around for at least 5 minutes with open mouths.
If you are going to visit this church as a tourist it may come across as a strange and perhaps a bit creepy tourist attraction.
Since a fire destroyed a large part of the interior in 1959, the church has never been fully restored. The bare marble walls are painted orange, the massive stone columns are still visibly scorched by the fire. Hidden in the small niches are unrecognizable marble statues. Many of the ornate artifacts were destroyed, including the gilded altars, valuable photographs and paintings. Traces of the fire can still be seen on the pillars. Due to the appearance of the austere interior you can, if you put some imagination into it, still pick up the scent of burnt wood.
Disaster after disaster
The construction of Igreja de São Domingos began in 1241. In its history, the building has suffered a number of disasters, including the earthquake of 1531, in which the church was severely damaged.
During that other earthquake, the famous one of 1755, the church was again largely destroyed. The church was rebuilt with some remains of other destroyed buildings in the Baixa. For example, materials from the old Royal Palace, Terreiro do Paço, the old palace at Praça do Comércio, were used for the entrance portal and balcony.
Combination of architectural styles
Parts of the original church have been combined with later reconstructions, making the old arches and walls seem completely out of place against the smooth orange plastered walls.
It gives a strange combination of the old (original) and more modern architecture, which contributes to the sinister atmosphere of the church. It almost seems as if the orange walls are hiding a dark ruin. The gloomy atmosphere of the church contrasts sharply with the African churchgoers of Igreja São Domingos. On Sundays and holidays, the church fills itself with powerful coloured costumes.
Largo de São Domingos
The square Largo de São Domingos, in front of the church, is a popular meeting place for the Portuguese African people. No matter what time of day you pass by here, it is always crowded with people.
Igreja Sao Domingos has strong ties with the African community in Lisbon. Traditionally, the priest comes from Africa. The church supports new immigrants in their transition to the Portuguese lifestyle.
Where to find find Igreja Sao Domingos
Address: Largo São Domingos, Baixa
Opening Hours: 7 a.m.- 11 p.m.