If you are planning on taking the Santa Justa Lift down to Baixa afterwards then be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds
The Igreja do Carmo was first built in the 14th century by the Portuguese knight Nuno Álvares Pereira, who won favour with King John I after he lead a decisive victory against the Castillian army in the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. This helped win Portugal’s independence from Spain, and also earned Pereira the money to finance his pet project.
A Sober Style
The church was originally built in a simple yet striking Gothic style typical of the mendicant religious orders. Massive vaulted ceilings and arched windows lent to the imposing grandeur of the building, but it was relatively light on intricate stonework compared to, for example, the ornate Manueline tradition found elsewhere in Lisbon.
The Last Trace
On 1st November 1755, when the great earthquake struck, the church was full of worshippers celebrating the feast day of All Saints. The roof collapsed, crushing hundreds beneath it, but the skeleton of the church remained, surviving the subsequent ravages of tsunamis and fires. Today the gothic ruins are one of the last remaining traces of that disaster still visible in the city.
It was never fully repaired after the earthquake and instead saw use as police and military garrison before the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists converted the ruins into a museum in the 19th century. However, even as recently as the 1970s the church was where the Carnation Revolution came to a head. It was where Marcelo Caetano, the regime’s final president, and some loyal forces were encircled by military rebels. They eventually surrendered, thus ushering in the time of democratic President António de Spínola and the government of modern Portugal.
A New Purpose
Nowadays, the the archaeological museum holds exhibitions showing varius aspects of Portuguese history, including pre-Colombian mummies, ceramic tiles and the tombs of Ferdinand I and Maria Ana de Austria. It’s a fascinating collection in a completely unique setting.
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