Read a little about Lisbon’s past beforehand, and then look at the layers of history that have been preserved in the archaeological dig at the centre of the cathedral
Lisbon’s ancient cathedral is almost 900 years old, having been built by Portugal’s first king in 1147 for the city’s first bishop, the English crusader Gilbert of Hastings. Together the crusaders mounted the ‘Reconquista’, taking back the Iberian peninsula from the Moors; the cathedral was symbolically built on the site of an old mosque, a common practice in Iberia at the time.
The cathedral’s exterior is imposing, somewhere between a fortress and a church. Its sturdiness has often been called on: Lisbon is susceptible to earthquakes, and a number of them shook the city in the 14th and 16th century, but the most severe was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which destroyed the cathedral’s Gothic main chapel, as well as the royal pantheon, and caused the roof to collapse on hundreds of worshippers gathered to celebrate the feast of All Saints.
As a result of repairs, the cathedral mixes elements of many architectural styles, from Romanesque to Gothic to Baroque. A thorough renovation in the 20th century gave the church its appearance today, and the resplendent rose window was painstakingly reconstructed from the fragments of the original, shattered in 1755.
The cathedral houses some weird and wonderful treasures. Among them, in the sacristy, you can find the casket that contains the remains of St. Vincent, the official patron saint of Lisbon. Other highlights include the font where St. Anthony of Padua was baptised in 1195, a 14th century Gothic chapel of Bartholomeu Joanes and a 14th century sarcophagus of Lopo Fernandes Pacheco.
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