Lisbon Destinations

Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha

The facade of the gray stone Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha located at number 112 Rua da Alfândega has an unusual mix of plain stone walls and ornately carved doorways. Part of the reason may be that this church was built from the remains of an earlier church named Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia. This early church was built in the beginning of the 16th century. As with many of the buildings in Lisbon, the 1755 earthquake destroyed the original church. Only the main doorway survived and was incorporated into the present-day church.

This doorway with its ornate stone carvings is an excellent example of the “Manueline” architectural style. The name “Manueline” originated from King Manuel I, who reigned from 1495 to 1521 when this architectural style became popular. It is also called “Portuguese Late Gothic” and bridged the gap between the Gothic architecture of the 15th century and the revival of ancient Greek and Roman architecture in the Renaissance style in the 16th century.

The doorway of the Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha is filled with Manueline details such as angels, beasts and maritime themes such as pearls, shells and anchors. On the pediment from the original Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia, Our Lady of the Mercy spreads her mantle, which is held by two angels, over Pope Alexander VI, the bishop of Lisbon and King Manuel I.

Go into the church if it is open. Inside the second chapel to the right is a statue representing Nossa Senhora do Bom Successo, or Our Lady of Good Success. This statue originally stood in Belém, another neighborhood of Lisbon. It was in Belém where sailors would pray before this statue for success on their voyages before leaving port. It was thanks to the successes of these voyages that the Manueline style grew in popularity.

Praca do Comercio

Praça do Comércio, which means the square of commerce. It is also known as Terreiro do Paço, the Palace square, and it was here that the royal palace stood for four centuries. In 1511, King Manuel I chose to move from the Alcáçova palace in Castelo de São Jorge, which is half a kilometer to the northeast of here, to this more centralized location in Lisbon. His new home in this square became the “Paços da Ribeira”, or Riberia Palace, a three-story building with four towers. The palace also included a library that was funded by the wealth of the spice trade and became one of the most extensive library collections in Europe.

All of that was lost on November 1, 1755 when a huge earthquake destroyed the Royal Palace together with its library, which contained around 70,000 volumes. Marquês de Pombal, who was in control of the reconstruction work, decided to build a new square at this location. The square was made somewhat larger and was given the new name, Praça do Comércio. The architect Santos Carvalho designed the new buildings to surround the square on three sides, leaving the south side exposed to the sea. This harbor at the south side has been recognized as the finest gate to Lisbon. Ambassadors and royalty have disembarked here by the Cais das Colunas, a small jetty with two pillars, and entered the city of Lisbon via the marble stairs. You can still access the Cais das Colunas by foot, giving you the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of royalty.

To learn more, watch the Lisbon Tour

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