Church of Saint Roch, Lisbon, Portugal

The Church of Saint Roch (Igreja de São Roque) has an illustrious history, being the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, its unusual foundation upon a plague burial site, and is home to what was described in the 18th century as one of the most expensive chapels ever built. Prior to the construction of the present church, the site was home to a plague cemetery as it was situated outside of the city walls (now an area known as Bairro Alto). In 1505 at the height of the plague the King of Portugal, Dom Manuel I received a relic from Venice of St Roch (the Patron Saint of Plague Victims). A shrine was erected at the plague graveyard and a courtyard for further burials. The shrine was looked after by the Brotherhood of St Roch (a society that still exists today) and upon the arrival of the Jesuits in Portugal they set their sights on establishing a church here, with the agreement that a chapel to St Roch would be established within the new building. Building commenced in 1555 and was worked upon by the best tradesmen and even the royal architect. The decoration of church continued over the centuries with a large part including the Chapel of St Roch completed in the early part of the 18th century. Although the ceiling collapsed during the 1755 earthquake, the chapel faired a lot better than most of Lisbon’s historical buildings.

The church is home to some of the most outstanding chapels I have seen, the Chapel of Our Lady of Piety, the burial place of the church’s founder and the intriguing 19th century sculpture of Our Lady of the Happy Death. The Church of St Roch and the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament are also incredibly stunning. I highly recommend a visit to the Church of Saint Roch, its plain exterior belies the jaw dropping sight inside.

GPS: 38.71351, -9.14346

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