Updated Sept. 28, 2022. Igreja de São Domingos Church in Lisbon (St. Dominic Church) was once the largest church in Lisbon, and while it has played a roll in royal baptisms, weddings, and funerals, it has also had a dark history which may be reflected in the interior of the church.
History of São Domingos Church
Construction on this Baroque church began in 1241. This makes São Domingos one of the oldest buildings that you can still see in Lisbon.
The church was nearly destroyed by two different earthquakes – first in 1531 and again later in the massive 1755 earthquake – the most powerful quake to ever hit Europe.
Finally, the church was ravaged by a fire in 1959, and much of its sacred art was lost. In addition, two firefighters died fighting the blaze that went on for six hours.
Those were hardly the only deaths that the Igreja de São Domingos has seen though.
In 1492 thousands of Jews left Spain due to religious persecution and they moved to Lisbon. But so did the Inquisition.
On Holy Week, 1506, in the name of Christianity, mobs put more than 4000 Jews to death in front of São Domingos Church.
Later in 1761, Jesuit missionary Gabriel Malagrida was put to death for treason.
Malagrida first angered the powerful Marques de Pombal (who was diligently at work rebuilding the destroyed city) with his preaching that the earthquake was punishment for the sins of the people in Lisbon.
Shortly after, he was suspected of having a role in the death of another nobleman and held as a political prisoner in the dungeon of the Belém Tower. You can read my article, Surprising Belém Tower facts
Finally, Malagrida was accused of publishing heretic teachings, and the Inquisition sentenced him to death as well.
What will you see at São Domingos Church in Lisbon?
In front of the church, there is a monument to the massacred Jewish population. A metal Star of David reads, “In memory of the thousands of Jewish victims of intolerance and religious fanaticism assassinated in the massacre started on April 19, 1506, in this square.”
Largo de São Domingos, the square in front of the church, is also a popular meeting spot for Lisbon’s residents who were born in Portugal’s former African colonies. In recent years, the pastor of São Domingos has been from an African nation himself and played a role in helping newcomers settle into the community.
The somber interior of the church is beautifully eerie, affected by time and disaster. Visitors can see the scars of the fire on the many dark stone columns and the dark orange walls of the church that re-opened in 1994.
São Domingos Church Hours
The church is open every day from 7:30 am until 7 pm. Mass is held hourly every day from 8 am until noon. Another Mass is held at 6 pm. Visitors should be quietly respectful and appropriately dressed.
Igreja de São Domingos Church Admission
There is no charge to enter São Domingos.
How to get to São Domingos Church
Largo São Domingos, northeast of Rossio Square, Rossio metro station (green line)
GPS Coordinates: 38.714905006933066, -9.138698158065063
- Rossio Square – Also known as Praça Dom Pedro, famous for its undulating, black and white stone mosaic, the busy square is a transportation hub in the center of downtown Lisbon. The metro system’s green line has an entrance on the east side of the square. Read my Rossio Square – Praça Dom Pedro IV – What you need to know – lisbontravelideas.com
- Praça da Figueira – The metro station’s eastern side exits onto a smaller square – Praça da Figueira, where you can catch Tram 15E to Belém How to get from Alfama to Belém (Hint: Tram 15E) , or ocassionally enjoy a farmers market.
- Rua Augusta – This main street runs down to the river. It is closed to traffic and has plenty of dining and shopping options before passing under the massive arch What is the story behind Lisbon’s Rua Augusta Arch? that opens onto the large Praça do Comércio.
- Santa Justa Lift – Read Elevador de Santa Justa | Everything you need to know to learn more about the wrought-iron elevator that was built in 1902 by one of Eiffel’s students.
- Rua das Portas de Santo Antão – just northwest of Largo de São Domingos, this street is lined with many options for food.
- Praça do Comércio – Also known as Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), and home to a metro station of the same name, Lisbon’s largest square was the site of the royal palace until the 1755 earthquake. The beautiful yellow arcaded-buildings house government offices, cafes, a beer museum, wine bars, and even a hotel. (Updated) Lisbon’s most interesting hotels (truly unique lodging in Lisbon)
- Martim Moniz Square and Tram 28 – Where does Tram 28 stop? All you need to know about Tram 28
- Rossio Train Station – Take a train to nearby Sintra –
- Restauradores Square and the Elevador da Glória – How to get to Bairro Alto? (Hint: Take the Glória Funicular)
- Avenida da Liberdade – High-end shopping and lodging on Lisbon’s most beautiful, tree-lined boulevard.
- Bar A Ginjinha – This tiny tavern is the original ginjinha bar in downtown Lisbon. Your questions about Ginjinha answered here
Thank you for reading about São Domingos Church. If you are interested in visiting other churches in Lisbon, my top recommendations are:
- Jerónimos Monastery – Is the Jerónimos Monastery worth visiting?
- Convento do Carmo – Lisbon’s Convento do Carmo Ruins | Everything You Need to Know
- Igreja de São Roque – National Tile Museum in Lisbon | A Quick Guide
- Sé Cathedral – Lisbon Cathedral | All you need to know before you go
- National Tile Museum (Convento da Madre de Deus) – National Tile Museum in Lisbon | A Quick Guide
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