São Domingos Church in Lisbon

Exterior of Igreja de Sao Domingos, Lisbon, Portugal
Photo: Jorge Brazilian # from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Side altar, Igreja de Sao Domingos, Lisbon
Photo: Jacek555, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Construction on this Baroque church began in 1241. The church was nearly destroyed by two different earthquakes – first in 1531 and again later in the massive1755 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.

Photo: Kedata kobita, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What will you see at São Domingos Church in Lisbon?

Star of David Memorial to the Jews who were massagred in Lisbon, Portugal in 1506
Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões from Lisboa, Portugal, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

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

What’s nearby?

Thank you for reading about São Domingos Church. If you are interested in visiting other churches in Lisbon, my top recommendations are:

I am not affiliated with any business mentioned in this article.