São Roque Church in Lisbon – What to know before visiting

“São Roque Church in Lisbon – What to know before visiting” will explain the history, the hidden treasures, and the logistics of visiting one of Lisbon’s most beautiful churches.

Interior, Sao Roque Church in Lisbon, Portugal
Joseolgon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The church’s plain and simple exterior does nothing to foreshadow the Baroque style, the oil paintings, the gold gilding, the painted ceilings, the glazed tilework, and the statuary found inside.  The quiet exterior hides one of the best decorated and most expensive churches in Portugal.

Two golden chapels on the left side of the main altar, Igreja de Sao Roque, Church, Lisbon

History of Igreja de São Roque in Lisbon

The Igreja de São Roque (Church of St. Roch) in Lisbon was one of the world’s earliest Jesuit churches and the first one in Portugal or its colonies. 

The ground was broken on the Baroque church in 1506, and it opened in 1618. 

It served as the headquarters of the Jesuits in Portugal for more than 200 years, and it was one of a few buildings in Lisbon to survive the 1755 earthquake.

The Igreja de São Roque was built in a non-traditional auditorium style, and also has an unusual flat wooden ceiling that has been decorated using the Trompe-l’oeil technique. 

The flat, wooden trompe l'oeil ceiling of Lisbon's Igreja de Sao Roque Church
São Roque ceiling and organ

In the early 1500s, Lisbon was suffering from the plague. 

Looking for a solution to protect the people from the plague, the king asked Venice to send a relic of Saint Roch who was a famous healer and the patron saint of plague victims.

When it arrived in Lisbon in 1506, the citizens built a shrine to house the relic in the middle of the plague cemetery, which at the time was on the hilltop to the west of the city.

The shrine was maintained by the brotherhood of São Roque, which still exists and tends to the church today.

Golden side altar in Lisbon's Igreja de Sao Eoque church

The church was expanded and updated when the Jesuits moved in following the 1755 earthquake.  Construction was carried out by architects Afonso Álvares (father), Baltazar Álvares (son), and Filipe Terzi.

The Museum of the Treasure of the Chapel of St. John the Baptist opened in 1905 to showcase the religious artwork and vestments that had been used over the years. 

The church was classified as a national monument in 1910.

Plain exterior, Church of Sao Roque, Lisbon Portugal
Joseolgon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What will you see at the Church of São Roque in Lisbon?

São Roque has a Baroque organ with 1694 pipes, built in 1784 by António Xavier Machado.

The church has a chancel and eight side chapels. 

There are also five side-altars in the transepts.  Each altar and chapel have a different style and beauty. 

The most notable one is the Chapel of St. John, (Capela de São João Batista), which at the time was the most expensive chapel in the world. 

Capela de Sao Joao Batista, Igreja de Sao Roque, Lisbon
Capela de São João Batista
Detail of side panel, Capela de Sao Joao Batista, Igreja de Sao Roque Church, Lisbon
Detail of side panel of Capela de São João Batista

It was built in Rome over a period of five years, blessed by the Pope, disassembled, and then reassembled in Lisbon.  The chapel is the fourth on the left. 

You will encounter a stunning chapel built out of gold, silver, ivory, agate, and lapis lazuli.  The ceiling is painted with scenes from the Apocolypse.

Other chapels, such as the Chapel of Our Lady of Doctrine are shrouded in gold-gilded wood carving.

The Chapel of St. Roch (Capela de Sao Roque) is done in yellow, blue, and white tile depicting the Miracle of St. Roch.  The scene was created in 1854 by Francisco de Matos.

Information is displayed in English and Portuguese at each chapel and altar.

Church of São Roque Opening Hours

Side altar, Igreja de Sao Roque church, Lisbon

The Church of São Roque is open every day from 9:30 am – 5 pm.

Mass is held Tuesday to Sunday at 12:30 pm.

April to September: The museum is open on Mondays from 2 pm – 7 pm. Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 7 pm. Open Thursdays from 10 am – 8 pm.

October to March: The museum is open from 2 pm until 6 pm on Mondays. The rest of the week, hours are from 10 am – 6 pm. Closed January 1, May 1, Easter Sunday, December 25.

Guided visits of the church and museum are offered Tuesday – Friday.

Main altar, Igreja de Sao Roque, Lisbon
Main altar of Igreja de São Roque Church

Tickets to the Church and Museum of São Roque

Admission to the church is free. Tickets to enter the Museum of Sacred Treasure are €2.50.

Children under 14 and senior citizens (65+) do not pay admission.

Free audio-guided tours are available.

Official website: http://www.patrimoniocultural.gov.pt/pt/museus-e-monumentos/rede-portuguesa/m/museu-de-sao-roque/?msclkid=beaa3994cee511ec97da217b79b1f086

How to Get to the São Roque Church

Igreja de Sao Roque church, Lisbon

Street address: Largo de Coelho

GPS Coordinates: 38.71353044453503, -9.14344959826616

The São Roque church is located in the hilltop Bairro Alto neighborhood, not far from the São Pedro de Alcântara scenic lookout.

Near the Restauradores metro station (blue line), you will find the Elevador da Glória. The easiest way up the hill to Bairro Alto is to ride this funicular.

Once at the top, turn left and walk until you come to the Largo de Coelho courtyard in front of the church.

There are plenty of dining options nearby after visiting the church.

What’s near the São Roque Church?

Lodging near Igreja de São Roque

Lumiares Hotel and Spa

Rua do Diário de Noticias 142

The five-star Lumiares Hotel and Spa is located across from the São Pedro de Alcântara scenic viewpoint. There is a rooftop bar with views of the castle and downtown Lisbon.

A studio with a queen bed is currently $400 per night.

If you want to read about other spas in Lisbon, check out Find a great spa to relax at in Lisbon, Portugal

9 Hotel Mercy

Rua da Misercórdia 76

A 4-star hotel with a rooftop bar with a panoramic view.  They offer a breakfast buffet, or you can enjoy breakfast in your room. There are conference rooms and co-working space available. 

Rooms are suitable for disabled guests.  A double room starts at $176 per night.

Lisboa Carmo

Rua da Oliveira ao Carmo 1-3

Lisboa Carmo is located just 200 feet from the Convento do Carmo, and 500 feet from the Elevador de Santa Justa (and a bonus-free elevator that also goes up and down between Baixa and Bairro Alto). For more information on the Elevador de Santa Justa, see my Elevador de Santa Justa | Everything you need to know

 Double Rooms start at $176 per night.

The Hotel Lisboa Carmo offers classic and contemporary rooms. There is a breakfast buffet, and breakfast can also be enjoyed in the room.  Some of the upper floor rooms have balconies, and some have views of the castle or the Tejo River.

Thank you for reading about São Roque Church and Museum. Prices and schedules may change over time. If you book one of the hotels through a link in this article, I will receive a small commission that does not affect the list price that you are quoted.