Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Portugal Day 2: Alfama, Castelo de São Jorge and More

My second day in Lisbon was all about visiting Alfama, the Portuguese capital's oldest district, and the Castelo de São Jorge located at its top with some very nice views thrown in for good measure. But first, I had to get off the hill I'm staying on.
On the way I had chosen lay a church, the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha to be precise. While I don't think it's technically located in Alfama, the church did have both a pretty portal as well as a ceiling painting portraying the Triumph of Our Lady of the Conception.
The Alfama was about the only area of Lisbon spared from the devastating earthquake that hit the city in 1755 - more about it in yesterday's post - and thus the quarter has remained a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets, small squares and beautiful old buildings. And oh my, I had to really refrain myself from stopping at every second one to take pictures.
One of Alfama's main attractions is the Catedral Sé Patriarcal. Construction of Lisbon's oldest church and the see of the Archdiocese of Lisbon started in 1147. It was built on the site of an old mosque.
Combining many different styles, the church's exterior isn't the most breathtaking. Yet it is an imposing building and inside you will find Gothic arches, vaulted ceilings, Medieval arches and Baroque paintings.
The highlight of the visit to the Catedral Sé Patriarcal definitely is the cloister though. Every time I walk through a cloister, I can't help but wonder who has walked these sacred halls before me. One thing I particularly liked were the influences of the Arab rule you could see in the architecture.
The courtyard of the cloister has been an excavation site for a few years and gives glimpses into  Roman, Arab and Medieval periods...
...and as I said, the architecture of the cathedral - as well as many other old buildings in Lisbon - definetely show the influences four centuries of Arab rule had on ornamentation in Portugal.
The Catedral Sé Patriarcal also has a treasury. This is just a glimpse at what can be seen from the cathedral itself as you aren't allowed to take pictures in the actual treasury. I can tell you though that it included a bit of gory art, lots of gold and pretty furniture.
And visiting the treasury also gives you another nice view of the cathedral...
...as well as a close-up of the splendid rose window.
Next up was a church just a few metres down the road: The Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. As I learned, he was actually born in Lisbon. Tradition has it that this church was built on the site of his birthplace.
Climbing up the hill a little (because this city has almost no flat land, every street is a hill… a very steep hill most of the times), I arrived at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. Lisbon isn't short of great viewpoints. Unfortunately, this one was a bit obscured by those green nets - when I got back to it later in the day, the nets were gone - but the weather had turned into foggy and slightly rainy.
What Lisbon also isn't short of are gorgeous azulejos. I already told you yesterday that I'm in love with all these tiles. Most of the times they are simply ornaments to make houses look prettier; other times they also portray scenes like this view of Lisbon from the Tejo river.
A tiny bit further up, there was another pretty view of Lisbon. This time with no green nets but unfortunately, the azulejos didn't look as great anymore!
Walking around the Igreja de Santa Luzia offered another great view over the Alfama. I told you, there's an abudance of great views here. Definetely an upside of no flat areas in a city.
A quick glimpse at the Palácio Azurara while making my way up to the castle... We'll get back to this one a bit further down as it houses the Museu de Artes Decorativas, which I couldn't pass up to visit.
Next up were some old walls with new paintings...
...and lunch at the Palácio Belmonte.
I was pretty good thus far not posting three gazillion pictures of houses that just look pretty but I simply had to sneak in this one.
And another great view, this time from the Castelo de São Jorge. On the left you can see the Praça do Comércio, on the horizon the Christo Rei statue as well as the Ponte 25 de Abril.
The oldest parts of the now largely ruined Castelo de São Jorge date from the 6th century, when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths and eventually the Moors. It served as a Moorish royal residence until Portugal's first King Afonso Henriques captured it in 1147 with the help of northern European crusaders on their way to the Holy Land.
It was then dedicated to St. George, the patron saint of England, to commemorate the Anglo-Portuguese pact dating from 1371 and became the royal residence until another one was built in today's  Praça do Comércio, the one that was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 if you recall.
I could also post approximately 50 pictures of views from the castle as well as the castle itself, however, I will leave it at that. Instead, let's continue with a few impression of Alfama and it's cute little streets...
...some reminders that Lisbon in June is apparently all about venerating Saint Anthony...
...a preview for an upcoming own post about the Palácio Azurara...
...as well as more of the veneration of Saint Anthony, who wasn't only born in Lisbon but also is its patron saint. In Portugal, he is considered as a marriage saint and, as I have learned, there are loads of tradition surrounding his feast day on June 13.
And just for good measure: Here's one last pictures of picturesque houses, at least for today. Next up will be a visit to Belém which includes not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites - and sinning.

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