Sacred in Coimbra

Portugal seems to be a very religious country. Travelling around, we can notice that many temples are well-preserved, buildings (also residental) are decorated with azulejos tiles with religious scenes or depictions of saints. There are also cult centres and places of pilgrims’ destinations (Fatima) and one of the main cities, northern Braga had a great role in the Christianization of the whole Iberian Peninsula. Church was separated from State during Portuguese First Republic at the beginning of the 20th century, but it has still an influence on social and cultural life. Although the statistics show that 80% of population is Catholic, only a part attend Mass regularly or takes sacraments.

You can find many churches in Coimbra, the most representative being: the Santa Cruz church and monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Cruz), the Old Cathedral (Sé Velha) oraz and the Santa Clara-a-Velha monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha).

The Santa Cruz church is located on Praça 8 de Maio, at the end of the touristic and commercial street. Built in 1131 in Romanesque style, it was soon replaced with more impressive building, and in next centuries rebuilt (the biggest renovation in the 16th century), receiving elements from Manueline and Baroque style.



The are two tombs od Portuguese kings inside, Afonso I and his successor, Sancho I. The wall of the church were decorated with blue azulejos with religious themes. Free entrance.

Going up, to the part of the city surrounded by little narrow streets and close to the university, there is the Old Cathedral (Sé Velha). The Romanesque building was built in the 12th century, right after the battle of Ourique and is considered one of the most significant monuments in Portugal. When you look ath the cathedral, you can notice inspirations from the Islamic culture (e.g. arch ornaments) and the castle-shaped structure.





There is the Beautiful Door (Porta Especiosa) on the second, northern side of the cathedral, decorated with Reneissance-style decorations. A cloister with a courtyard (surrounded by double archs) was added to the cathedral in the 13th century. There are very nice big shells in different parts of the church. The entrance fee to the cathedral is 2 euros.


On the second side of the city, Santa Clara, there are two monasteries. The old monastery (Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha) was built in the 14th century very close to Mondego river. Due to frequent floods Santa Clara nuns were made to move to a new monastery on the hill at the beginning of 16th century. After 300 years it was decided to carry out renovation works. Excavation, cleaning and removing the mud took 12 years and the ruins of the monastery were opened to the visitors.



The monastery is in a pretty good condition, you can go inside and walk around the ruins and read the information on the board. You can also enter the nearby museum, containing objects and artefacts, read about the history of the place and actual, ongoing renovations.





PS If you plan to go to Coimbra, why don’t you stay on this side of the river? You can rent a guest house with a window view on the monastery! – click here to get an AirBnB discount.