São Roque Church
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São Roque Church

The Igreja de São Roque was built for the Jesuits with the assistance of Filippo Terzi on the site of an earlier chapel dedicated to São Roque (St Roch). Most of the single-nave structure was built between 1565 and 1573, although it was roofless for another decade. The ceiling is a wonder of sorts. The original architect had planned a vaulted roof, but in 1582 a decision was made for a flat roof constructed from wood. Sturdy timber from Prussia was installed and richly painted. The paintings in the inner sacristy are worth seeing, but the main attraction is the side chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist: its lavish ivory, gold and lapis lazuli attests to Portugal's colonial wealth and extravagance. Built in Rome and shipped to Lisbon in 1749 after being blessed by the Pope, it took four years to reassemble, not least because of the detailed mosaic above the altar. The neighbouring museum contains items from the chapel, including Italian goldsmiths' work, paintings and richly embroidered vestments.


São Roque Church - Façade

São Roque Church - Façade

Portugal’s oldest Jesuit church is located in the Largo Trindade Coelho, an unassuming square in the Bairro Alto. The bland white façade of the Igreja de São Roque is incredibly deceiving as it hides one of the richest and ostentatious interiors of any church in the country. Dedicated to Saint Roch (San Rocco, São Roque) the church was constructed between 1553 and 1573. The church was without a roof until 1582. Original plans were to install a vaulted ceiling instead the builders settled for a painted wooden canopy. Saint Roch (1295-1327) is the patron saint of dogs, invalids, falsely accused people, and bachelors, amongst other things. However, he is best remembered for healing plague victims and following his death, his effigy was used to ward off the Black Death. Missguided King Manuel I of Portugal believed that a relic from Saint Roch would offer some protection to Lisbon from the terrible pestilence and ordered the construction of a shrine to house it.

The shire remained non-important until the second half of the 16th century when the chapel became the gathering place for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) who followed the philosophy of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Investment from the society transformed the humble shrine of São Roque into one of the most significant and decorative churches in Lisbon. The church of São Roque served as the Jesuit’s main religious centre for over 200 years before being expelled by the Marquis of Pombal in the late 18th century.

The Interior

The highlights of the interior are several Baroque chapels that line the walls of the nave. Closest to the altar on the left is the magnificent Chapel of St. John the Baptist, which is commonly known as the world’s most expensive. Its construction was on the behest of Dom João V (1689-1750). It was actually built in Rome in 1742 and took five years to complete. It is incredibly ornate, decorated in lapis lazuli, ivory, precious marbles, amethyst, alabaster, agate and, for the bling effect, gilded in gold and silver. Of special interest are the fine mosaics that appear to be paintings from a distance. After being blessed by Pope Benedict XIV the chapel was dismantled and shipped to Lisbon on three separate ships before being reconstructed in the Igreja de São Roque.

Other chapels are decorated with polychrome marble and remarkable works of gilded woodcarving Florentine mosaics, most notably the gold-covered chapel of Our Lady of Doctrine and the chapel of Saint Roch.

Yellow Bus Tour
São Roque Church - Chapel of St. John the Baptist

São Roque Church - Chapel of St. John the Baptist

The Museum

São Roque - Museum

São Roque - Museum

Annexed to the church is the Museu de São Roque which exhibits more of the collection of sacred art that has been assembled by the church over time. It was created in 1905 when the church could no longer hold the whole collection. Between 2006 and 2008 it enjoyed a much needed restoration and an addition of a gift shop and a cafeteria. It houses 16th-century Portuguese paintings (including one of Catherine of Austria, and another of the wedding ceremony of King Manuel I), a display of vestments, and an impressive collection of baroque silver. Here too is one of the world’s most important Roman sacred art collections. A pair of bronze-and-silver torch holders, weighing over 380kg are among the most elaborate in Europe. You can join one of the multilingual guided tours free of charge.

Church: FREE, Museum: €2.50, Concessionary: €1.25. Lisbon Card Lisbon Card: -40%
Church: Tuesday – Saturday: 09h00 – 18h00, Monday: 14h00 – 18h00
Museum: Tuesday – Saturday: 09h00 – 18h00, Monday: 14h00 – 18h00

Getting to the São Roque Church & Museum

202, 758,
Baixa-Chiado (Green & Blue Lines)

Contact Details
Largo Trindade Coelho, 1200-470 Lisbon, Portugal.
38° 42' 48.0 "N | 09° 08' 36.1" W | +351 213 235 065
info@museu-saoroque.com |  Website

Lisbon Card