About Faro Cathedral
Faro Cathedral or ‘Se’ was first built atop the site of a Roman forum turned mosque sometime after the area reverted from Muslim to Christian rule in 1249. Since then, Faro Cathedral has suffered damage and destruction both in the form of attacks and natural disasters, such as the devastating earthquake of 1755.
Today, with its mixture of architectural influences, Faro Cathedral offers the visitor spiritual and artistic delights, especially its 17th and 18th century tiling and gold leaf decoration.
Faro Cathedral history
The Cathedral of Faro was built from 1251 by the command of King Alfonso IV and Archbishop Viegas of Braga, 2 years after the town was reconquered from Muslim rule. The cathedral was constructed over the ruins of a mosque, which had previously been the site of the Roman basilica and a Paleo-Christian church. In doing so, the Catholic monarch symbolically and physically attempted to erase the region of Ossonoba’s Arabic past and reassert Christian dominance.
The cathedral consisted of an impressive Gothic bell tower and 2 chapels of the cross, which were gifted to the Order of Saint James in 1271 for their role in conquering the area. Under the reign of King Denis, the structure was elevated to cathedral status and resultantly underwent extensions.
In 1596, the city of Faro was ransacked and set on fire by English troops under Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, who was defying the orders of Queen Elizabeth I. The church altars and wooden ceilings were destroyed. The interior was largely rebuilt in the 17th century in the Mannerist style, and was later embellished with a gilded carving and ornate organ, built around 1715, from which King João V had a copy made and sent to the Brazilian colony.
Since the earthquakes of 1722 and 1755, despite a small amount of damage and repair, Faro Cathedral has not seen any major new works.
Faro Cathedral today
Today, the cathedral’s whitewashed walls surround the imposing stone Gothic portal entry and bell tower, set against the clear blue Portuguese skies. For only €3,5 you can step inside the Cathedral of Faro, entering into the courtyard surrounded by 3 large arches supporting the tower that has not changed since the 13th century.
Inside, you can see the noteworthy chapels of Saint Lenho and main chapel, as well as 17th century panels. The Chapel of Our Lady of Pleasures is a beautiful example of Baroque art. Be sure to climb to the top of the medieval tower to enjoy a spectacular view of the walled city and the stunning coast of Algarve.
Getting to Faro Cathedral
For those using public transport, the nearest bus stop is Largo S. Francisco, a 4 minute walk away, on bus routes 15, 18 and 19. If driving, Faro Cathedral is reached along the N2 from exit 14 off the A22, and there is parking at Gratis Faro a 5 minute walk from the cathedral.