Lisbon National Pantheon - History and Facts | History Hit

Lisbon National Pantheon

Lisbon, Area Metropolitana de Lisboa, Portugal

The Lisbon National Pantheon is a pretty domed church and the burial site of many of Portugal’s most prominent figures.

Peta Stamper

06 Apr 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Lisbon National Pantheon

The Lisbon National Pantheon (Panteao Nacional) is a beautiful domed church and the burial site of many prominent Portuguese figures, from Presidents of the Republic to artists. The current building of the Lisbon National Pantheon was begun in the 17th century and only completed in the 20th century.

Lisbon National Pantheon history

Construction on the church of Santa Engrácia began around 1568 by order of Princess Dona Maria, daughter of King Manuel I of Portugal. The building substituted previous churches on the site, dedicated to the martyr of Braga, Saint Engratia. A century later in 1681 the church was built again in the elaborate Baroque style. Designed by royal architect João Antunes, the Baroque church was a fashionable reflection of Portuguese wealth and Catholic prestige in opposition to the spartan designs of Protestant churches.

However, the construction of the church was tied to the fate of its architect: when Antunes died in 1712 construction halted. Then king, John V, lost interest in the project and instead directed his energies into building the massive Convent of Mafra. As a result the church gave birth to a new saying in Portugal, and “works of Saint Engratia” became a synonym for an endless construction project.

Despite remaining unfinished, in 1916 the First Portuguese Republic converted the church into a National Pantheon. Completed in 1966 during the government of dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who died in 1970 and was buried in his home town, the Pantheon became the resting place for Portuguese figures including: Presidents Manuel de Arriaga and Oscar Carmona; writers João de Deus, and Almeida Garrett; footballer Eusebio; and cenotaphs of colonial figures such as Vasco de Gama.

Lisbon National Pantheon today

Situated in the Alfama district of Lisbon, the massive white dome is a prominent and easily identifiable feature of the city’s eastern skyline. Walk through the Greek cross-shaped church, admiring the exquisite interior, before heading downstairs to walk among some of Portugal’s most celebrated persons.

Visiting the church, you may also hear whispers of a tragic secret love between Simão Pires and Violante, a novice from the neighbouring convent of Santa Clara. According to legend, Pires was mistakenly accused of attempting to steal holy relics while sneaking in to meet Violante and was burnt at the stake.

Getting to Lisbon National Pantheon

The closest metro stops are Santa Apolonia on lines AP, IC, IR and R, only 3 minutes walk from the church, or Martim Moniz, 13 minutes away. The nearest bus stop is Mercado Sta. Clara on bus line 734 which is a 4 minute walk from the Pantheon. Parking is available close by at Largo dos Caminhos de Ferro.lisbon nay

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