Evora Cathedral! You can see its silhouette from very far away, drawn up on the urban landscape. Known locally as Sé de Évora, its real name is Basílica Sé de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (Basilica Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption). It is the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal and has no match in the rest of the country.
The Cathedral of Evora “protects” the city from the highest part of town, the place chosen to have other iconic buildings, like Evora Roman Temple (Diana Temple), the Museum of Evora or the Fórum Eugénio de Almeida.
But let’s go to the cathedral. To get there, all you need to do is go up Rua 5 de outubro, the street right in the middle of Giraldo Square. This is also one of the best streets to buy Alentejo handicraft. The Cathedral of Evora, built between 1186 and 1250. It is a fascinating and impressive monument. Completely made of granite, its style is determined by the transition from the Romantic to the Gothic.
This amazing church in Evora was improved during the 15th and 16th centuries. During this period several key parts were made: upper choir, baptistery and the arch of the Chapel of Our Lady of Pity. This chapel of Evora Cathedral is a unusual testimony of the hybrid Plateresque architecture.
In the 18th century, the cathedral became richer with the construction of the main chapel, sponsored by King João V. Here, the marble coming from the nearby city of Estremoz is extremely important because it unites its severity with the Roman and Gothic lines.
You can also see in that chapel a beautiful Crucifix (named Father of Christs), which is above the painting of Our Lady of Assumption; busts of St Peter and St Paul; and a spectacular pipe organ from the Renaissance period.
On each side of the facade of Evora Cathedral there are two towers from the Medieval period. The south side one is the bell tower, which is in charge of telling time throughout the city. On the sides of the portal of the church we find spectacular sculptures of the Apostles, from the 14th century, made by Master Pêro.
However, on the exterior of Evora Cathedral, the dome is the most amazing architectural feature. The lantern-tower from King Dinis reign is, in fact, the ex-libris of this monument. You will love its rock scales on the top.
Other than the main portico, there are also other entrances: Porta do Sol (Sun Door), with Gothic arches; and Porta Norte (North Door), rebuilt during the Baroque period.
The magnificence of the Cathedral of Evora can also be seen on the three great naves in the interior. On the highest, the central nave, we find the altar of Nossa Senhora do Anjo (Our Lady of the Angel). It is completely made of woodcarving of the Baroque era, with Gothic images of the Virgin Mary and the Angel Gabriel in marble. Also in the central nave, you can admire the pulpit and the most beautiful pipe organ from the Renaissance period, as mentioned before.
On the transept, we find the really old Chapels of Saint Lawrence and Holy Christ and the Chapels of the Relics and the Blessed Sacrament, adorned with gilded wood. On the north top, don’t miss the spectacular Renaissance portal in the Chapel of Morgados do Esporão.
By the entrance, on the left nave, the baptistery opens, closed by a beautiful iron gate from the Renaissance. On the 14th century cloisters you will see statues of the Evangelists in each corner. The cloister of Evora Cathedral is a fine Gothic testimony. It gets even finest with the funeral chapel of its founder, Bishop King Peter. Recently, the tombs of the Archbishops of Evora who died in the 20th century were put in the cloister too.
The choir is from the Manueline period. It contains a valuable oak row of chairs from the 1500s, with Flemish drawings carved, representing mythological, naturalist and rural scenes.
Evora Cathedral includes a Museu de Arte Sacra (Religious Art Museum) with a rich collection in the areas of ecclesiastic garments, painting, sculpture and jewellery. Among the several pieces stored here are a 13th century Virgin (Our Lady of Paradise), the reliquary cross of the Santo Lenho (14th century), the crosier of Cardinal King Henrique and the Archbishops gallery. This museum is located in the old Colégio dos Moços do Coro da Sé, on an adjoining building to the cathedral.
There are monuments that, on their own, make us speechless. The Cathedral of Evora is one of those monuments. This true rarity is slowly discovered on the city top in all its glory. Do not miss the opportunity to visit it and go up to the terrace to have, by far, the best view over Evora.