Santo António Church, or Saint Anthony’s church, marks the birthplace of one of Lisbon’s most beloved saints.
We may share Saint Anthony with the Italian city of Padua, where Saint Anthony became famous, but it was in the beautiful city of Lisbon that Fernando de Bulhões, the lisboner that later on would enter the Franciscan Order adopting the name Anthony, was born in 1195.
Around the 15th century a little chapel was built on the site where the Bulhões family house used to stand, just a few steps away from Lisbon’s Sé Cathedral. However, in 1755 the merciless earthquake destroyed the building almost completely and a new one was constructed in 1767.
The new building was designed by Mateus Vicente, the same architect that was responsible for the project of Basílica da Estrela, in a Baroque-Rococo style, and it’s said to have been entirely paid with money raised by local children, that used to go around asking people for a small coin for Saint Anthony – in fact, this is why the temple’s floor is covered with coins, to remember that fact.
The church interior is embellished with 18th century tiles (or azulejos) and paintings by Pedro Alexandrino and inside one can visit the crypt, the only original element that survived the earthquake, as well as a small museum, dedicated to the iconography of Saint Anthony.
Santo António Church is also the epicenter of Saint Anthony’s celebrations, that take place in June. On June 13, the day of Saint Anthony’s death and Lisbon’s local holiday, a procession leaves the church, passing by Lisbon Cathedral and going through the narrow streets of Alfama neighbourhood.
Santo António Church – Igreja de Santo António
> Largo de Santo António da Sé, 24
> Opens Monday to Friday, from 8:00 to 19:00, Saturday, Sunday and Holidays from 8:00 to 19:45 (Museum opening hours: Tuesday- Sunday, from 10:00 to 13:00 and from 14:00 to 18:00)
> Free entrance to visit the church (Museum: 1,50€)
> Insider tip: Saint Anthony is know as “the matchmaker saint”. Couples ask for his blessing, singles asking him to find their better half and if you are seeking for happiness in the love department here’s a tip. There’s a beautiful iron statue of Saint Anthony right outside the church and some people believe that if you happen to throw a coin at the statue and hit the book Saint Anthony is holding in his hands you will be blessed and love will either stay in your life or come to it.