São Vincente de Fora

The colourful walls of São Vicente de Fora and stunning Lisbon views

From almost every viewpoint in Alfama, you’ll see the church towers of the Monastery São Vicente de Fora. Many people walk by the Mosteiro de São Vicente on the way to the flea market Feira da Ladra and to enjoy the beautiful sights of Alfama. But a visit to the building is also well worth it! From the outside, you might not expect to find an enormous amount of tiles inside. The monastery is full of surprises, gorgeous viewpoints and spectacular tombs! Let’s have a look inside!

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What to expect during your São Vicente de Fora visit

  • What to see? São Vicente de Fora is a monastery filled with baroque tiles. You have an incredible view over Alfama, Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, from the roof of the monastery buildings.
  • Costs? € 8,00 per person, or € 7,00 if you have the Lisboa Card. It is free on the first Sunday of every month for Portuguese citizens.
  • Where? Mosteiro de São Vicente is located on Largo de São Vicente in Lisbon, on the edge of the Alfama and São Vicente neighbourhoods. You can reach the monastery by Tram 12 and 28 or by the blue metro line to Santa Apolónia station.
  • Is a visit to São Vicente de Fora worth it? If you like history, then YES! You will also see the Royal Pantheon of Bragança inside! This includes the cenotaphs of many kings and queens of the Bragança dynasty.

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A short history of the São Vicente de Fora Monastery

The history of the Monastery of São Vicente goes back to 1147. During the siege of Lisbon, D. Afonso Henriques made a promise: If he conquered the city, he would build churches and a monastery dedicated to the former patron saint of Lisbon, Saint Vincent. The Mozarabs worshipped Saint Vincent, an important Saint in Lisbon.

After King Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon, Mosteiro de São Vicente was built. As the original church lies just behind the old city walls, it has the name de fora, meaning outside. Therefore, São Vicente de Fora means Monastery of Saint Vincent Outside the City Walls.

In 1580, the reconstruction of the building began. During the Philippine Dynasty, Portugal and Spain were united under the rule of the same king. Architects like Filippo Terzi, Juan Herrera and Baltazar Álvares worked on the construction. 

D. Pedro II and D. João V added the rich artistic decorations as we see them today. The marble church façade looks impressive, but nothing gives away the beauty you’ll find inside!

In 1834, when religious orders were extinguished in Portugal, the Monastery was occupied by Canons Regular of the Order of Saint Augustine.

Portas do Sol Lisbon
The view from Portas do Sol with the Monastery in the background

What to see at Mosteiro de São Vicente?

The São Vicente de Fora Monastery has several rooms and courtyards to discover. Let’s have a closer look!

The courtyards and tiles

As soon as you enter the São Vicente de Fora Monastery, you’ll be welcomed by colourful tiles. The tour leads you along the cistern, the entrance hall, and a small exhibition.

You’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the hallways, two towers, and the cloisters. The Monastery has more than 100,000 tiles in total! And remember to visit the Sacristy.

The Royal Pantheon of the Bragança dynasty

The building also houses some very historical marble graves! You’ll find Portugal’s most complete royal sanctuary in this room, the Royal Pantheon of the Bragança.

It is the final resting place for several kings and queens, such as King Carlos I of Portugal, Prince Royal Luís Filipe, Queen Amélie of Orléans, and other members of the House of Bragança.

Discover the grave of Catherine of Bragança, a Portuguese princess who became the Queen of England. If you spot a golden crown engraved on the side of the tomb, the grave belongs to a monarch.

Next to the tombs of the Bragança dynasty, you can visit the Pantheon of the Patriarchs. 

Chapel and exhibition

The stairs will lead you to the 1st floor where you’ll find the chapel and the exhibition ‘2000 Years of History‘.

Incredible tile panels

Then, it’s time for one of the highlights inside this Lisbon landmark. You’ll discover a unique collection of the Fables of La Fontaine, created by the French writer Jean de La Fontaine.

São Vincente de Fora Fables of La Fontaine
Fables of La Fontaine

The cloisters were closed in the 18th and 20th centuries, and 38 glazed tile panels were made to coat them. Each panel contains scenes of a fable, which we can now view on the 1st floor of the building.

The viewpoint

But your visit doesn’t end here! You can go up one more floor, leading to the Monastery’s roof. And what a view you have from the top! You’ll enjoy a fantastic scene over the River Tagus, the nearby National Pantheon and Castelo de São Jorge.

São Vicente de Fora opening hours

São Vicente de Fora is open daily! Opening hours are between 10 AM and 6 PM, with the last entry at 5 PM.

The monastery is closed on religious holidays like Christmas, New Year, Good Friday, May 1st, and Easter.

São Vicente de Fora Tickets

You can buy your ticket at the entrance for only € 8,00 per adult. Students and seniors pay €4,00, and children under 12 and Portuguese citizens (on the 1st Sunday of the month) can visit the monastery for free. A guided tour costs €2 extra.

If you bought the Lisboa Card online, you’ll receive a discount. Tickets are then € 7,00 per person. With the Lisbon Card, you can use public transport for free, including this ticket.

You get free access to Lisbon sights and landmarks like the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower, and the Santa Justa Elevator.

Other sights in Alfama

The monastery is at Largo de São Vicente, with many more sights to discover. Are you here on Tuesday or Saturday? Then it’s worth visiting the flea market Feira da Ladra, just around the corner. Or take a look at the National Pantheon right next door!

São Vicente de Fora lies on the edge of Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon. It’s the perfect place to discover excellent viewpoints (miradouros), traditional Fado restaurants, famous sights like Castelo de São Jorge, the Sé cathedral, and multiple museums such as the Fado Museum.

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FAQ

When D. Afonso Henriques conquered Lisbon and was made king, he promised to build a monastery dedicated to Saint Vincent, the patron saint at the time.

Inside Mosteiro de São Vicente, you will discover the church, many tiles and a stunning rooftop view. Discover the marble tomb of Catherine of Bragança, or marvel at the many tile panels.

Conclusion

São Vicente de Fora Monastery is a massive structure on the edge of Alfama. The famous Lisbon monument contains tile panels with scenes of the Fables of La Fontaine, statues, paintings, and the graves of the royal Bragançy family. If you like visiting churches, this church is definitely worth it.

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4 Comments

  1. Stunning photos! We have some photos from the exterior but didn’t have time to go inside. Next time we will for sure though!

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