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A little bit of history
The history of the Monastery of São Vicente goes all the way back to 1147. During the siege that happened in Lisbon, D. Afonso Henriques made a promise. If he conquered the city, he would build a monastery, especially for the patron saint of Lisbon, Saint Vincent. Saint Vincent was worshipped by the Mozarabs and is still an important Saint in Lisbon.
You may have guessed that D. Afonso Henriques did conquer Lisbon as the Monastery was built. As the Monastery lies just behind the old city walls, it got the name de fora, meaning outside. Therefore São Vicente de Fora literally means Monastery of Saint Vincent Outside the Walls.
In 1580 reconstruction of the Monastery 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. And D. Pedro II and D. João V added the rich artistic decorations as we see them today. The marble building looks impressive from the outside, but nothing gives away the beauty you’ll find inside!
What is there to see?
Within the monetary, there are several rooms and courtyards to discover. Let’s have a look!
The courtyards and tiles
As soon as you enter the Monastery, you’ll be welcomed by colourful tiles, and the tour leads you along the cistern, the entrance hall, and a small exhibition. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the hallways, towers and more tiles at the cloisters. In total, the Monastery has more than 100.000 tiles! And don’t forget to walk into the Sacristy.
The Royal Pantheon of the Bragança
São Vicente de Fora also houses some very historical graves! Here, you’ll find the most complete royal pantheon in Portugal, the Royal Pantheon of the Bragança. For example, it is the final resting place for King Carlos I of Portugal, Prince Royal Luís Filipe, Queen Amélie of Orléans, and other members of the House of Bragança. If you spot a golden crown engraved on the side of the tomb, the grave belongs to a monarch.
Next to the Royal Pantheon of the Bragança, 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‘.
Fables of La Fontaine
And then it’s time for one of the highlights of the Monastery. You’ll discover a unique collection of the Fables of La Fontaine. The fables are created by the French writer Jean de 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 a fable, which we can now view on the 1st floor of the Monastery.
But your visit doesn’t end here! You can go one more floor up, leading you to the Monastery’s roof. And what a view you have from the top! You’ll enjoy a fantastic scene over the Tagus river, the nearby Pantheon and Castelo de São Jorge.
São Vicente de Fora is closed every Monday, so keep that in mind! Opening hours are between 10:00 am to 6:00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. The last admission is an hour before closing, at 5 pm. The monetary is also closed on religious holidays like Christmas, New Year, Good Friday, and Easter.
You can buy your ticket at the side entrance for only €5 per adult. Students and seniors pay €2.50, and children under 12 can visit the Monetary for free. A guided tour costs €2 extra.
Other sights in the area
You’ll find the monastery at Largo de São Vicente, and in the area are 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 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, and multiple museums such as the Fado Museum.
Where to stay
Alfama is a fantastic neighbourhood to stay in, and there are many hotels and B&Bs in this area! This way, you can easily discover Alfama’s highlights, and the rest of Lisbon is easy to explore from this location.
A visit to São Vicente is perfect for a rainy day. But there is much more to do in Lisbon when it rains. Check out this comprehensive guide with activities for a rainy day in Lisbon.
Beautiful photos! You’ve definitely convinced me to visit! Thanks so much for sharing and for all the info. Xx Sara
Thank you Sara, I hope you’ll have a great time in Lisbon!
Stunning photos! We have some photos from the exterior but didn’t have time to go inside. Next time we will for sure though!
It’s really worth it Krista! Let me know when you’re in Lisbon next and maybe we can meet up.