Conceicao Velha: A Memorable Historical Landmark
Tucked in the middle of the row houses of Rua da Alfandega in Lisbon’s Baixa District, is one of the oldest churches in the country. It’s called Conceicao Velha Church.
Igreja da Conceicao Velha is a sixteenth-century church, whose place used to be the site of a fifteenth-century synagogue. What you see, though, is not the original church, as the first one, called the Church of Our Lady of the Mercy (Nossa senhora da Misericordia), was destroyed in 1755, by an earthquake and a tsunami that soon followed. What was left then was the facade of the church. The rest of the edifice was reconstructed, using the materials that remained from the tragedy.
Conceicao Velha Church is one of the few buildings that showcase Manueline architecture, which is a combination of Renaissance and Gothic designs and patterns. The strongest showing is found at the church portal, while the facade possesses a tympanon that bears the image of Our Lady of the Mercy and several public figures. These include Lisbon’s bishop at the time, Pope Alexander VI, Queen Eleanor, King Manuel I, and his sister Leonor of Viseu (she was also the Order of Mercy founder). All are protected by the Lady’s mantle, held by a pair of angels.
Unlike a lot of ancient churches in the city, Conceicao Velha only has one nave. The ceilings, meanwhile, are of stucco pattern, and the chancel is protected by the barrel ceiling.
Around Igreja da Conceicao Velha Lisbon area, you can take a walk to the nearby Commerce Square, or Praca do Comercio, which has several outdoor coffee and pastry shops; to Rua Augusta, a bustling downtown shopping district, or just across to the close by river Tagus where you can appreciate the port movement.