Although Portugal is small (it’s only a sliver of land along the Iberian Peninsula), its history is larger than life. This is certainly true of it’s church history. The country displays a beautiful array of Catholic churches that must be seen and experienced.
From Lisbon to Fatima, there are five must-see Catholic Churches in Portugal:
- The Church at St. Jerome’s Monastery
- St. Anthony’s Church
- The Miracle Church
- Holy Trinity Basilica
- Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica
1. The Church at St. Jerome’s Monastery
The Church at Saint Jerome’s Monastery is built in the Manueline style of the 15th century.
Located in the heart of Lisbon, Saint Jerome’s Monastery and its church were built during the height of Portugal’s seafaring exploration and trade. King Manuel I built it in thanksgiving to God for this golden age.
The architectural style of the church is aptly named Manueline.
- Towering, slender columns etched with sailors and sea monsters stretch toward the ceiling
- The ribs of the ceiling are carved to look like complex nautical knots
Step outside to enjoy the delicate arches of the cloister courtyard. Walk its perimeter beneath the mystical colonnade, and you will follow in the footsteps of the monks of the past.
2. St. Anthony’s Church
On the Saint's Feast Day (June 13th), St. Anthony’s Church hosts mass marriages (known as St. Anthony’s Weddings)
St. Anthony’s Church shouldn’t be missed while in Lisbon. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also built on the site of the Saint’s birthplace! Inside you’ll find a small side altar built on the very spot where Saint Anthony of Padua was born.
This popular saint was part of the Franciscan Order and knew St. Francis himself. He had a holy gift for preaching, and his homilies led to countless conversions.
Every visitor to this 18th-century church is greeted by its ornate Baroque exterior and interior. Images depicting events from the life of the Saint line the nave and lead the pilgrim’s eyes to the towering high altar. However, don’t get too caught up in the beauty of the church and forget about the crypt below.
St. Anthony is also considered the patron saint of lost and stolen items. While visiting this beautiful church, consider praying for those who may have lost their faith.
3. The Miracle Church
Forty-five miles north of Lisbon is the town of Santarem. This location is famous for one of the best-known Eucharistic miracles that occurred at St. Stephen Church (or The Miracle Church).
The story of the miracle begins in the 13th century, with a woman who sought to mend her marriage with her unfaithful husband. In a desperate attempt to save her marriage, she paid a visit to a sorceress who claimed she could help in exchange for a consecrated Host.
Reluctantly, the woman agreed. She attended Mass at the Church of St. Stephen, took the Host from her mouth and hid it in her veil. Immediately, the Host began to bleed. Frightened, the woman hurried home and locked the Host in an old trunk. That night the trunk emitted a bright light.
The next day she told the priest what she had done and what had happened to the Host. He took the Host and had it stored in the tabernacle in a wax container. Later, upon opening the tabernacle, the priest found that the wax container around the bleeding Host had turned into crystal.
Canonical investigations found this miracle to be authentic, and over the centuries, the Host continued to bleed, dry, and harden.
When you visit the Church of St. Stephen, you can see the Bleeding Host on display above the high altar, surrounded by intricate Baroque adornments.
4. Holy Trinity Basilica
The bronze doors of the Holy Trinity Basilica are dedicated to Christ and the 12 Apostles.
While in Portugal, it’s an absolute must to visit Fatima. This once little-known town is now a Marian apparition site. It is complete with an expansive complex for visiting pilgrims that includes many churches and chapels. It’s the perfect place to reflect on the story of Our Lady of Fatima and her message.
One of the must-see churches in Fatima is the Holy Trinity Basilica. Its impressive interior can seat nearly 9,000 pilgrims for Mass.
This church is unique and stands in contrast to the countless Baroque-style churches in Portugal. Its unique features are:
- An open nave without any interior supports or stained glass
- Stark white walls that draw attention to the floor-to-ceiling golden mosaic behind the altar
- A bronze crucifix above the sanctuary and a white statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Its grandiosity will surely bring any pilgrim to their knees in prayer.
5. Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica
Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica derives its name from the title Mary gave herself during the October 13th Apparition.
Directly across from Holy Trinity Basilica is the Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica. Its beautiful 200-foot neo-baroque bell tower (that houses 62 bells) rockets toward the sky. Below, the Basilica’s colonnade embraces the approaching pilgrims like the Blessed Virgin’s mantle.
The white walls of the interior make you feel as though you’ve been transported to Heaven itself. Perfectly placed gold adds to the otherworldly experience.
Lining the walls, you will see:
- Side altars dedicated to each of the Mysteries of the Rosary
- Stained glass windows depicting various events from the Fatima apparitions
- Four statues (one in each corner of the Basilica) of saints known for their devotion to Mary: Saint Anthony Claret, Saint John Eudes, Saint Dominic, and Saint Stephen of Hungary.
Most importantly, you will see the tombs of the three Fatima visionaries inside: Saints Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and Sister Lucia.
Before or after visiting the Basilica, step into the Little Chapel of Apparitions. While it’s not a church, it is significant because it’s built on the very location where Mary appeared.
Experience the Splendor of These Catholic Churches with Glimmer Tours
Each Catholic Church in Portugal has its wonders, but these five are certainly among our favorites. More than being aesthetically pleasing, the beauty of these churches will undoubtedly move any pilgrim to pray.
There is no shortage of beauty in Portugal, and this list only scratches the surface of all the places to see in Fatima, Portugal!
If you seek to encounter God in beauty, explore our Fatima, Lourdes, and Barcelona Itinerary. A trip with Glimmer Tours is an experience you won’t soon forget!