Porto, a city of remarkable churches (perfect for architecture geeks)

Porto, a city of remarkable churches (perfect for architecture geeks)

Not only is Porto a city of undeniable architectural beauty, but I also remember it as a city of remarkable churches.

Churches are everywhere, and I’m sure I didn’t see all of them. As much as I love the occasional visit to a museum (especially an art museum), my favorite art History lessons are always learned outside looking at buildings. For the lack of a name for this condition, I’ll call it “architecture geekiness.”

Sé Catedral (cathedral)

The day I arrived in Porto, I decided to walk up to my hotel from Campanhã station. I wanted to have that feeling you first have when you start exploring a new place. Then again, it could have gone wrong, and I could have fallen out of love instantly, but that’s not what happened.

I won’t say that the Campanhã surrounding area is the most attractive, but the scenery changes as you approach the historical center. When I saw the Cathedral, it was a pretty impressive sight.

It wasn’t my first time around a medieval church, but the Porto Sé is quite remarkable. The Baroque lateral facade was what, I believe, made the first impression.

Porto Cathedral | Porto: the city of churches.

Congregados

When you leave the cathedral area and start walking further towards the city center, a blue-tiled facade stands out. As much as I love tile work, that wasn’t what caught my attention. It was the “oddity” of seeing blue and white tiles on the facade of a church. And this church wasn’t the flashiest I had seen yet. In fact, with every discovery came bigger and stronger awe.

If there’s something the Baroque style has shown us, there’s no such thing as too exuberant or over the top. In fact, it outgrew even more into the Rococo style. By the late 18th Century, it was completely stripped to a clean, bright, washed-down Neoclassicism.

Igreja dos Congregados | Porto: the city of churches.

Santo Ildefonso

Closer to the Batalha square, another blue tiled facade caught my eye. A much more detailed one this time.

If you ask me, even years from now, what are my first memories of the Batalha square, I’ll mention three landmarks: the (sadly) abandoned Cinema Batalha, the sober National Theatre S. Joao, and, at the top of those stairs, the church Santo Ildefonso.

Santo Ildefonso church in Porto

Clérigos

This church’s tower is a piece of architecture often shown as THE landmark of Porto: postcard image, picture-perfect, tall, and high enough to stand out.

Its Baroque facade isn’t short of beauty either. But yes, if you ask me, the tower is what everything revolves around. In fact, when you see the city line from the Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos stands out perfectly. The view from the top is famous too, but I couldn’t (yet) gather the strength and courage to climb it.

Clérigos Tower in Porto

Carmo and Carmelitas

These two churches will be the hardest to describe because I was so overwhelmed when I found them. My best definition for these two churches standing side by side is a live Art History class before your eyes.

The Carmelites church, on the left, built in the first half of the 17th Century, is a clear example of early Baroque. On the right, the Carmo church, built during the second half of the 18th Century, is a clear example of Rococo style.

Both churches are so close together that you might think they’re a single building with, oddly, two different facades. Make sure you look closely. There’s a very narrow building between them.

Step back and position yourself in front of the Porto University Rectory building across the street, soak it all in and then compare the details of one and the other.

Carmelitas and Carmo churches in Porto

Irmandade das Taipas

A much more sober example of architecture considering all the other buildings: still using some blue and white tiles, the facade leans towards neoclassical style.

Surrounded by buildings that probably get more attention, the church still makes the more alert stop and turn to admire one more church facade. Honestly, in Porto, you should keep your head turning and your eyes wide open every step of your way.

Irmandade das Taipas | Porto: the city of churches.

Trindade

I found the Trindade church a bit by chance and late at night when the sun was setting. To be honest, it is hard to miss if you’re not looking specifically for it.

Not that it isn’t a remarkable building, but because it casually blends in with the other buildings nearby: the City Hall right in front and the shops next to it.

Aliados Avenue is one of the most beautiful boulevards I’ve seen, and it’s easy to miss anything behind the majestic City Hall building at the very top of the street.

Trindade Church | Porto: the city of churches.

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