It used to be considered the most majestic gothic church of Lisbon but today it is just a bunch of ruins; despite that, it is imperfection itself that makes Carmo Convent such a charming place to visit.
Its arches seem to be holding the sky. The lack of roof was not intentionally designed by the architect who projected the convent; the roof collapsed during the devastating earthquake of 1755.
Carmo Convent suffered from very severe damages; Queen Mary I ordered to rebuild the church, but reconstruction works were never completed. In the 19th century, during a very romantic cultural climate, it was believed that the ruins were already very fascinating by themselves and therefore the restoration project was abandoned.
It would be almost impossible nowadays to undertake again reconstruction works, as in the collective imaginary the Convento do Carmo is famous for being a church without ceiling and tourists come here to admire the sky framed by suspended arches.
Visiting the Carmo Convent is a very unique experience that will make you feel like being carried inside a fairy tale or a romantic poem written by Edgar Allan Poe.
The gothic entry gate to the convent is located near the elevador de Santa Justa, in the Chiado district. As soon as you enter the convent you will be surprised by the contrast between the walls and the absence of the roof, which is replaced by the shining blue sky of Lisbon.
The church, which now represents a memory of the earthquake, can be seen as an empty container. The columns and the structure of the arches are fully exposed to weather conditions, while its interior doesn’t offer much to see except for a couple of bust sculptures located in the lateral chapels. Nevertheless, whomever visits the Carmo Convent believes that it is a fascinating attraction.
The Carmo Convent is one of the attractions included in the Lisboa Card, the Lisbon tourist card designed for those who want to take the most out of their trip to their Portuguese capital city. The card allows unlimited use of public transports and free or discounted admissions to the most interesting activities and attractions in town.
The Carmo Archaeological Museum (MAC), was founded by the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists and it exhibits an eclectic collection of historical finds that rewrite the history of Lisbon from prehistory to the Middle Ages, as well as a collection of sepulchres and medieval haraldry from all over the world.
Under the same roof – in this case we can actually say it – you can admire other finds like panels made of azulejos, sarcophagus dating back to the 4th century, fragments of columns decorated with griffons dating back to the 5th century, the buckle of a Visigoth belt, Peruvian mummies and other weird and interesting objects.
Convent do Carmo was founded by Nuno Álvares Pereira, loyal knight to king João who changed his life and abandoned his militar career to fully devote his life to prayer and took the new name of Frei Nuno de Santa Maria.
To build the convent Dom Nuno chose a place of significant symbolic and practical significance: the hill chosen was located opposite to the Castle, where the Royal Palace and the Sé were built, and it recalled Mount Carmel in Palestine, marking the origin of the Discalced Carmelites.
The convent was built in 1389 and it was dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Vencimento do Monte do Carmo.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.