This is another MyCityHighlight top10 highlight: the Convento do Carmo. The ruins of this Gothic church are a present and timeless reminder of the 1755 earthquake tragedy, one of the worst days in the history of Lisbon. Before that day, Carmo Convent was the largest church in Lisbon. Even though roofless and destroyed, the remaining arches and façade are still a beautiful memory of its greatness. It is the best place to understand the damages done by the 1755 earthquake, as well as it is a great place to admire the Gothic architecture presence in Lisbon.
Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Convento da Ordem do Carmo) is the official name, and it is a former Roman Catholic convent located in the Santa Maria Maior municipality. It is located next to the Santa Justa Lift, connected to its top by an iron bridge, from where you’ll have a view to the Castle and overlooking the Rossio square. The big square right in front of it is the Carmo Square.
The Carmo Convent was built between 1389 and 1423 in the Gothic style, with some influences from the Batalha Monastery, founded by King João I that was being built at the same time. Carmo Convent was one of the most imposing constructions in its architecture and decoration and, even after being ruined for more than three times, it still is. When still intact, it was considered the main Gothic Church in the city, and it was even compared to the Sé Lisbon Cathedral itself.
Overtime, many alterations have been done and added, responding to the new architectonical tastes and styles. Its main façade has a portal with several archivolts and capitals decorated with anthropomorphic motifs, and the rose window over the portal is partially destroyed. Five flying buttresses, typical of the gothic architecture, had been added to the south side of the convent, later on in 1399, after the wall collapsed during its construction. The right side of the façade has been rebuilt in neo-Gothic style in the early 20th century.
Inside, the church has a nave with three aisles and one apse where there’s the main chapel, and four side chapels. The stone roof collapsed during the earthquake and it was never rebuilt. Today, the main altar – or what used to be the main altar – is now a small archaeological museum with a collection of tombs, ceramics, statues and mosaics.
Carmo Convent was founded in 1389 by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira (we’ve talked about him before, as one of the figures on the Augusta Street Arch), who was the supreme military commander of the King, head of the Portuguese army (second in importance, only after the king). It was initially donated to the Carmelite order, but after the 1755 earthquake it lost its functionality.