The original, independent guide to Lisbon
The solid and imposing Se Cathedral is Lisbon’s most important and iconic religious building. Since the 12th century the Se Cathedral has been entwined in Portugal’s early history, which bore witness to the baptism, marriage and passing of Portugal’s nobility and elite. The exterior of the grand old church resembles more that of a fortification than religious centre, with massive solid walls and two imposing clock towers.
The Se Cathedral of Lisbon
Inside gothic arches extend to the faulted ceilings and medieval statues and decorative alters fill the alcoves. To the rear of the Sé are the ancient cloisters, which were constructed directly on top of a ruined mosque and symbolically confirmed the 13th century Catholic conquest of Portugal from the North African Moors. The Se Cathedral is a wonderful ancient complex that is steeped in history and no holiday to Lisbon is complete without visiting this magnificent monument.
There are two main tourist sections to the cathedral; the religious nave, transept and sanctuary and the disused cloisters to the rear. The cloisters have been partially excavated to reveal the underlying foundations of the mosque that the Se Cathedral was constructed upon.
We loved the Se Cathedral so much we got married there!
The religious sections of the cathedral are open to the public every day from 7:00 until the evening mass, held in Portuguese, at 19:00. There is no admission fee to the main cathedral but all visitors must be suitable and respectively dressed. The cloisters are open every day from 10:00 to 17:00 and there is an admission fee of €2.50/€1.00 (adult/child).
Typical visits to Lisbon’s cathedral last between 15-20 minutes with an additional 20 minutes for the cloisters. The Sé Lisbon is situated on the main road from Baixa to Alfama and the nearest metro station is Rossio but the most picturesque mode of public transport is the quaint yellow tram (route 28) which passes directly in front of the cathedral.
The word Sé derives its name from the initials of Sedes Episcopalis which when translated means bishop’s seat. Interestingly the first bishop of Lisbon to have his seat here had no roots or ties to the region but was actually an English crusader named Gilbert.
The rose window of the cathedral
The Sé was the first religious building constructed by the 12th century Christian Crusaders and was on the site of an important Mosque that was destroyed. The description of Crusaders greatly enhances the description of the army of thieves and drunks who in 1147 "liberated" Lisbon; their first act after driving the Moors out was to pillage and loot the city.
Contained within Lisbon's cathedral is the font, reputedly used, to baptize Saint Anthony the patron saint Portugal in 1195. Saint Anthony was born less than 200m from the Se, down the hill at the site of the Igreja de Santo Antonio. The second stand out feature of the Sé is the beautiful Romanesque styled rose-window.
This rose window was painstakingly reconstructed during the 20th century from fragments of the original window that was destroyed by the powerful earthquake of 1755. The earthquake also caused the roof to collapse on hundreds of worshipers who were packed into the cathedral to celebrate the feast of All Saints.