Although almost destroyed by the city’s great earthquake back in 1755, its main arches bare and exposed to the elements, this ancient church has kept its magnificence and you can only begin to imagine how wonderful it must have looked before it was wrecked by the natural disaster.
Lisbon’s archeology museum
Originally built between 1389 and 1423, the earthquake and following fire destroyed much of the church but the city had planned to restore it to its former glory. However budget issues and operational difficulties meant the work was stopped and the ruins instead became host to today’s archaeology museum.
Getting to the Convento do Carmo
With Lisbon’s many, many hills and winding streets it can be a real challenge to get to the ruins, however, it’s well worth the climb. Those willing to dip into their pockets and patiently wait in the tourist queues can instead cheat and take the Santa Justa lift which saves tired legs and brings you out right alongside the site.
Thanks to the halted reconstruction work, the ruins still allow visitors to see some of the original elements of the church dating back to the fourth and fifth century. The museum began as a place to keep and exhibit important sculptures from the church, but has grown into a site that now houses important artefacts of historical and artistic value from around the world.
Highlights include the tomb of Fernao Sanches: the bastard son of King Dinis, which has an impressive wild boar hunting scene carved around it, an Egyptian sarcophagus and mummy, two mummified children (eeew) and even an Aztec stone sculpture.
It’s a real mix of artefacts that makes a strange collection, but well worth a visit, even to just to wander around the open nave. With the sun shining down on you, it’s a beautiful sight, not to be missed!
The Convento do Carmo is open Monday to Saturday from 10-6 October-May and 10-7 June-September. It is closed Christmas Day, January 1st and May 1st.