Visit to Porto Cathedral, Portugal
We made a quick visit to Porto Cathedral and its cloister. Luck evaded us in Porto and we missed seeing Church of Saint Francis which is famous for its golden interiors. We were late after the long drive to Porto from Coimbra.
Porto Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Porto. It was built by Bishop Hugh, a French nobleman who came to Porto before Portugal’s independence. He ably ruled the city from 1113 to 1136. The construction of Porto cathedral was started in 1110 and was completed in 13th century. Location of this cathedral is great as it is on a hill top and you get great views of the city. After the steep climb the views and cool breeze had a calming and soothing effect. From architectural point of view the Porto Cathedral is a mix of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles as modifications went on for the last 9 centuries. The façade shows the evidence of it being a Romanesque structure.
The façade is grey and plain but stepping into the spacious interiors, I found it lovely.A holy atmosphere prevailed. Very less lighting inside, like in other cathedrals, that made it difficult to capture the details. The interiors too were altered with changing architectural styles through the 9 centuries. The nave has the maximum decoration and gilding. The silver altar that holds a curious story: in 1809, when Napoleon’s Grande Armeé entered the city, a local resident painted the altar to hide the silver. The French troops never noticed that and left the silver untouched. The Gothic rose window of the façade is one of the few well preserved original elements of the cathedral.
Cloisters of Porto Cathedral
The tour inside will take 15 to 20 minutes. After that we visited the cloisters. A cloister (enclosure) is a covered walk, open gallery, running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle. The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church, indicates that it is (or once was) part of a monastic foundation. Cloisters effectively separates the world of the monks from that of the serfs and workmen, whose lives and works went on outside. The cloisters here show a clear gothic architectural style. Walls are covered with blue-white tiles till half way. They depict stories from Bible. We are permitted to walk around the top of the cloisters.
Tourists are allowed to see the private official rooms that are used by the clergy and the treasure house. These are so richly decorated, one is forced to pause and admire. We toured upstairs above the cloisters into what looked like a conference room. The blue-and-white “Azulejos” tiles fixed to the lower part of the wall depict scenes from the Bible. They are similar to the ones used to decorate the cloisters and the upper ramparts of the cloisters.
Admission to the cathedral is free. The cloisters have €3 as entrance fee.