Entering Igreja de São Domingos brings you to a space different from what you would expect. And there is a story behind. More of them actually.
Why to go there: Even though many tourists just pass around Igreja de São Domingos having no idea something worth noticing happened there, at least two interesting stories forming the history of this church can be told.
An intense feeling of an extraordinary atmosphere strikes you when you enter – the church is not only suprisingly big and feels somehow warm, it also makes you wonder why the interior looks so different from other churches.
The impressive combination of plain, grey and devastated (yet obviously well conserved) pillars and renovated ceiling is so unusual that you can guess something happened there.
But suprisingly, the big earthquake in 1755 (destroying most of Lisbon including one of the other churches, Igreja do São Carmo – also worth visiting!) did not play a role in this change. It is true that the building was almost completely destroyed during the earthquake, but then it was rebuilt.
So , what happened? A big fire started there in 1959 and after few hours left the church badly devastated again. In the left corner near the entrance, you can see newspaper article from that year with photographs of the church in flames, making it even more clear how serious the fire was.
The authorities decided to renovate it once again, but this time keeping the interior in such a special state – obviously in the memory of what happened. Just look around and feel the special atmosphere. The visit of this church is a really extraordinary experience.
But it was actually not the only tragedy that took place there. When coming to the church, notice the rounded stone with the Star of David in the center of the square. It is there in memory of people assasinated there, in front of the church, during a medieval age when the king of Portugal left Lisbon for a while.
The story says that during that time, when jewish people had to oficially convert to catholicisim, they used to go to catholic church, but secretly continued to believe in their own religion. However, the orthodox catholics were irritated by that, and once, when the king was not in the city, killed several jews in front of this church near Rossio square.
If you thought it was the end of story, it actually wasn’t – the killers apparently didn’t stay alive for a long while, since they were sentenced to death by the king who obviously became very angry about this massacre happening during his travels.
So, when you are passing this place next time, stop for a minute and imagine what have been happening there during the centuries – the atmosphere of the church and the whole square definitely feels somehow special.