The Alfama district is the oldest quarter in Lisbon and covers the hill that is topped by Castle St. Jorge. Full of narrow streets and very steep steps, it is Lisbon's ancient Arab district. This area is loaded with historical churches and cultural museums. Perched near the top of the hill, the "Miradouro Largo dos Portas do Sol" ( The Gateway of the Sun) square - once the entrance gate to the old city -offers some of the best views of the city. We present, here, a sampling of some of the wonderful attractions in the Alfama;
CHURCH OF SANTA ENGRACIA; easily identified by its white chalk dome, this church is one of the most recognizable buildings in the district. Construction started in 1682 but actually took 284 years to complete (it was destroyed by a storm, abandoned, and then used as a shoe factory and an Arsenel). In 1916, it was designated as Portugal's National Pantheon. The structure was never used as a church, but houses tombs of Portuguese Heros (e.g. Vasco da Gama, Henry the Navigator, etc.).
SAO VINCENTE DE FORA : (Monastery of St. Vincente Outside the Walls); originally built in 1173 by the first Portuguese King for the Augustinian Order, it was dedicated to Lisbon's patron saint. It was one of the most important monasteries in medieval Portugal. The present building was reconstructed on the order of King Philip II of Spain when he became King of Portugal in 1580.
SE (Cathedral); the twin battlement-like bell towers give this building a unique military character. Founded in 1150, three years after Lisbon was recaptured from the Moors, it was built on the site of a former mosque and earlier Roman foundations. The structure is also noted for its nine chapels, each with its own story to tell.
MUSEUM OF RESISTENCE AND FREEDOM; originally built as an ecclesiastical prison, this building became an archbishop's palace during the 16th century. It then reverted back into a prison in which thousands of political prisoners were kept during the turmoil between 1928 and 1965. Once the resistance movement was successful in overthrowing the dictatorship in the mid-1960's, the building was turned into Lisbon's newest museum.
...most notably during the dictatorship era between 1928 and 1965, thousands of political prisoners were kept here. This is just a sampling of the records kept on these prisoners.