This is the English version of my blog GDAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). I'm still working on it. English is not my native language. Please, feel free to correct me.
Silves, in the Algarve, is one of the most important historical sites in Portugal. The city breathes the past, so it is still a place of interesting archaeological discoveries. Tourists, of course, are always amazed by all those historical riches. Among the most popular points is Silves Cathedral.
I live in the Algarve and go to Silves frequently. After several visits to this cathedral, I show you now the building, with many photos and some basic information for your visit.
The interesting Silves Cathedral
A little bit of history
Built with Silves sandstone, the cathedral reveals the various phases of its construction, in different styles, with emphasis on Gothic. Some parts have a more elegant architecture and more attractive decorations. It is worth noting, for example, the decorations on ceilings and columns.
Construction began in the 13th century, taking the first steps to become the seat of the Algarve diocese after the Christian reconquest.
The works continued until the 15th century, reaching the reign of Manuel I, who also ordered the construction of a choir. At this time, the remains of D. João II were transferred from there to the Monastery of Santa Maria da Batalha. (King D. João II died in Alvor, very close to Silves, in 1495. The place of death is marked in the historic centre.)
In the 18th century, the cathedral underwent further renovations. Altars and altarpieces were added.
But other works in the middle of the recent 20th century have dismantled much of the reformulation. To make matters worse, the choir and the pipe organ were removed.
As usual, modern age man does not give due value to the past — nor do we know how to build things with the wisdom of the ancients.
That’s sad. And … hey Damas, can you show a little more of the exterior before we enter the cathedral?
The exterior of the cathedral
Silves Cathedral is seen from different points of Silves. It is very close to the Silves Castle, hence the privileged location. Castles were built on higher places to facilitate observation and defense.
Look at these photos with me:
Come with me.
The interior of the cathedral is interesting, but we will be disappointed to find yet one more poorly preserved HISTORIC church in Portugal. Walls and items in poor condition, musty smell, lack of identification and explanation in some places. This is especially shocking when we remember that visitors pay to enter.
The City Hall and the Vatican — that could certainly interfere with that — do not seem to have many concerns about using the collected money for the benefit of the place itself.
It’s not only religion that we find here. It’s also HISTORY.
In Silves Cathedral, we also find something very common in this type of place: graves. Graves on the ground, on which we step, or in arches (poorly maintained) in some corners.
There are several graves. And not of members of the clergy only. It was common for wealthy families to donate money to a church to guarantee the right of burial in there. In fact, it was a way of purchase a place in Paradise. “In the church, close to God.”
There are also tombs of people with great historical weight. For example, the family of a man buried there was a pioneer during the population of Madeira island. How about the tomb of D. Fernando Coutinho, bishop of Silves? He was in the negotiations that led to the famous Treaty of Tordesillas.
Interested in visiting Silves Cathedral?
Of course I am, Damas. It’s interesting, as you said. Not a huge, impressive, very famous cathedral, like the one we see in Seville, or in Vienna, etc. But definitely it’s interesting.
So, to make your life easier, locate it now on Google Maps.
One more thing.
Don’t forget to protect yourself from excessive heat if you visit the cathedral in Summer. The Algarve is extremely hot and dry during this season, and Silves has temperatures above average.)
Have a nice day in Silves!