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Silves Cathedral (Algarve): poorly preserved, but the visit is worth it

Silves, in the Algarve, is one of the most important historical sites of Portugal. Among the top destinations there, tourists find the Silves Cathedral.

I live in the Algarve and go to Silves frequently. After several visits to the cathedral, I will show you the building, with many photos and some basic information for your visit.

Walking in the historic centre of Silves, with the Silves Cathedral in the background
Walking up the stone streets of the historic center of Silves, we see part of Silves Cathedral.

Silves Cathedral

A little bit of history

The construction began in the 13th century. Built with Silves sandstone, the cathedral reveals different phases of its construction in distinct styles, emphasizing Gothic. Some parts have more elegant architecture and attractive decorations. It is worth noting, for example, the decorations on ceilings and columns.

The works continued until the 15th century, reaching the reign of Manuel I, who also ordered the construction of a choir. At that time, the city transferred the remains of D. João II from the cathedral to the Monastery of Santa Maria da Batalha. (King D. João II died in Alvor, very close to Silves, in 1495.)

In the 18th century, the cathedral underwent further renovations. Constructors added altars and altarpieces. But other works in the middle of the recent 20th century have dismantled much of the reformulation. For instance, they removed the choir and the pipe organ.

That’s sad, Damas. Now, can you please show a little more of the exterior before we enter the cathedral?

Sure.

The exterior of the cathedral

We can see Silves Cathedral from different points of Silves. It is very close to the Silves Castle, hence the privileged location. Castles were built in higher places to facilitate observation and defense.

Look at these photos with me:

The front of the Cathedral of Silves
The entrance is not through the main door. It is on the right (the small door after the stairs).
Front of the cathedral
Yes, I agree. The façade lacks care.
Exterior side of the cathedral

A history that begins in the 13th century

Back of Silves Cathedral
The entrance
The entrance is the open door on the right.

Inside

Come with me.

It’s not religion only that we find here. History is key to attracting tourists.

The cathedral’s interior is inviting, but we must be ready for disappointment. It is 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.

Inside the cathedral. A cross with Jesus.
This is what we see right after crossing that door.
Inside the cathedral
Inside. Columns.
Inside
The ceiling
Altar
Inside Silves Cathedral
Statue of Jesus Christ
This statue is impressive.
Jesus Christ
Jesus
Inside
Holy water

It is common to find poorly maintained historic churches in Portugal

Holy water
Inside wall
No one can deny that the cathedral needs care.
Altar
Inside. Statues.
Inside
At the top: traces of questionable restoration work.
Baptismal font
Baptismal font inside the Silves Cathedral
Baptismal font
Inside
A painting
Painting and frame in terrible condition. What is the name? What is the origin?
Inscription in a wall
One more painting in a wall inside the Silves Cathedral
Macabre painting, also in poor condition. What do we know about it? And notice the wall around the frame.

Graves

In Silves Cathedral, like in other cathedrals, we find graves on the ground and caskets (here, all poorly maintained). The human remains are not from members of the clergy only. Wealthy families donated money to the Church to guarantee the right of burial there. It was a way of purchasing 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.

Grave
Grave on the ground.
One more grave on the floor of Silves Cathedral
Grave on the floor
Grave and statues
A grave inside Silves Cathedral
One other grave inside Silves Cathedral
Tomb in Silves Cathedral
Tomb
Other grave in Silves Cathedral

Location

To make your life easier, locate Silves Cathedral on Google Maps.

Map with Silves Cathedral
Red balloon: Silves Cathedral. Blue arrow: Silves Castle. Pink arrow: Café Inglês, a lovely restaurant next to the castle. Green arrow: the old Portas da Cidade de Silves.

Have a nice day in Silves!


GLAUCO DAMAS
» I live in the Algarve (South of Portugal). My first fiction book, for young adults, was published in 2001 in the Portuguese language — a time travel adventure with thousands of readers. I also wrote books and guides about travel and technology. Screenplays are my greatest passion.

» This is the English version of my blog G. DAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). English is not my native language.

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