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

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.

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

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?

Sure.

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:

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
Back part. From this point of view, the Castle of Silves is on my left, a few steps further up.
The entrance
The entrance is the open door at right.

Inside

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.

Inside the cathedral. A cross with Jesus.
Right after we cross that door.
Inside the cathedral
Inside. Columns.
Inside
The ceiling
Altar
Inside Silves Cathedral
Statue of Jesus Christ
This statue is impressive. Very beautiful.
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 of the photo, traces of dubious 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, 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.

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

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.

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

Heat

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!


G. DAMAS
I live in the Algarve (South of Portugal). My first fiction book, for young adults, was published in 2001 in Portuguese language — a time travel adventure that won thousands of readers. I also wrote some travel and tech books and manuals.
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