With the inventory featuring on this website I want to share my interest in the Romanesque art and architecture in Portugal. Although the country is not famous for this style, it is surprising how much there is to be seen and discovered.
The Romanesque architecture arrived in Portugal in the beginning of the 11th century. Almost all of the older buildings, however, have disappeared. The present Romanesque churches were built in the wake of the Reconquista, after the mid 12th century. On the other hand, until well over 150 years later, while elsewhere already the finest and highest Gothic cathedrals were being built, in rural Portugal the Romanesque age lingered on.
In this Romanesque age several hundred churches were built. Only few of them survived the centuries intact, some disappeared or were replaced, and many were more or less transformed in later years.
Especially in the 17th and 18th century, when a baroque wave swept the country, many churches were redecorated, renovated, rebuilt or otherwise ruined. Usually the West façade with the main portal was the first part to go. Or else the chancel was extended and its interior covered with a masterpiece of golden curls and curves.
However, in the mid-20th century the Portuguese government took the initiative to restore a number of these churches to their former glory.
With a few words I try to indicate which part of the church, if not all of it, is Romanesque. This is based primarily on what I see, but of course I consult other sources to confirm or refine my view.
Some churches, which I think are either unrecognizable, rather Gothic, or Pre-romanesque, are listed on separate pages (not included, gothic, and pre-romanesque respectively).
Eventually, when I complete this inventory, the main list will contain well over 250 churches. Since I want to visit each church first before putting it on this website, and also because my resources – especially time – are limited, it may take some years to come... In the meantime I hope you enjoy what is already here.
Questions, comments and suggestions are welcome, so do send me an e-mail with your feedback!
Joost Limburg - Cabeceiras de Basto, Portugal ( )
ToponymyOn this website I use the common Portuguese division in distritos (districts), concelhos (municipalities) and freguesias (the worldly counterpart of parishes). This means you need to know where, i.e. in which district and municipality, a particular church is located. However, since many foreign websites, travel guides, cultural guides etc. do not use this division, I have put a so-called reversed list on the resources page, where you can select directly by the name of the freguesia – for instance Rates instead of Porto > Póvoa de Varzim > Rates.
In all cases I use the Portuguese spelling for place names, e.g. Porto instead of Oporto and Lisboa instead of Lisbon.
Dating the Romanesque (and other) churchesHistoric documentation showing the date of the consecration or the year the building was started or concluded, is only available for important churches such as the cathedrals of Braga, Coimbra and Lisboa. In some other cases clerical documents confirm the existence of a church or a parish at a certain time, or there are credible inscriptions in the church itself. Mostly, however, dating is only possible through stylistic comparison, which inevitably leads to different opinions. In most cases I refer to the dates given by Almeida or Rosas & Botelho.