As one of the oldest cities in western Europe, Lisbon is an archaeology lovers’ paradise. But one doesn’t only have to look underground for fascinating ruins. In fact, one of the most beautiful ruins in Lisbon isn’t even that old! To find it, you just have to walk through the entrance below. Beyond this imposing door, is is the Carmo Convent Ruins and Archaeological Museum:
D. Nuno Alvares Pereira founded the Carmelite convent in 1389 (young by Lisbon standards!). Construction of the Church of Santa Maria do Carmo and convent were completed in 1423.
Even in its early days, the church was considered to be one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Lisbon. Unfortunately, a massive earthquake in 1755 nearly destroyed the entire city of Lisbon, including the church and convent. Damage to the building was so severe that the 126 clerics had to abandon the site.
Reconstruction began a year later, but stopped in 1834 after the religious orders in Portugal were abolished. The naves, transept and chapels were never fully rebuilt.
This is how the interior looks today:
The building went through numerous incarnations once the religious orders left. In 1835 the church became a sawmill shop, and the convent housed the first and second companies of infantrymen for the municipal guard. The first cavalry squadron moved in ten years later.
In 1864 the building was donated to the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists. The association quickly turned the convent ruins into a museum. The walls around the convent were reconstructed between 1911 and 1912. In 1969, another earthquake shook the ruins, and caused additional damage to the church nave.
The building has since become home to a hodge-podge of statues, tombs, fountains and fragments of architectural elements from other churches, monasteries, cathedrals and archaeological excavations.
The view from inside the Carmo ruins facing the main entrance. Note that the rose window on this side was completely destroyed during the 1755 earthquake:
This is a statue of St. Joao Nepomuceno from the 18th Century. Interestingly, he was the patron saint of Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, and not Portugal. He’s a protector from floods and drowning, and is often portrayed with a halo marked with five stars:
Some additional random architectural elements inside the nave:
The inside of the museum houses a small, but very eclectic collection of books, knick-knacks, and even a 16th Century Peruvian mummy and an Egyptian sarcophagus! Photos inside weren’t allowed though, so you’ll just have to go there yourself to check it out! The Carmo Ruins and Archaeological Museum are conveniently located in the Chiado district within a short distance of the Santa Justa elevator.