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Patriarchate of Lisbon

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Patriarchate of Lisbon (Lisbonensis).

Includes the districts of Lisbon and Santarem. The area of the district of Lisbon is 3065 sq. miles; pop. 709,509 (1900). Area of Santarem 2,555 sq. miles; pop. 283,154.

Lisbon is said to owe its origin to Ulysses, and hence its oldest name Ulisaypo or Olissipo, which became on Phænecian lips Alisubbo, meaning the "friendly bay". Its charm was acknowledged by the Romans in the name they gave it, Felicitas Julia; and when the Moors came they changed it back to Al Aschbuna, a variant of the Poœnician title. From Alisubbo and Al Aschbuna we have the later name Lissabona, whence the modern Portuguese Lisboa and the English Lisbon. It lies on the north bank of the Tagus, 12 miles from the open sea, clustered around seven hills that rise above one another, ending in the Serra of Cintra.

The town was taken by the Moors in 716 and remained in their possession until 1145, when Alfonso Henriques with the assistance of an army of Crusaders, English, Normans and Flemings bound for the Holy Land, drove out the invaders, and removed the capital of the country from Coimbra to Lisbon. An English monk named Gilbert who was with the expedition was chosen Bishop of Lisbon at this time. On two occasions the city suffered from disastrous earthquakes; in 1531 more than 1500 houses were destroyed, besides many churches and palaces. On 1 Novembner, 1755, a second disastrous earthquake shook the city and more than 30,000 of the inhabitants perished. To add to the misery, a fire broke out which lasted four days. Carvalho, Marquis of Pombal, at that time Minister of War, took charge of the panic-stricken city, and having extinguished the flames, drew up plans for the rebuilding of Lisbon. A bronze equestrian statue of King José with a medallion of Pombal, was erected in the new Praça do Commercio to commemorate the rebuilding. Except in this new quarter, around the Praça do Commercio, the streets of Lisbon are irregular and steep, but there is an elaborate electric trolley sylstem connecting all parts of the town, and the ascensores or giant lifts help to overcome the difficulties of high and low levels. There are fountains everywhere and the streets are lined by trees, of which the olaia or judas-tree is the most common. The oldest portion of Lisbon is along the steep slopes of the Castello de S. Jorge, which had been the stronghold of the Moors. In the neighbourhood of the Cathedral or Sé, Roman remains have been found including the ruins of a Roman Theatre. The Sé or Cathedral of Santa Maria is the oldest church in Lisbon; it dates back to the year 306. It served as a mosque for the Moors during their occupation of the city, and the façade with its towers and massive portico was rebuilt during the fourteenth century. It has been restored many times.

Outside what were the old walls of Lisbon stands the church of S. Vincente da Fora (St. Vincent's without) with a monastery attached, which is now the residence of the Patriarch of Lisbon. The church contains the mortuary chapel of the Kings of the House of Braganza, and the great constable Nuno. Alvara Pariera lies buried here. St. Vincent is the patron saint of Lisbon; he was martyred for the Faith under Diocletian. According to the legend, his body was attached to a millstone and flung into the sea (336), but was miraculously discovered on the sands at Valencia by some Christians of that place. In the eighth century the Moors took Valencia, and the inhabitants fled by sea, taking the relics of St. Vincent with them. They were driven ashore on the coast of Algarve at the cape now known as Cape St. Vincent, and there they remained until D. Alfonso Henriques had expelled the Moors from Lisbon, when they were brought from Cape Saint Vincent and deposited in the cathedral he had just built. At this same time Alfonso began the building of the Cistercian monastery of Alcobaca, in fulfilment of a vow he had made to build a monastery for St. Bernard's monks, if he were successful in his war against the Moors. The Castello of S. Jorge was built in the time of Julius Cæsar, and strengthened by the Moors, who held out there against the assault of Alfonso Henriques. It had three towers, known as Ulysses, Albarram, and Managem, but every trace of them disappeared in the earthquake of 1755. It was the royal residence until the Spanish kings of Portugal chose the famous Paco do Terriero which was ruined in 1755. Don João I made St. George its patron saint; he had married an English princess, Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt. The procession on the feast of Corpus Christi from the Castello to the church of S. Domingo was a brilliant one in former years. St. George, lance in hand and on horseback in heavy armour, was personated by one of the faithful and his standard was borne before him by another rider. King and court all took part in this procession, the patriarch carrying the sacred Host.

The modern city

The church of St. Roque looks onto a square of its own name; it contains the chapel of St. John the Baptist, built in Rome from designs by the architect Vaneteli. Its costly marbles and mosaic reproductions of paintings by Guido Reni, Raphael, and Michelangelo took ten years to complete. Close by is the Casa de Unisencordia, a hospital and an orphanage. Near at hand is the Graca church and convent (now a barracks) facing the city. The church contains a remarkable crucifix known as Nosser Senhor dos Passos da Graca. The church of the Carmo, a beautiful relic of Portuguese Gothic, is now a museum. Belem, a suburb of Lisbon, contains the church and monastery of Santa Maria, known locally as the Jeronymos. The old name of Belem was Restello, and it was from here that Vasco da Gama set out to discover a sea route to India. A chapel had been built on the spot by Prince Henry the Navigator, and to it king and court went in procession, 8 July, 1497. On that same day Vasco da Gama embarked; he returned in September, 1499, having rounded the Cape of Good Hope. To immortalize the event King Manuel built a monastery near Prince Henry's chapel, changed the name of the locality from Restello to Belem or Bethlehem, and gave the new building to the monks of St. Jerome; hence the name Jeronymos. The first stone was laid in 1500. The building is of white stone from the quarries of Estramadura, and the foundations were laid on piles of pinewood. The style of architecture is pure Manueline (a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance, and Moorish) and the doorway is exuberantly decorated. The church is fast becoming a mausoleum of celebrated men. It contains the tombs of Vasco da Gama, of Camões, the great poet, and of Almeida Garrett, the chief Portuguese poet of the nineteenth century. In the chapter house of the monastery is the tomb of Alexandro Herculano, greatest of Portuguese historians. The columned arches of the cloisters are decorated with the twisted cable moulding so common in Manueline buildings. High above Belem stands the Ajuda Palace, built early in the nineteenth century to replace the royal palace which had been destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. It is a conspicuous edifice and is one of the first seen on entering the port of Lisbon. The actual residence of the royal family is the Palace of the Necessidades. Since 1834 the Cortes, a generic designation for the Constitutional Chambers of peers and deputies, occupies the monastery of San Bento. The actual number of deputies is 148, elected by the people, whereas the chamber of peers consists of nominated members appointed by the crown, and none of them under 40 years of age. One of the most remarkable monuments connected with the city is the Acueducto das Aguas Livras (built in 1713), which reaches a distance of ten miles to Chellos.

Near the Estrella Gardens is a Protestant cemetery containing the tomb of Henry Fielding, the English novelist, who died in Lisbon in 1754. This part of the city also contains the Basilica of the SS. Corãcao de Jesus with its commanding cupola of white marble. The old Franciscan convent has been turned into a museum of fine arts; and a portion of the building contains the National Library of Lisbon, where are stored about 300,000 volumes, besides many rare manuscripts. The first book printed by Guttenberg is shown there, and a Bible from the same press. It also contains books from the Duke of Northumberland's library brought to Lisbon when the nuns of Sion were driven out of England during the Reformation. The largest church in Lisbon is S. Domingo in the Praça do Rocio. It was dedicated in 1241, and has undergone many changes. The kings of Portugal are usually married there, and it was the former church of the Inquisition. In 1761 it witnessed the auto da fé of Father Malagrida the Jesuit, who was falsely accused of complicity in a plot against Pombal's life.

Except around the Praça do Commercio, nearly all the important buildings of Lisbon are or have been churches and monasteries. Since their suppression, 28 May, 1834, the monasteries have been mainly used as barracks. The Catholic Faith is the State religion, but all other forms of worship are tolerated, and in government circles the feeling is anti-clerical if not anti-religious. The press is represented by two able journals, the "Diario dos Noticias" and "O Seculo". The population of Lisbon in 1900 was computed at 357,000. The present King of Portugal is Manuel II, born 15 November, 1889, who succeeded to the throne on the assassination of his father and elder brother 1 February, 1908. The reigning dynasty belongs to the House of Braganza-Coburg; John IV of Braganza having expelled the Spanish from Lisbon in 1640, and Maria II of Braganza, having married Fernando, Prince of Coburg-Gotha, in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The Avenida da Libertade is one of the new boulevards. It begins at the Praçado Restoradores, which commemorates Portugal's Independence Day, 1 Dec., 1640, when the Duke of Braganza freed the land from Spanish domination. The avenue is lined with trees and subtropical plants and is divided by flower-beds and rockeries into three arteries to facilitate traffic. Twenty years ago all this district did not exist, and as in the newer quarters in Rome, there has been some overbuilding. Behind the Avenida lie the Botanical Gardens with their leafy lanes and wealth of tropical vegetation. The Praça do Principe Real, a few minutes' walk from the gardens, stands on the site of the Sé Patriarchal, built by João V (1706-1750), as the cathedral of Western Lisbon, and destroyed by fire during the great earthquake. The port of Lisbon, one of the safest and most commodious roadsteads in the world, is annually entered and cleared by an average of 6000 vessels sailing under every flag. The chief manufactures of the neighbourhood are pottery, woollens, glass, preserved food, and fish. The wine trade of Lisbon is also important. Besides the public buildings referred to, the Academia Real, the Escola Polytechnica (580 pupils), and the Escola Medico-Cirurgica (224 pupils), as well as the observatory, deserve mention. Lisbon has also a military school (339 students), a school of fine arts (69 students), and a Conservatorio (503 students). Lisbon was occupied by the French in 1807, but the English took it in 1808 and made it a centre of operations against Napoleon during the Peninsular War.

Ecclesiastical history

The See of Lisbon dates from early Christian times, and tradition has enshrined the names of its bishops as far back as the sub-Apostolic epoch. It seems certain that a St. Potamius, who took part in the Council of Rimini (356), was Bishop of Lisbon. Other bishops are mentioned up to the year 716 when Lisbon passed into the hands of the Moors and the see remained vacant till 1147. Before the Moorish conquest the diocese was suffragan of Mérida; the liberation under Alfonso I took place in 1147, and in 1199 Lisbon was made suffragan of Compostela. At the request of King John I, Pope Boniface IX, by Bull dated 10 November, 1394, erected Lisbon into an archdiocese and gave it as suffragans, Coimbra, Leiria, Guarda, Evora, and Silves (in 1396, however, Evora was detached by the same pope) and the first archbishop was John Anes. Among his more famous successors were Roderiguez da Cunha (1636) and Cardinal Luiz da Souza (1676). As Portugal grew in political importance and colonial possessions, the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of Lisbon expanded, and we learn from Stadel, "Compend. Geogr. Eccles." (1712) that Coimbra, Leiria, Portalegre, Elvas, Funchal, Angra, Congo, St. James of Cape Verde, San Thomé, and Baia of All Saints were suffragans of Lisbon. As a reward for assistance against the Turks, Clement XI in 1708 raised the Chapel of the Royal Palace to Collegiate rank and associated with it three parishes in the dioceses of Braganza and Lamego. Later in that same year, yielding to the request of John V, he issued the Bull "In Supremo Apostolatus Solio" (22 Oct., 1716), known as the Golden Bull, because the seal or bulla was affixed with gold instead of lead, giving the collegiate chapel cathedral rank, with metropolitical rights, and conferring on its titular the rank of patriarch. The town of Lisbon was ecclesiastically divided into Eastern and Western Lisbon. The former Archbishop of Lisbon retained jurisdiction over Eastern Lisbon, and had as suffragans Guarda, Portalegre, St. James of Cape Verde, San Thomé, and San Salvator in Congo. Western Lisbon and metropolitical rights over Leiria, Lamego, Funchal, and Angra, together with elaborate privileges and honours were granted to the new patriarch and his successors. It was further agreed between pope and king that the Patriarch of Lisbon should be made a cardinal at the first consistory following his appointment. The first Patriarch of Lisbon was a saintly man, Thomas d'Almeyda, formerly Bishop of Porto, and he was raised to the cardinalate 20 Dec., 1737. There thus existed side by side in the city of Lisbon two metropolitical churches. To obviate the inconvenience of this arrangement Benedict XIV (13 Dec., 1740) united East and West Lisbon into one single archdiocese under Patriarch d'Almeyda, who ruled the see until 1754. The double chapter however remained until 1843, when the old cathedral chapter was dissolved by Gregory XVI. It was during the patriarchate of Cardinal d'Almeyda (1746) that the famous chapel of Saint John the Baptist, now in the church of São Roque, was built in Rome at the expense of King John V, and consecrated by Pope Benedict XIV.

At what date the patriarchs of Lisbon began to quarter the tiara with three crowns, though without the keys, on their coat of arms is uncertain and there are no documents referring to the grant of such a privilege. By Apostolic letters dated 30 Sept., 1881 the metropolitan of Lisbon claims as suffragans the Dioceses of Angola, St. James of Cape Verde, San Thomé, Egitan, Portalegre, Angra, Funchal. The archdiocese comprises the civil districts of Lisbon and Santarem, and has a Catholic population of 728,739. The estimated number of Protestants and Jews is 5000. The total number of parishes is 341, of priests 662, and of churches and chapels 1555. The present patriarch is Antonio Mendes Bello, who was born at Gouvea in the Diocese of Guarda in June, 1842, appointed Archbishop of Mitylene 24 March, 1884, translated to Faro 13 Nov., 1884, and appointed patriarch of Lisbon, 19 Dec., 1907, in succession to Cardinal Neto, who resigned. The patriarch is assisted by an auxiliary bishop, Mgr. José Alves de Mattos, titular Archbishop of Mitylene. Cardinal Neto, the ex-patriarch, was born at Lagos in the Diocese of Faro, 8 Feb., 1841; was ordained in 1863; joined the Order of Friars Minor in 1875; was appointed Bishop of Angola and Congo in 1879; became Patriarch of Lisbon in 1883; was named Cardinal of the Title of the Twelve Apostles, 24 March, 1884, and at present ranks as senior cardinal priest. He resigned his patriarchate in November, 1907, and retired to a convent of his own order in Lisbon. In 1624 a college for English students desiring to study for the priesthood and for mission work in England, was founded in Lisbon by Pietro Catinho, a member of an illustrious family. It is known as SS. Peter and Paul's and has the same rights and privileges as the English College, Rome. It suffered severely from the earthquake of 1755, but continues its work to this day, and is now governed by Monsignor Hilton, who was born in 1825; educated at Lisbon; ordained 1850; served some time on the mission in the Diocese of Shrewsbury, England; made a domestic prelate in 1881; and returned to Lisbon as president in 1883. A college for Irish students was founded by royal charter in 1593; it escaped all injury from the earthquake, but was closed during the civil wars in Portugal in the nineteenth century and has never been reopened. A convent of Irish Dominican monks and another of Irish Dominican nuns exist in Lisbon to this day.


The ancient Scalabis, the Præsidium Julium of the Romans, and capital fo the district of Santarem lies on the right bank of the Tagus about 46 miles from Lisbon. The population in 1901 was 9400. It does a large trade in wine and oil, and is the vegetable garden of Lisbon. In the sixteenth century it was of more importance than nowadays, and its population stood at 21,000. A long narrow bridge spans the Tagus, and on a rock in the river stands the castle of Almourel, a building in Gothic architecture. Roman relics unearthed in the vicinity incline archæologists to the opinion that the noted Nabantia of the Romans and Goths stood there. The Franciscan convent is now a barracks, and the convent of Santa Iria or Irene is in ruins. Saint Irene (whence the name of the town Santarem) is said to have been the niece of the prior of the Benedictine monastery when the Goths ruled that portion of Portugal.


INCHBOLD, Lisbon and Cintra (New York, 1908); STEPHENS, Portugal (London, 1903); ADAM, La patrie portuguaise (Paris, 1896); CRAWFORD, Portugal Old and New (London, 1880); Annuaire Pontificale (1910); Gerarchia (1910).

About this page

APA citation. Grey, J. (1910). Patriarchate of Lisbon. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Grey, James. "Patriarchate of Lisbon." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. In memory of Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio — Fidelis servus et prudens, quem constituit Dominus super familiam suam.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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