Missa da Galo on Christmas Eve (Rooster’s Mass)

Written By Becky Gillespie

The Missa da Galo, or the Rooster’s Mass, in Portugal is the midnight mass on Christmas Eve. According to tradition, Jesus was born at midnight and a rooster crowed at the same time, announcing the arrival of the Messiah. Like the roosters calling out at midnight, people are called into churches by the bells ringing at midnight. This is called the annunciation. For this important midnight tradition, special songs and prayers are sung. 

There is a saying that the Rooster’s Mass takes so long that, by the time it is over, the rooster is already crowing. Actually, the Rooster’s Mass takes anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours.  

If you’d like to celebrate the Rooster’s Mass with Lisbon locals, here are five places to attend this religious ceremony:

5 Places to Attend Missa da Galo (Christmas Eve Mass) in Lisbon

1. Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral)

Location: Largo da Sé, 1100-585

Sé de Lisboa’s Christmas Eve mass is the oldest church in Lisbon with its first construction beginning in 1147. The cathedral’s Romanesque architecture creates a solemn atmosphere, and the ceremony here is deeply traditional. Witness a Rooster’s Mass that stretches back through the centuries with a truly magical ambiance. The Rooster’s Mass here is presided over by the Patriarch of Lisbon.

2. Igreja de São Roque

Location: Largo Trindade Coelho, 1200-470

Igreja de São Roque is one of the first Jesuit churches in the world and the first in Portugal. The church opened in 1618 and was one of the few buildings in Lisbon to survive the 1755 earthquake. The church is known for its lavish interior with gold leaf, intricate wood carvings, and exquisite paintings. The painted, flat wood ceiling here is really special and will be a highlight of your visit to the Rooster’s Mass.

Igreja da São Roque, Photo by Siep (Flickr)

3. Basílica da Estrela

Location: Praça da Estrela, 1200-667

The Basilica da Estrela is a significant historical and architectural landmark in Lisbon. Its construction began in 1779, under the orders of Queen Maria I of Portugal, as a fulfillment of her vow to build a church if she bore a son to succeed her. The Basilica was completed in 1790, after the birth of her son, Prince José.

The Basilica features a late Baroque and Neoclassical style, evident in its ornate facade and twin bell towers. The interior is equally impressive, with its marble and jasper decorations and a large dome. Notably, the Basilica houses a nativity scene crafted by sculptor Machado de Castro, comprising over 500 figures.

Basilica da Estrela, Photo by Paulo Contente (Flickr)

4. Church Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha

Location: Rua da Alfândega 108, 1100-585

Originally a medieval church, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha was reconstructed in the 16th century in the Manueline style, a Portuguese architectural style of the late Gothic period. This style is known for its ornate and intricate detailing, characterized by maritime elements, reflecting Portugal’s prominence in the Age of Discoveries.

Despite suffering damage during the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the church retains much of its original charm and elegance. The interior of the church was rebuilt in the 18th century and is decorated with tiles and stucco work.

Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha, Photo by Morgaine (Flickr)

5. Igreja de São Domingos

Location: Largo São Domingos, 1150-320

The Igreja de São Domingos (Church of Saint Dominic) dates back to the 13th century. Originally built in 1241, the church has witnessed several significant events, including royal weddings and the initiation of the 1640 revolution against Spanish rule. It showcases a mix of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles, reflecting its various reconstructions, particularly after the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake and a major fire in 1959.

Despite these disasters, the church retains its grandeur, with notable features such as the ornate altar, the Manueline portal, and the remnants of its original medieval layout.

Due to its central location next to Rossio Square, this church could be easy to access for the Rooster’s Mass.

Igreja De São Domingos, Photo by PHoTowalX (Flickr)

With the large number of churches scattered throughout the city, you are sure to find a Rooster’s Mass to attend. Just be sure to get a nap or drink a strong coffee before you begin as the Christmas Eve celebrations in Lisbon can go long into the night, maybe even until the rooster crows!

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