The Church of St. Francis, Porto

Porto has many amazing places and one that might be easy to overlook is the Monument Church of St. Francis. Founded around 1245, this church is a significant Gothic landmark. While its exterior may be unassuming, the interior is a Baroque masterpiece, and its intricate wood carvings are covered with 300 kilograms of gold dust, giving the church its nickname “The Golden Church.” 

History

The Monument Church of St. Francis dates back to 1244 when a papal decree granted land to establish its presence. At that time, the construction of a convent and a modest church began dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. By 1383, under King Ferdinand I’s patronage, the Franciscans embarked on creating a larger church in the Gothic style, which was completed around 1425. The large, elaborate rose window on the main façade of the building can still be seen today.

Throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, São Francisco Church became the chosen burial site for Porto’s elite. The 18th century saw its peak artistic transformation, with the interior lavishly decorated in Baroque style using Portuguese gilt woodwork. This era cemented the church’s status, despite the 1832 siege of Porto fire leading to the cloisters’ destruction and the subsequent construction of the Neoclassical Stock Exchange Palace on its site.

Architecture

The simple yet imposing exterior of the Monument Church of St. Francis is in the Gothic style, yet it is the sumptuous Baroque interior that is the real showstopper. Gold dust covers the wood carvings extending from the floor to the ceiling, and each chapel within the church has its own story.

Artists like Filipe da Silva and Antonio Gomes contributed to the stunning decorations with the Tree of Jesse, which is one of the church’s most remarkable pieces. It showcases Jesus’s family tree in stunning detail.

The church’s catacomb is another significant aspect. Members of Porto’s noble families and Franciscan monks are buried here. Additionally, there’s an ossuary with thousands of bones. Some are visible through a glass floor. This adds a layer of mystery to the church’s history.

Interior of the Monument Church of St. Francis, Ludo De Potter, Flickr

Visiting Times & Tickets

The church is open to visitors throughout the year.

  • From April 1 to September 30, the opening hours are 9:00 am-8:00 pm.
  • From October 1 to March 31, the church is open from 9:00 am-7:00 pm.

The church is closed on Christmas Day.

It’s about an 8-minute walk from the Sao Bento Train Station. The Porto Tram Linha 1 also stops nearby at Infante.

Admission is €7.50 for adults. This fee allows you to explore the church and its catacombs. Porto card holders and students get a 25% discount.

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