Church of Santa Engrácia

Church of Santa Engrácia
Church of Santa Engrácia (widely known as the National Pantheon) is an ancient monument in Lisbon, Portugal. It is located on a hill in the eastern part of the historical centre of Lisbon (Santa Engra ́cia parish) and in the vicinity of the River Tagus. It was originally a church but later converted into the National Pantheon in which the tombs of Portugal’s major historic celebrities are placed.

The present building is located on the original site of the church of Santa Engrácia. It was founded in 1568, by Princess Maria (1521-1577 A.D.), daughter of King Manuel I (1495-1521 A.D.), following the plan of Nicolau de Frias (Figueiredo et al., 2010). However, nothing remains that dates to this time (Figueiredo et al., 2010).
At the end of the 17th century, the reconstruction of the church building was commenced by the royal architect João Antunes but it was halted by his death in 1712 (Ferreira & Cabello, 2008; Figueiredo et al., 2010). After that, the church remained without a roof until the 20th century and therefore, it was never used as a place of worship. The unfinished church became a Portuguese synonym for something that seems never-ending (Figueiredo et al., 2010; Hatton, 2018). 
In 1916, the building was officially designated National Pantheon but it began to serve this purpose fifty years later (1966) after several tombs were transferred here from the Jerónimos Monastery (Ferreira & Cabello, 2008). During the commemorations of the 30 years of the Estado Novo (‘New State’) regime in 1956, a decision was taken to open a competition for a program to finish and adapt the building as the national pantheon but it was António de Oliveira Salazar, the leader of the conservative regime of Estado Novo, decided to finish the works by 1966 (Figueiredo et al., 2010). As a result of this, the unfinished church building was completed to the present state with a newly added dome (Ferreira & Cabello, 2008).

The building
This building is considered an example of a 17th century baroque in Portugal (Ferreira & Cabello, 2008). It is also the first example of the strong Italian influence on this style in the country (Ferreira & Cabello, 2008). Presently the building has been listed as one of the National Monuments of Portugal.


1) Ferreira, E.; Cabello, J., 2008. Lisbon: A Complete Visitorʼs Guide to the City: Discover the Cityʼs Historical Monuments and Art. Casa Editrice Bonechi. ISBN: 9788847623194. pp.17-18.
2) Figueiredo, C., Aires-Barros, L. and Neto, M.J., 2010. The church of Santa Engrácia (the National Pantheon, Lisbon, Portugal): building campaigns, conservation works, stones and pathologies. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 331(1), pp.183-193.
3) Hatton, B., 2018. Queen of the Sea: A History of Lisbon. Hurst & Company. p.79.
Location Map
This page was last updated on 29 August 2021
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