Carmo Convent Lisbon: The Most Picturesque Ruins Of Portugal

A wide-angle view of the Carmo Convent ruins in Lisbon, showing the open sky through the missing roof. The Gothic arches are still standing, framing the blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Visitors walk along the open-air museum, observing the historical remnants. The combination of ancient stone walls and arches with the vibrant sky creates a blend of history and natural beauty.

The Carmo Convent Lisbon was a majestic Gothic church in Lisbon until it was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755. Although now just ruins of the church remain, its imperfection makes it a charming place to visit. The lack of a roof is not intentional; it collapsed during the earthquake.  

Carmo Convent Lisbon and its history

The Carmo Convent was founded in 1389 by the Portuguese knight Nuno Álvares Pereira, a loyal knight to King João (King John) who gave up his military career to become a faithful Christian and to fully devote his life to prayer. To build the convent, D. Nuno Álvares Pereira chose a place of significant symbolic and practical significance: the hill chosen was located opposite the Castle, where the Royal Palace and the Sé were built. It recalled Mount Carmel in Palestine, marking the origin of the Carmelite Order. The convent was dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Vencimento do Monte do Carmo. In the late 14th century one of the most beautiful Gothic style churches in the city belonged to the convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmo.

Gothic Arches at Carmo Convent Lisbon

The devastating earthquake

It was Nov 1st, 1755, All Saints’ Day and one of the most tragic days in Lisbon’s history. The Carmo church and all the churches in the city were full of people who had come for the festive service.

Shortly after 9:30 in the morning, a violent earthquake shook Lisbon. It was one of the deadliest earthquakes ever seen. Later it was referred to as the Great Lisbon earthquake. Cracks several meters wide opened up in the ground. Many buildings collapsed. Half an hour later, a tsunami hit the Tagus River. The wave swallowed the port and the center of the city. The candles lit in the homes and the temples ignited fires that burned for hours.

The earthquake, the tsunami, and the fire destroyed about 80 percent of Lisbon’s buildings: the new opera house built a few months earlier, various churches, and many palaces and private homes. The Royal Palace was also destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. Its library of more than 70,000 volumes, priceless Renaissance paintings, and the royal archives with documents on Vasco da Gama’s discoveries were lost forever. Between 30 and 40 thousand people out of a population of 200 thousand lost their lives.

The photo showcases an ornate, intricately carved stone archway within the Carmo Convent in Lisbon. The weathered texture of the stone and the elaborate gothic tracery stand out against the faded wall. The cobblestone ground adds to the historical ambiance of the setting.
Side nave at Carmo church Lisbon

The reconstruction of the city began immediately. Just one month later, the chief engineer of the royal court presented his plans for the reconstruction of Lisbon. The construction of large squares and wider streets was planned. The destroyed buildings were rebuilt. Except for one. In the city center, on Chiado Hill, at the top of the Santa Justa lift, the skeleton of the Carmo Monastery with its roofless nave reminds Lisbon of the tragedy.

Carmo Archaeological Museum

Inside the Carmo Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, the photo displays a collection of ornate sarcophagi set against the rugged stone walls of the Carmo Church, with a visitor in contemplation.
Sarcophagi at Carmo Archaeological museum Lisbon

The great earthquake severely damaged the medieval convent and destroyed almost all of its possessions. The restoration began in 1756 but was stopped in 1834. The nave of the church remained without a roof and the side chapels remained unfinished. At the end of the 19th century, the Gothic convent was donated to the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists and turned into a small archaeological museum.

Carmo Archaeological Museum exhibits an eclectic collection of tombs, sarcophagi, and other historical artifacts from prehistory to the Middle Ages, as well as a collection of sepulchers and medieval heraldry from all over the world. The museum features a weird collection of objects: from panels made of azulejos to two Peruvian mummies, a boy and a girl, both from the 16th century. There are cases of old books, artifacts from other ruined buildings, coins, and fragments of columns decorated with griffons dating back to the 5th century. 

A wide-angle photo of the interior of the Carmo Archaeological Museum in Lisbon, with shelves lined with old books encircling a central glass case displaying an artifact, evoking a sense of historical depth.
Shelves with old books in Carmo Archaeological museum Lisbon

The ruins of the Carmo Convent Lisbon

The nave of the church, which looks like a courtyard with gothic arches without a roof, is worth a visit. Especially if one knows the history and imagines the tragedy of the 18th century. 

And the feeling of looking up and seeing the sky and the clouds between the arches of the convent is strange and somehow magical. 

The arches of the convent are the perfect place to take some beautiful pictures and to pet some of the numerous Carmo Convent cats.

At the entrance of the museum, you will see a stone with Gothic lettering. It states that Pope Clement VII granted 40 days of indulgence to any faithful Christian who visits the church.

A night scene of the Santa Justa Lift in Lisbon, illuminated against the dark sky. The ornate, vertical elevator connects two streets and stands out amidst the closed shops in the quiet evening.
Lisbon Santa Justa elevador

Where is Carmo Convent in Lisbon

Carmo Convent is in Chiado neighborhood of Lisbon. Address: Largo do Carmo 27.

By public transportation: Though Rossio Square is close enough, the best way to visit the Carmo museum is to take the metro green line to Baixa-Chiado metro station and have a short walk (less than 3 min) to the Elevador de Santa Justa. 

Most tourists seem to take the Santa Justa elevator for the view from the hill. I didn’t see many people at the entrance in front of the church waiting in line to buy a Carmo Convent ticket.

A panoramic view from the Santa Justa Lift overlooking the rooftops of Lisbon. The lift's intricate metalwork is in the foreground, with the city's colorful buildings, hills, and a clear sky in the background.
The view from Santa Justa Lift Lisbon

Opening hours of Carmo Convent and Carmo Archaeological Museum

From May to October: from 10 to 19

From November to April: from 10 to 18

Closed on Sunday. Last entry: 20 min before closing time.

Entrance fee: 5 euro.

Carmo Convent is included in Lisboa card, and you will get a discount with your Lisbon card.

In conclusion, visiting the Carmo Convent Lisbon near the Elevador de Santa Justa in the Chiado district is a unique experience. Once you step through the Gothic entry gate of the convent, you will see the shining blue sky of Lisbon. The columns and the arches of the ruins of its Gothic church and the Carmo Archaeological Museum make the Carmo Convent Lisbon a fascinating must-see attraction.


3 thoughts on “Carmo Convent Lisbon: The Most Picturesque Ruins Of Portugal”

  1. I have spent so much time in Lisbon and never visited this convent. Convento dos Capuchos in Sintra is one of my favorites, but I’ll add Carmo Convent to my next trip.

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