Museu de São Roque
Museums and Palaces
The story of this place starts in the beginning of the 16th century when King Manuel I ordered the construction of a small shrine to house a relic of Saint Roch, so that the saint would protect Lisbon from black plague. However, the church that we can see today was built by the Society of Jesus in the second half of the same century, that constructed here their Professed House, following the philosophy of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.
Decoratively, several work campaigns took place between late 16th and the 19th century, giving it the look it has today. These work campaigns brought to the church different types of artworks, such as gilt wood, glazed tiles, Florentine mosaics, painting, sculpture and reliquaries, amongst which are specially important the late 16th century painted ceiling, the glazed tiles of the chapel of Saint Roch, considered a master-piece of late 16th century ceramics, and the early 17th century painted cycle of the life of Saint Francis Xavier, located in the sacristy. But most important of all, there is the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist. This chapel, considered to be a masterpiece unique in European art, was commissioned in 1742 from Rome by King John V, designed by the papal architect Luigi Vanvitelli, assembled, blessed by the Pope Benedict XIV, disassembled, and brought to the Church of Saint Roch, where it was reassembled. Entirely made out of noble materials like alabaster, Carrara marble, gilt brass, and even precious stones like lapis lazuli and amethyst. The chapel is impressive due to the richness of its materials as well as for the quality of the artwork, especially in what considers its panels, so perfectly made that they delude the spectator in thinking that they are true paintings, when actually they are micro-mosaics.
In 1905, the Museum of the Treasure of the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist was created adjoining the church, with the purpose of showing to the public the important baroque goldsmithing and religious vestments collection that came from Rome along with the chapel, and considered by experts as being unique. Today, this museum is the Museum of São Roque, completely remodeled between 2006 and 2008, where one can get to know more about this rich collection; the sacred art collection that belonged to the Society of Jesus, consisting of painting, sculpture, liturgical objects, oriental art, and one of the most important collection of reliquaries in Europe, donated to the Jesuits by a member of the Borgia family; as well as the collection of artwork belonging to the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (literally, Holy House of Mercy of Lisbon), owner of this museum.
If you’d rather relax, you can also enjoy a snack, a refreshing fruit juice or a fine glass of wine in the museum’s cafeteria, located in the 17th century cloister.
10am - 6pm (Tuesday, Wednesday, from Friday to Sunday) 2pm-9pm (Thursday)