Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha



The Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição is a church in the civil parish of Madalena, in the municipality of Lisbon.

The Church of Conceição dos Freires, or Conceição Velha, (known as theChurch of the Misericórdia) was not included in the original plans to reconstruct the Lisbon riverfront, even though it was partially ruined. Instead, King Joseph gave the monks from the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição (which was destroyed) the location of the Misericórdia church, and ordered Pombaline architect Francisco António Ferreira (with the collaboration of Honorato José Correia) in 1770, to rebuild the structure. Once renovations were completed, the clerics of the Conceição, re-occupied the rebuilt Misericórdia Church, and the Brotherhood of the Misericórdia was transferred to the (formerly Jesuit) Church of São Roque.

Francisco António Ferreira, also known as o Cangalhas, reused the lateral entrance, central column, two Manueline windows, the relief of the Misericórdia, and Chapel of the Holy Sacrement, as the new entrance. With this, he reoriented the temple, whose southern entrance became the principal, and the lateral chapel became the presbytery. The main facade, crowned by triangular pediment, is marked by an ornate Manueline portico, with a tympanum that includes the Virgin of the Misericórdia, and figures of nobles and religious clerics. Flanked by comparable Manueline-style windows, the whole group has semblances to the Monastery of the Jerónimos.


A 1598 sketch of the vicinity of the Lisbon Cathedral, identifying the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha

In 1498, the Confraria da Misericórdia (Brotherhood of the Misericórdia) was instituted, under the initiative of Eleanor of Viseu and friar Miguel Contreiras (approved by King Manuel and confirmed by Pope Alexander VI). The new institution was transferred a chapel in the cloister of the Sé Cathedral of Lisbon. In 1502, after transferring the title of the Hermitage of Restelo to the Order of Saint Jerónimos, King Manuel traded to theOrder of Christ the Casa da Judiaria Grande (Great House of the Jewry), a synagogue situated in Vila Nova (which was between Rua dos Fanqueiros and Rua da Madalena).[2] The victorious Christians then rebuilt and consecrated the new church toOur Lady of the Conception(Portuguese: Nossa Senhora da Conceição), then known as the Church of the Conceição dos Freires, later known as the Conceição Velha (in deference to the Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Nova, which was built along theRua Nova dos Ferros). At the time, it was called theChurch of the Misercórdia.

In 1516, Manuel ordered the publication of a compromise with the Santa Irmandade da Misericórdia for the building of the church. At the time, the building was carved into stone with vaulted-ceiling decorated with regal and sacred emblems, it was supported by marble pillars, dividing the structure into three naves. The presbytery, located in the east, along the line with main portico, (from plans and sketchs dating from the 1755 earthquake). In the south was a door, flanked by sculpted pillasters and three windows (one on the left and the other on the right), the cornice was surmounted by larger lentel, and on either side was a tower (the western side calledEscrivaninha), all of which was detailed in the gravura de Leyden (Leyden etchings). Erected alongside the building was the Casa da Misericórdia, centre of the local hospital, orphanage, registry, house of the dispatch, offices and courtyard.

A letter from King John III dated 1533, permitted the construction of an entabulature which the Church’s ombudsman and the localBrotherhood of the Misericórdia had planned (and later had received consent from the municipal government for its construction). On 25 March 1534, this construction was completed, resulting the Manueline-era entrance, and the installation of the Brotherhood, from an inscription that was hoisted on the north portico (today located in the Carmo Museum).

King Sebastian, with the endorsement of Cardinal Henry, established the ecclesiastical parish of Nossa Senhora da Conceição in 1568.

In 1576, the Misericórdia instituted the tradition of inscribing on the main porticos of its buildings, images of the Virgin Mary, with the Pope, Cardinal and Bishop to the right, along with clerics; while on the left, an image of the King, Queen and other representatives/dignitaries.[1]

In 1594, the main portal was covered, with the addition of the orphanage, at the same time Simõa Godinho ordered the construction of a chapel, to be donated to the Misericórida, along with his earthly possessions.

A small doorway was opened in 1598 along the northern facade.

Documents from Lisbon in 1626, described an aromatic spice and flower market on the southern staircase. During this year, another double archway was opened, which included an image of Nossa Senhora do Pópulo (Our Lady of the People).[1]

A 1659 Lisbon plan, illustrated by João Nunes Tinoco, depicts a narrow churchyard fronting the south facade.

During the second half of the 17th century, an organ was executed under the direction of Father Francisco de Santo António. In August, 1670 the altarpiece was ordered for the church by the Misericórdia’s obudsman, the Marquess of Marialva, the first to use twisted columns in the city of Lisbon.

In 1684, a new collection/orphanage was established in the east wing of the church.

Father Agostinho de Santa Maria, writing in 1721, indicated that the “old” south gate, with double arches, had a grande arch with the image of Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia. In 1729, the presbytery roof was painted by Brás de Oliveira Velho and António Pimenta Rolim.

On 1 November 1755, the Lisbon earthquake partially destroyed the Church, resulting in the destruction of part of the vaulted-ceiling and a belfry over the lateral doorway. A fire, which was triggered after the event, consumed the orphanage, except the chapel of the Holy Sacrament (the former Chapel of D. Simôa), and altarpeice of the Chapel of the Holy Christ of Padecentes. The church of Conceição dos Freiras was also ruined, making its reconstruction unviable owing to the new city plan.

In 1768, from a letter of D. José, the Brotherhood of the Misericórdia, installed themselves in the Church of São Roque, which became vacant after the expulsion of the Jesuits.

The former-Church of the Misericórdia was then reconstructed with a new orientation, reusing the materials and some of the structures, under the direction of Francisco António Ferreira and Honorato José Correia in 1770. The chapel of the Holy Sacrament was transformed into presbytery, and the south portico was transformed into the principal doorway, resulting in a re-orientation of the nave along a north to south access. The nuns of the Order of Christ, transferred to the new church following its reconstruction, bringing with them the patron saint, Nossa Senhora da Conceição and its denomination of Conceição Velha.[1] At the end of the 18th century, the stone group of the tympanum was encased in glass and illuminated.

Sometime between 1818 and 1880, the historical of the Misericórdia was removed and substituted for a grated window; the figure was moved to chapel with appropriate altar, that was painted and gilded. By 1834, the religious orders were abandoned and the church uninhabited. Around 1837, the church was under threat of being sold, to be destroyed and replaced with commercial/residential buildings.

In 1880, the Brotherhood of Leigos, which managed the church completed a public restoration of the sculptures in the tympanum, cleaning the paint that covered the figures.


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