Évora Cathedral

Évora cathedral frontispiece.

Inside the cathedral.

General view of the cathedral. Photo: DGEMN.

Map of the cathedral, 1938. DGEMN.

Évora Cathedral, together with the neighbouring Roman Temple, is one of the most remarkable monuments in Évora; the two buildings stand practically side-by-side, stating two different periods of history more than a thousand years apart, yet each one of great importance within the context of each period.

According to the traditional historical approach, Bishop D. Paio founded the original building in 1186 (probably following a previous mosque in the same place), although its consecration occurred only in 1204, by the succeeding Bishop D. Soeiro. However, the exact date of its foundation is still a matter of debate between historians, since some authors sustain that the construction of the cathedral only began during the administration of bishop D. Durando Pais, in 13 th century.

In any case, the works were widely developed in the following century: around 1350, the main doorway and the cloister were finished, as well as the triforium gallery and half of the façade towers.

The cathedral consists of a Latin cross plan with two quadrangular towers on the façade, divided in three naves with seven bays, projected crossing and chevet. Its construction was inspired by the Cathedral of Lisbon and also by the cathedrals of Zamora and Salamanca – that influence being particularly felt in the lantern tower and in one of the two towers of the façade. Though its foundations were clearly Romanesque, it is mainly a Gothic building, with influence of mendicant and Cistercian architecture, showing great variety of solutions that combine Romanesque and Gothic approaches, thus being considered as a transitional building. His main architects were Domingos Pires, between 1280 and 1303, and Martim Domingues, between 1304 and 1334, responsible for the construction of the cloister and the main doorway. The latter, housed in the narthex between the two towers, is surely one of the most remarkable Portuguese Gothic portals, with six archivolts supported by the sculptures of the apostles, attributed to Masters Pero and Telo de Garcia. This splendid set of finely carved, realistic and impressive figures stands as the first integrated monumental group in Portuguese architecture.

The rectangular cloister is made up of unornamented arches opening onto a courtyard and covered by crossed ogival and longitudinal chain vaulting. Each arch has an oculus above with different geometrical decoration.

Interiorly, the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Piedade, or Chapel of Esporão, is a fine example of Renaissance decoration of plateresque influence, built between 1529 and 1531. The high Choir, dating from the first half of 16 th century, and the mannerist choir stalls, completed in 1562, as well as the magnificent oak tubular organ (late 16 th century) are also worthy visiting. The main chapel was totally rebuilt in 18 th century, after the demolition of the previous chapel in 1718, according to the project developed by the royal architect, João Frederico Ludovice – responsible for the project of the Palace-Convent at Mafra.

Throughout the centuries, Évora Cathedral knew several transformations; as it happened in most monuments all over Europe, several restoration works were undertaken, particularly during the second half of 20 th century, following criteria of restoring according to the “original”, therefore compromising the very authenticity of the monument. Between 1936 and 1950, the former DGEMN (Direcção Geral de Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais) established a restoration plan that enhanced the rehabilitation of medieval structures and the removal of some 18 th century works. After that period, several minor conservation works took place, until 2003, when IPPAR started an exhaustive program of stone conservation, since the cathedral is built in granite of different origins, therefore presenting also different defects and behaviour.


Chicó, M.T., 1946, A Catedral de Évora na Idade Média, Ed. Nazareth, Évora

Costa, D., Rodrigues, J.D., 2000, Estado de conservação e alteração da pedra da Sé Catedral de Évora, LNEC. Relatório nº 67/00 – DG/GERO

Guerreiro, A., 1975, A Catedral de Évora – Arte e História, Ed. Sé de Évora, 2.ª ed.

Monteiro, Patrícia A. R.; Simões, João M. – Relatório de sistematização sobre a Sé de Évora, a antiga Sé de Elvas, a Igreja Matriz de Mértola e o castelo da Amieira – IPPAR, 2006.

Tavares, M.L., Veiga, M.R., Magalhães, A.C., Aguiar, J., 2005, Conservação dos revestimentos interiores da Sé de Évora, LNEC: Relatório 272/05 – NRI

Trindade, A.R., 2003, Sé de Évora, da sua construção à actualidade, study done for IPPAR, to be published, Évora

Wevers, L.B., 2004, Levantamento no âmbito da arqueologia da arquitectura – estudo piloto, study done for IPPAR, to be published, Évora

Related publications

Adriano, P.; Cruz, T.; Santos Silva, A.; Veiga, R.; Candeias, A.; Mirão, J., "Mineralogical comparison study of old mortars from Southern Portugal Cathedrals (Évora and Elvas)", Materials Science Forum, submited | pdf

Adriano, P.; Santos Silva, A.; Veiga, R.; Mirão, J.; Candeias, A.E., "Microscopic characterisation of old mortars from the Santa Maria Church in Évora", 11 th Euroseminar on Microscopy Applied to Building Materials, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto, Junho de 2007 | pdf

Adriano, P.; Santos Silva, A., Caracterização de argamassas antigas da Igreja de Santa Maria de Évora – Sé Catedral de Évora, Relatório LNEC 59/06-NMM, 2006, 86 pp. | pdf