Sé Nova de Coimbra (New Cathedral of Coimbra)
Cathedral in Coimbra
Built gradually over a century between 1598 and 1698, the Sé Nova (New Cathedral) in Coimbra was originally a Jesuit church. The church’s first architect was Baltazar Alvares, and he based the design on the Mosteiro de São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon.
However, when the Marquis de Pombal expelled the Jesuits from Portugal in 1759, the Sé Nova became vacant. In 1772, cathedral status was transferred from the smaller Sé Velha to the larger Sé Nova, located at the top of the hill in the historic higher part of the city (Alta de Coimbra), near Coimbra University.
One of the church’s architectural highlights is its façade, which features four statues of Jesuit saints (St. Ignatius, St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Francis of Borja) in the lower part. The top half, completed in the eighteenth century, is Baroque and features large statues of Saint Peter and Paul.
Inside, the Sé Nova consists of a single vaulted nave with several side chapels, including the Chapel of the Resurrection, Chapel of St. Thomas, and Chapel of the Sacrament. The church also houses the tombs of various bishops, including Jorge Almeida, Pedro Martins, Tibúrcio, Estevão Anes Brochardo, and Egas Fafes, as well as the foundation stone of the earlier Visigothic cathedral that was on this site until its destruction in 1117.
The decoration of the Sé Nova is dominated by the splendid gilded woodwork of the chancel, completed in the late seventeenth century, with four niches holding the images of four Jesuit saints (St. Ignatius, St. Francis Borgia, St. Francis Xavier, and St. Stanislaus Kotska). The chancel stalls, dating from the seventeenth century, are made of exotic wood and bronze brought from the Sé Velha, along with the early sixteenth-century baptismal font.
The Sé Nova’s design was so influential that other Jesuit churches built in Portuguese colonies overseas copied it.