Sé Catedral de Viana do Castelo (Igreja Matriz)
Cathedral in Viana do Castelo
The Sé Catedral de Viana do Castelo is a monumental church that has been an important religious site in Portugal since the 15th century. Originally built as the Viana do Castelo Main Church, it was constructed in a Gothic style and dedicated to the Divine Saviour before being consecrated to Marian Devotion with Saint Mary Major as its Patron Saint.
It was not until November 1977, when Pope Paul VI authorized the creation of the diocese of Viana do Castelo, that the Main Church was elevated to the status of Cathedral. This region, located between the Minho and Lima rivers, had always enjoyed a degree of autonomy in terms of religion, with its religious headquarters shifting between Tuy, Valença, and Ceuta over the centuries.
The church’s exterior has a fortified appearance and is inspired by Romanesque architecture, similar to some temples found in Galicia. Its facade boasts two imposing towers flanking a central body, where a lacy-framed rosette stands out on an ogival portal composed of four archivolts, three of which are decorated. The composition ends with Christ reigning crowns flanked by a heavenly court scene. The entrance to the cathedral is protected by sculptures of the six Apostles, including Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint John, Saint Bartholomew, Saint James, and Saint Andrew. The sculptural ensemble in the main portal is a rare example of the national Gothic style.
Inside, the cathedral has three naves with exquisite ornamentation and armored graves of local nobility. Of particular note is the chapel of the Lord Jesus of the Mariners, belonging to the Confraternity of the Mariners, which houses an impressive collection of art including a 17th-century liturgical vestment from Milan, an image of the Dead Lord acquired in England in 1593, and a tombstone decorated with astronomical symbols that dates back to 1404.
The cathedral has faced significant damage from two violent fires, one in 1656 and the other in 1809, which caused severe destruction and led to the church’s abandonment for several decades. In 1835, the church resumed its parochial functions, with the original cover of the naves replaced by painted plaster. The sacristy has rich baroque ornamentation.
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Visiting Sé Catedral de Viana do Castelo (Igreja Matriz)