Church of Sao Roque (Igreja de Sao Roque) Tours and Activities
The church of São Roque was built at the height of Jesuit power in Portugal in the 16th century; while it has a simple, whitewashed Renaissance exterior, it craftily conceals an interior of awesome Baroque indulgence and beauty. It was built in honor of Portuguese explored Vasco da Gama after he discovered a sea route via the Cape of Good Hope to India in 1498. The exquisite riot of ceiling mosaics and gilded ornamentation in the church and its ornate side chapels were paid for by the profits of overseas trade opened up by Da Gama’s exploration.
Most beautiful of all is the 18th-century Chapel of John the Baptist’s (Capela de São João Baptista), which is studded with mosaics of ivory, gold and silver and has earned the reputation as the world’s most expensive chapel – extraordinarily it was designed in Rome by architects Nicola Salvi and Luigi Vanvitelli and shipped to Lisbon in pieces. Adjoining São Roque is a small museum of sacred art (Museu de Arte Sacra), where outstanding exhibits include liturgical robes threaded with gold, silver reliquaries and panels displaying scenes from the life of St Rocco, who lived in the 12th century and was revered for his ability to heal the sick.