National Pantheon, Lisbon

The greatest monuments often require vast quantities of time and tireless effort to complete. Such was the case with one of Lisbon's most well known landmarks, the National Pantheon, which began its existence as the Santa Engracia church. In fact, completion of this monument required so much time that the Portuguese adopted a phrase, "it is like building the Santa Engracia," when they want to indicate a never ending job.

In the 16th century, an earlier church occupied this site. It had fallen into disuse, causing it to be demolished. A new church was begun, but it was destroyed in a massive storm in 1681. It was shortly thereafter that Portuguese architect João Antunes was called upon to design a new edifice. Construction began, and continued until his death in 1712. The reigning monarch, King John V, elected to concentrate funds and artisans on a new project, the Convent of Mafra, instead of Santa Engracia. As a result, João Antunes' masterpiece remained unfinished until the 20th century.

At the time of the First Portuguese Republic in 1916, interest was revived in the disused Santa Engracia. It was declared that the roofless structure would be completed and become a National Pantheon. Nonetheless, it would require another 50 years before the building was finished and could begin housing the remains of some of Portugal's most famous citizens.

It was the imposing dome that graces the National Pantheon today that was the last portion of the structure to be completed. The dome rests atop an imposing building that has a floor plan that is in the shape of a Greek cross. For such an imposing and ornate edifice, the interior of the building is remarkably light and colorful, a suitable tribute to the notable personalities who have found their final resting place there. Multicolored marble in hues like white, beige and pink create an understated and elegant look. Frequently, classical music will be played within the Pantheon's halls. The notes echo hauntingly thanks to the structure's amazing acoustics.

One of the Pantheon's most notable features is its colorful, intricately designed floor. To gain the best perspective, journey upstairs. This is the best place for taking photographs of the gorgeous floor. Afterward, head outside to the roof for breathtaking views of Lisbon on all sides.

Of course, many people visit the National Pantheon to pay their respects to many notable figures. Amália Rodrigues, a famous and wildly popular fadista singer, is enshrined here along with a cenotaph for well known explorer Vasco de Gama.

Monuments to great writers, artists and politicians give the National Pantheon an inspiring sense of awe. With unparalleled craftsmanship and spectacular views, this is definitely a must see Lisbon attraction.


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