Igreja do Carmo, Faro

Igreja do Carmo
© CanStockPhoto/Philipus / All rights reserved
Igreja do Carmo interior
© CanStockPhoto/Philipus / All rights reserved

The Igreja do Carmo in Faro, with its Baroque façade and twin bell towers is one of the finest churches on the Algarve. The Carmelite church was built throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, starting in 1719. Disaster struck in 1755 when the great earthquake that hit Portugal badly damaged the church. However, a new facade was designed by mason Diogo Gonçalves including the now iconic bell towers.

Although the exterior of the church was not completed until 1878, the lavish interior was complete 150 years earlier. The Igreja do Carmo has some of the best gilded woodwork to be seen this side of Lisbon and the work is attributed to master sculptor Manuel Martins.

The church was built during the reign of João V when money was no object. Funds flowed freely from the colonies and it is said the Igreja do Carmo was paid for with Brazilian gold, although it looks like a fair bit was saved for the interior.

One of the biggest draws for visitors is the rather macabre Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) at the rear of the church. The walls are covered in the skulls and bones of over 1,000 Carmelite monks as a reminder of how transient our lives on this Earth are.

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