Wherever you are, if you are looking at the heart of Porto you can´t miss it: the beautiful XVIII century Torre dos Clérigos (Clerigos Tower) stands out as the main Porto landmark. Firmly rooted in Porto’s identity, it was inaugurated in 1763, rises about 76 meters high and is the most visited monument of Porto.
The Church and Tower were designed by the Italian painter and architect Nicolau Nasoni, who adopted Porto as his own city. He worked in several important projects in Porto and the North of Portugal, either as an architect or a painter and decorator. But it in Clérigos his commitment was such that he worked for free! After all, you can´t put a price on passion, can you? The result could only be a masterpiece to endure in time.
For many years the highest tower in Portugal, Clérigos Tower had several different uses along its history. In the XIX century a mortar was fired from the tower to announce to the population that it was 12:00 noon, allowing merchants to break for lunch. It served also as an orientation mark for the vessels that reached the Douro river estuary, among other uses. From the top, you can see clearly not only the river, but also the Atlantic Ocean.
To get to the tower’s belfry you have to climb the 240 stone spiral staircases. It takes more patience than effort: there are many visitors climbing and descending all the time and one of the parts has to give way, but the stairs have a good riser height and you can always hold on to the handrail.
The first stop is on the 4th floor – disabled people can ride the elevator until this level. There you will find a special curved room, all lined in national dark brown cork, with touch screens that receive images in real time of the outside view from above, complemented with information about the most important monuments and locations visible. This room was designed specially for those who aren´t able to climb the stairway.
Adjacent to this space is a room with a chronology which highlights the influences and works of Nicolau Nasoni in the Baroque architecture in the Porto region.
You can get outside and take your first well deserved break to contemplate the view in the circular balcony around the tower structure. This level is the best to appreciate the Clerigos Garden bellow, facing the historic Lello bookshop and the Lions Square.
But do continue to the upper level. Your effort will be rewarded with an almost aerial 360º panoramic view of this wonderful city, from the old colorful houses and skylights to the main monuments, streets and avenues.
Porto is a coastal town, so you can even see the Atlantic ocean to the west gazing the Douro river and the Port Wine cellars in Gaia, the neighbour city, to the south.
There are interesting graphic maps that show the major points of interest visible below, throughout the immense landscape that extends below the tower. Other graphic representations also compare the hights between some of the major towers worldwide. Of course Clérigos is not the tallest, but it compensates in charm and historical meaning what it lacks in hight.
Back to the first floor, you can admire pieces that were crafted as long as 800 years ago, in the form of paintings, goldsmithing, vestments end sculptures. They convey different facets of Christianity through the ages.
Since I like big tables, I enjoyed seeing the huge proportions damask coated chairs of the Assembly House, where the board members of the Brotherhood of the Clergy gathered to take management decisions. Full-lenght portraits of the main benefactors are displayed in the walls.
Finally, a visit to the church is well deserved. Nasoni created a temple that combines masterfully granite, pink marble and gold carving resulting in one of the most beautiful baroque architectural masterpieces.
You should know that the term “baroque” derives from the Portuguese “barroco”, referring to an extravagant, irregular or exaggerated artistic style, but also used as a synonym of movement and taste for colors, that flourished in Portugal and across Europe in the XVII and XVIII centuries. Having worked with passion in this project, Nasoni wished to be buried in Clérigos Church – a wish fulfilled, although to this day the exact last resting place of the artist remains a mystery.
Luxurious floral gold carving adornments embelish the presbytery’s two church organs. With over 200 years, this gorgeous instruments are very cherished and everyday, at noon, you have the chance to attend a 20 minute live concert, for free! The set couldn’t be more perfect.
If you’re an urban night photography enthusiasts like me, don’t miss the chance to capture outstanding images by visiting the tower at night, specially in the summer, with the Clérigos Fora D’Horas (After Hours) program. If by daylight your eyes dive into the vastness of the view, at night details blend to magnify thousands of lights and accentuate subtil contrasts, proving again that Porto is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Photos © Vera Dantas and Manuel Pina Cabral, All Rights Reserved
Location: Rua de São Filipe Nery | 4050-546 Porto
Opening Hours: Daily from 9:00 a.m. t 19:00 p.m. (except Dec 24, 25, 31 and Jan. 1St)
After Hours Visits: During the summer, 5 €/person; Groups (minimum 25 persons, 250 €, by appointment).
Organ concerts: Daily at noon, free entrance. For other concerts check the website.
Tickets: 3 €
Phone: +351 220 145 489
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