Faro’s Sé with its Eccentric Organ:
Faro’s Sé stands in the square that’s called Largo da Sé. The Sé is a cathedral and the seat of the bishop.
The Sé stands on a site that was formerly a mosque. The first Christian church in Faro was built on the site but when the English attacked in 1596 the building was destroyed. All that survived were the base of the belltower, its medieval doorway and two chapels.
Long-term reconstruction resulted in a cathedral which became a blend of Renaissance and Baroque styles. By the 1640′s a grander structure had evolved and included a chancel decorated with azulejos and the Capela de Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres decorated with ornate woodcarving. In the 1755 earthquake, the roof of the belltower collaped.
The Renaissance interior is impressive and its statues and carvings represent some of the most valuable 17th and 18th century art collections to be found in the Algarve.
When gold was discovered in Brazil in the 18th century, it was brought back to Portugal and some of these were used to gilt woodwork which were then used as decorations. The yellow and blue tiles were influenced by Florentine styles.
Features of the Sé with special artistic value include:
- The altarpiece and cardinal’s chair in the main chapel
- The Chapel of Santo Lenho (the Holy Cross) covered in gold leafing and containing an important set of relics. The founding bishop’s tombstone can also be found here
- The 18th century tiling, in particular the panels in the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary). The finishing to the floor tiling in the main chapel and tiling on the church walls
- The Chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (Our Lady of Pleasure) – a small Baroque jewel with quality examples of gold leafing, inlays, tiles and painting
Yet another of the Cathedral’s unique features is the large 18th century organ, with vertical pipes, and which is decorated with Chinese motifs.
The organ we are told is often played by leading European organists during their visits. It sounds like a trumpet, but its range of sounds include an echoing horn and a nightingale’s song. Unfortunately for us we didn’t get to hear the instrument during our visit.