Sé Velha

sights / Religious

Lonely Planet review

Coimbra's stunning old cathedral is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Portugal. Its crenellated exterior and narrow, slit-like lower windows serve as reminders of the nation's embattled early days, when the Moors were still a threat. These buildings were designed to be useful as fortresses in times of trouble. The exceptional main portal and facade are striking.

The church was financed by the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, in the 12th century. The high, barrel-vaulted nave preserves its main Romanesque features; side altars and well-preserved Gothic tombs of bishops are backed by bright Andalusian tiles. The high gilt retable is in ornate late Gothic style and depicts the Assumption of Mary. Contrast this with the Renaissance Capela do Santíssimo Sacramento alongside. If you want to visit on a Sunday, duck in just before or after 11am Mass.