The skeleton that is Carmo Church has a much stronger impact on visitors than if the entire building was still standing. These gothic ruins provoke a series of mixed feelings, as they are a relic of the tragic Great Earthquake of 1755, yet there is a certain peace as you walk around its pillars.
Most interesting of all is the way the arches were left standing in equal shape and measure. They all stand congruently and symmetrically as if the church was actually originally designed as a ruin. The roof collapsed but Lisbonâ€™s blue sky is an even better â€œcover.â€ That is, it all seems to have always been meant to be this way…
But another curiosity is found behind what used to be the altar. It is an eclectic museum with bits and pieces of archaeological finds, from ancient swords to shrunken Native American mummies! — quite an unexpected collection in an unusual place.
All this makes Carmo the most interesting church in Lisbon. While the church in Jeronimos Monastery may cause the biggest awe, SÃ£o Roque Church may have the most valuable decoration, and Basilica da Estrela may have the prettiest faÃ§ade, Carmo’s sight prevails longer in the memory.
And the square in front of it (“Largo do Carmo”) is my favorite in the city. It is not huge or as monumental as Comercio Square or Rossio, but its benches under the shade of the trees are my favorites to sit and read.
On the right side of the church is a gate that reveals yet other unexpected sight â€“ all of Lisbonâ€™s downtown, the castle, and the river. This is the entrance to the top platform of Santa Justa Elevator, which is yet another Lisbon landmark that doesn’t fail to draw your attention.