In 1266, work began to build Silves Cathedral on the site of a former mosque. The cathedral is built in Gothic style and the high altar was rebuilt in Manueline style after the 1755 earthquake.
Faro Cathedral was built in 1577, as a result of the Bishop of Silves being transferred to Faro. In the past, a Roman temple and a Muslim mosque stood on the site where the cathedral was built. Sacked by the corsairs of the Count of Essex in 1596, the church was restored with a new high altar featuring a Mannerist altarpiece, decorated with seventeenth-century carvings, a fine example of sacred art.
Beside it, the Episcopal Palace (17th century) is a building which represents the chã (plain) style of architecture in the Algarve. It is decorated with a magnificent and very colourful set of Baroque and Rococo style tiles.
There are no towns or cities in the Algarve that do not have a main church (igreja matriz), sacred art or perhaps even a convent. There are 21 churches in Tavira; among them is the Santa Maria do Castelo Main Church (13th century), which has three altarpieces in different styles and replaced the mosque. Similarly, the Igreja Matriz de São Clemente (Main Church of St Clement), which dates from the fourteenth century, has a bell tower that was adapted from a Muslim minaret.
At the Church of São Lourenço (St Lawrence) in Almancil, the pretty dome of the high altar, the walls and the vault are all lined with Baroque style tiles.
The Igreja Matriz de São Tiago (Main Church of St James) in Estômbar (Lagoa), classified as a National Monument, was rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake. The main door is Manueline in style and there are decorative Baroque picture tiles in the high altar and on the altarpieces.
In Loulé, the Chapel of the Sovereign Mother (Mãe Soberana) hosts southern Portugal’s largest religious procession, dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Lady of Sorrows).
In years of drought, it was traditional to go on a pilgrimage to the Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe) to ask for the blessing of water. This chapel, where Prince Henry used to pray, is one of the oldest in the Algarve.
The Church of Nossa Senhora da Orada (Our Lady of the Oracle) in Albufeira bears witness to this fishing community’s devotion to its patron saint.