Built in the Gothic style after the city of Faro was taken from the Moors in 1249, the cathedral is located on the same site as the earlier Roman temple and Muslim mosque.
Some important parts of the original building still stand, in particular the tower at the front and the grand ogival doorway that gives access to the main body of the church. Also in the Gothic style, but dating from the 15th century, are the two side chapels in the transept which are covered by groin vaults.
In 1577, owing to the move of the Bishop of the Algarve from Silves to Faro, this church became the cathedral. But in 1596, it was sacked and set on fire by the privateers of the Earl of Essex, and it suffered considerable damage which led to further restoration work. The main elements that remain from this period are the columns of the Doric order on which the semi-circular arches are supported that separate the church’s three naves.
In the years following the Restoration, a new chancel was built, covered by a coffered cradle vault and decorated with a Mannerist altarpiece, which is regarded as the best example of 17th century gilded carving in the Algarve.
In the 18th century, some of the side chapels were given carved gilt altars in the Baroque style, with the most noteworthy being the chapel Capela de Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (Our Lady of Pleasures) and the Chapel of Santo Lenho (The Holy Cross). Finally, the late 17th century tiles decorating the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Rosário (Our Lady of the Rosary) (made by Gabriel del Barco) deserve special mention, as well as the collection of statues on the altars (mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries), the medieval tomb of the knight Rui Valente and the Baroque organ next to the high choir which is decorated with oriental motifs known as chinoiseries.
The cathedral museum can also be visited, where a significant collection of vestments and vessels and other items for the Eucharist can be seen, which belonged to the Bishops of the Algarve.