May 11, 2018

Lisbon. October, 2009

I often wonder, when I see dazzlingly excessive displays such as this in European churches, what the poorer parishioners must have thought back then. What they think now? The Igreja e São Roque was the first Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, built in the 16th century, and one of the few buildings to (miraculously) survive the 1775 Lisbon earthquake that virtually leveled the city. Actually it was a disaster, a different one, that caused this church to be built. Constructed on the site of a cemetery, it started as a shrine to house a relic of Saint Roch, patron saint of plague victims, and just got grander and grander. This is the Chapel of the Most Holy Sacrament, just one of many such devotional sites within. Begun in 1636, it, too, houses a number of reliquary busts in each of those niches. Nothing succeeds like excess, they say. Could you fit another cherub into this tableau?

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