Tavira’s finest church is the first monument you see when you head up to the Old Town through the Porta de Dom Manuel gate from the main square, Praça da República. It was built between 1541 and 1551 and is considered the best example of Renaissance architecture in Algarve, especially the façade and portal, sculpted with images of Our Lady of Mercy between St. Peter and St. Paul. The interior is supported by columns with Renaissance capitals, but the decoration is mostly baroque, from the 1700s.
The magnificently gilded retable dates from 1722 and replaced one from the 1500s. This was a very prosperous period in Portugal, thanks to the gold from Brazil, so most churches from this time are covered with gold. The walls are lined with blue-and-white tile panels, also typical of Portuguese baroque architecture, although these are in the rococo style. There’s a total of 18 panels, created in Lisbon in 1760, and which illustrate scenes from the life of Christ and the 14 works of spiritual and corporal mercy -- feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned or ransom the captive, bury the dead, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinners, bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offenses, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.
The church is classified as a national monument and is the landmark that you should make the effort to see, if you only have time for one in Tavira. Visitors are allowed to go up to the bell tower and admire a view over the city. Sometimes it also hosts temporary exhibitions.
Visiting Igreja da Misericórdia
Admission is €2 if you just want to see the church and €3 if you also want to go up to the bell tower. It opens on Mondays from 9am to 12pm and from 2pm to 5pm, and from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 12:30pm and from 2pm to 5:30pm. It’s closed on Sundays.
Largo da Misericórdia