"The twinned implantation of two churches is a rarity in the national urban panorama, constituting a scenery with a great visual impact in the noble zone of the 17th century Port, marked by the spirit of Enlightenment urbanism" - refers to the decree of 2013 that establishes the classification of national monument to the set. In fact, this side-by-side arrangement makes it possible to observe two buildings of great quality, illustrative of the historical evolution of art in Portugal.
Originally called the Order of the Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, better known simply as the Order of Carmel or the Carmelites, it emerged as a Catholic religious order in the late 11th century on Mount Carmel near the present-day city of Haifa in Israel .
The tradition tells us that the prophet Elijah settled in a cave on Mount Carmel, adopting an ascetic life of prayer and silence. In it, and in its way of life, the first religious of the order were inspired. In 1226, the rule of the Order of Carmel was approved by Pope Honorius III.
In the sixteenth century, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross led a process of renewal of the Order of Carmel that gave birth to a new branch - the barefooted Carmelites - made autonomous by Pope Clement VIII in 1593.
In Porto, the barefoot Carmelites arose in 1617. Two years later, they received a plot of land in Campo do Olival to erect the Convent of Nossa Senhora do Carmo. With the first stone launched on May 5, 1619, the work was completed in 1622, benefiting from donations from aristocrats, merchants and the Porto Chamber itself. The building of the former convent is now occupied by the Territorial Command of the Port of the Republican National Guard.
The church, erected from the nascent side of the convent, is a good example of a learned Mannerist facade. It features a vaulted Latin cross plant with a single nave preceded by a narthex. The classical frontage, rhythmic by the three arches of the entrance, surmounted by niches that harbor images of St. Joseph, St. Teresa and Our Lady of Carmo. The facade is topped by a triangular pediment that bears the coat of arms of the religious order under the royal crown.
Its interior contains a valuable baroque and rococo retable patrimony, in remarkable state of preservation and integrity. It includes a pipe organ and a main altarpiece by José Teixeira Guimarães, great master carver of the second half of the 18th century.
First Order and Third Order
Next to the church of the first order of the barefoot Carmelites stands the church of the third order.
But before we speak of the temple, it will be useful to explain what a "third order" is. According to the tradition of Catholic religious orders, the first order to be established, destined exclusively for men (monks, friars), was called "first order". Secondly, the "second order" was created for women (nuns, nuns). Finally, a "third order" could also be founded for lay people.
The third orders were associations whose members were not obliged to abandon their usual way of life, but which were dedicated to the apostolate and to the pursuit of Christian perfection under the top management of this religious institute.
This arose in 1212, when St. Francis of Assisi began to integrate secular in the Franciscan order, obtaining papal approval. Among others, they followed the same example, the Dominicans (1406), the Augustinians (1409) and the Carmelites (1452).
In Porto, the church of the Venerable Third Order of Our Lady of Carmo was built between 1756 and 1768, right next to the church of the first order of the barefooted Carmelites. It follows a project of Figueiredo Seixas, fundamental name of the northern architecture between the baroque and the neoclassical, with some changes with the stamp of Nicolau Nasoni.
"It is an exemplary facade of the full Baroque, in line with the counterreformist aesthetic then in force. The rehabular heritage, also exceptional, was designed by one of the greatest Portuguese carver masters, Francisco Pereira Campanhã, corresponding to a work of reference of the rococo aesthetics "- marks the decree that recognized the temple as a national monument.
In 1912, the side facade of Carmo Church was covered by a large panel of tiles, representing scenes alluding to the foundation of the Carmelite Order and Mount Carmel. The composition was designed by Silvestre Silvestri, painted by Carlos Branco and executed in the factories of Senhor do Além and Torrinha, in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Between the two churches there is one that is often considered the narrowest house in Porto. It is a space belonging to the church of the third order that gives access to the bell tower that, curiously, is next to the church of the barefoot Carmelites. To ring the bells, the bellman had to climb three floors and pass over the vault the church of the first order until reaching the tower.
The house served as a residence for some chaplains and in some situations also housed artists who did works in the decoration of the Church and doctors who worked in the hospital of the Order.
In the last times there lived the Sacristão and the caretaker of the Church.
Secret meetings were also held there in the days of the French Invasions between 1807 and 1811, during the period of Liberalism between 1828 and 1834, during the Siege of Porto between 1832 and 1833. after the Proclamation of the Republic in 1910 and also during the period of the Religious Orders .