writing: catholic heritage, lisbon

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, Nossa Senhora de Fátima

Why would someone from the southern USA who grew up in a non-religious family decide to write a guide about Catholicism in Lisbon? A good question that begs to be answered…

I remember sitting in a Lisbon rental apartment in 2010, taking a month to prep for the brand-new Rick Steves’ Portugal tour. These were also the early days of Endless Mile & my own guidebook series. Looking to expand beyond Buenos Aires, Lisbon seemed like the perfect place to investigate… & my 20-year love affair with Lisbon helped push me in that direction.

Rain poured outside as I considered possible topics: azulejos, the Baixa, the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Salazar-era architecture and… churches. So many dot the city landscape, & the few tourists Lisbon had at that time ignored most of them. Catholicism & Portuguese history go hand-in-hand, so why not dig a little deeper & uncover some of those secrets? I listed about 10 centrally-located churches as a start, then put those files on the back burner. Finishing Buenos Aires guides took priority, as did the tiles & Jerónimos guides.

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, Igreja da Memória

Four years later (!) the time was right for a new Lisbon guide, & I picked up where I’d left off. The more I investigated, the more fascinated I became. I added more churches, a few chapels, more history… I decided to make this the kind of guide I wish I’d had in 1998 when I first visited Lisbon: a secular look at the city’s religious history. Then life got in the way. After a bad break-up & the decision to leave Argentina, writing guidebooks was the last thing on my mind. A couple years later my personal life had settled to a point where I could focus on Endless Mile again… making this the longest I’ve ever taken to write a guide!!

But the journey has been worth it, & I’ve learned so much. As the biggest release for Endless Mile to date at a whopping 84 pages, this guide discusses secular topics & their overlap with the Catholic church: lots of Baroque-era history in the 1700s, artists & architects involved in the design of these amazing buildings, influences from Salazar & the growth of Lisbon to become the modern city we enjoy today… even controversial topics like abortion & homosexuality are discussed. While most people won’t want to visit all 22 places described, a good idea would be to keep this guide handy while exploring Lisbon & incorporate a few churches while visiting other nearby sights.

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

Along with map pages to help you get around Lisbon, each listing comes with basic information like hours of operation, times for Mass & a few photos to pique your interest. Detailed diagrams accompany each church or chapel with a complete listing of saints depicted both inside & out. By discussing the evolution of Portugal’s relationship with the Catholic church, I hope to dispel that often-heard notion that all churches are the same. Far from it! History helps put many places into their proper context… & that’s what Endless Mile guides are all about.

Endless Mile, Catholic heritage guide

For more information about this guide, visit its dedicated webpage. With almost 70% of all national heritage sites belonging to the Catholic church, no visit to Lisbon would be complete without understanding how religion has shaped & continues to influence Portuguese identity. Thanks for your continued support of Endless Mile!

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