7 churches worth visiting in Funchal
Funchal has several interesting chapels and churches, which you can visit during a trip to Madeira. But when you lack the time, which ones can’t you miss?
In this article, I suggest 7 of my favourite churches in Funchal. They stand out for several reasons: history, architecture, painting, panoramic views, and even musical events.
Igreja do Colégio - Church of St. John the Evangelist (also known as Church of the Jesuit College)
This church of the 17th century is genuinely spectacular. It is located in one of the main squares of Funchal, next to the City Hall.
Its main altar is of remarkable beauty, with inlaid marble steps and images of 4 saints of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
It has several side chapels loaded with details and adornments - note the altar of the 11 thousand Virgins, referring to the martyrdom of St. Ursula and her companions, with nine images housed in niches.
Also worthy of attention are the frescos and the tiles, found on the side walls of the church.
Other highlights of the visit include a trip to the sacristy and the tower (cost: 1 €)
When climbing the staircase that allows access to the tower, you can see images of the restoration and history of this church. Once you reach the tower’s veranda you get 360-degree views of Funchal.
- Address: Praça do Municipio
To check the churches visiting hours, please go to visitFunchal site.
You can also check the Mass schedule on the website of Funchal’s Diocese.
Igreja do Socorro - Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour
Socorro Church is only a short walk distance from Porto Santa Maria Hotel. It is easily identifiable by the main façade with a sculpture of Our Lady in white marble, in honour of Our Lady of Grace.
Inside, the spotlight goes to its colourful wooden ceiling. Note also the side walls, with oil paintings alluding to the Triumph of the Eucharist over science, paganism, and the senses, among others. I also emphasise the blue panels of the tiles, next to the altar, that represent scenes of Maria’s life.
- Address: Rua de Santa Maria 281
Igreja do Monte - Church of Our Lady of Monte
Take a cable car ride to Monte Church. The whole environment and surrounding gardens are an invitation to meditate. When climbing the steps next to the church, notice the surprising views over Funchal.
The interior of Monte Church is unforgettable. At the altar, notice the lovely image of Our Lady of Monte. Painted in the centre of the ceiling, you can see the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. In a side chapel, there is also the sarcophagus of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles I, who lived exiled in Madeira between 1921 and 1922. There is also a statue in his honour outside the church.
Next to this church are located the iconic wicker basket sledges where tourists go for a toboggan ride, down the hill. Enjoy the trip.
- Address: Rampa da Sacristia 1
Igreja do Convento de Santa Clara - Church of Santa Clara’s Convent
This church is part of the Santa Clara’s Convent, located on the Calçada do Pico. To enter, you have to ring the bell of the door which gives you access to the church and the inner courtyard. Here, you can book a guided tour (cost: € 2) to learn the history of this place.
This convent has an incredible heritage and it is classified as a National Monument. The paintings, the Hispano-Arabian tiles, the cloisters, the sculptures and the private chapels are an incredible testimonial to the past.
There are many particularities to highlight in this church. For example, the tomb of the family of João Gonçalves Zarco, the first captain of Funchal. Another of its highlights is an iron door, through which the Poor Clare Sisters (Poor Clares or Clarisses), who lived there, attended the Mass. You can also see the window through which they received communion during Mass, since they had no contact with the outside world.
- Address: Calçada de Santa Clara 15
Guided visits to the Convent: (every day except Sunday and holidays) 10 a.m. - noon and 3 p.m - 5 p.m.
Sé - Funchal Cathedral
This Cathedral is a pleasant surprise. The exterior simplicity contrasts with the interior grandeur.
It was built by the King of Portugal, D. Manuel I, at the end of the XV century and it is classified as a National Monument.
Its grand altarpiece from the 16th century is a magnificent work of religious art. But, there is much more to highlight in this Cathedral such as the paintings, the tiles, the pulpit or the choir stalls which include whimsical animal carvings (at the bottom).
Whenever I go there, I never cease to admire the Mudejar style ceiling made of cedar wood and ivory inlays. So beautiful.
At the rear of the Cathedral, admire a fresco alluding to Adam and Eve.
For more information consult the website of Funchal Cathedral.
- Address: Rua do Aljube 39
Igreja de São Pedro - St. Peter's Church
Absolutely beautiful - so is the interior of this church.
It is decorated with elegant chandeliers and has three side chapels. The walls are lined with 17th century blue and white tiles. The gilded altar is a beautiful contrast to the wooden ceiling, painted in shades of blue, grey, pink and gold. Outside, the spotlight goes to the bell tower, covered in tiles, and to the silhouette of a rooster weathervane.
Address: Rua de São Pedro 1
Igreja Inglesa - The English Church
This church is only 5 minutes' walk from the Church of São Pedro.
It was founded in the 17th century, thanks to a famous English consul - Henry Veitch, who lived in Madeira at the time. Its unique location, neoclassical style, and its beautiful gardens have an irresistible charm. In the vicinity of the church, there is also an English cemetery, open daily on weekdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. This church is also the scene of weekly evening musical concerts, whose styles include classical music, fado, and even rock!
Find out more at the English Church website.
- Address: Rua Quebra-Costas 1