The Church of the Cadaval Palace, a private property for religious use, is also known and referred to in books and guides as the Church of Saint John the Evangelist or as the Church of Lóios, as it was part of the Convent of the Order of Saint Eligius, where Lóios was the corrupted form of the Portuguese word for Eligius. Founded in 1485, it was built on the ruins of a Moorish castle, destroyed in the revolts of the Grand Master of Aviz in the 14th century.
Restored in 1957 and 1958 by Dom Jaime Álvares Pereira de Melo, 10th Duke of Cadaval and father of the current duchess, the church was returned to its former glory, carefully preserving its most iconic features, which make this church one of Portugal’s most beautiful and best preserved privately owned places of worship.
The entrance to the church boasts a very fine Gothic portico, dating from the latter third of the 15th century,
next to which an elaborate canopy-shaped carving proclaims the date of the church’s foundation and reveals the coat of arms of its founder, Dom Rodrigo de Melo, 1st Count of Olivença.
The nave is decorated with gothic ribbed vaulting and lined with a stunning collection of azulejo tile panels painted by António de Oliveira, signed by the artist and dated 1711, which portray scenes from the life of the Patriarch of Venice, Saint Lawrence Giustiniani, founder of the Order of Saint Eligius.
The floor of the church contains many tombs of the various generations of the Dukes of Cadaval and their ancestors since the 15th century and a crypt with an ossuary attributed to the friars of the Order of Saint Eligius. In the central nave you can also see a Moorish cistern. On one of the side walls, connecting directly to the palace, looms a 17th-century tribune, commissioned by the 1st Duke of Cadaval, Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira de Melo.
The church’s chancel features a gilt carved altar, in the Mannerist style of the transition period from the Renaissance to the Baroque. The statues portray Saint John the Evangelist, founder of the congregation of the same name, and Saint Lawrence Giustiniani, founder of the Order of Saint Eligius. The walls are lined with multicoloured tapestry-style 17th-century azulejo tiling. The floor features two original engraved marble tombstones – one portrays the figures of Dom Rodrigo de Melo, 1st Count of Olivença, founder of the church and of his wife, Countess Dona Isabel de Meneses,
and the other depicts the figures of Dom Álvaro de Braganza and his wife, Dona Filipa de Melo, Countess of Olivença.
Capela do Santíssimo tem o altar dourado do séc. XVIII, Ao lado, nas paredes, há um túmulo renascentista do séc.
XVI, pertencente a D. Francisco de Melo, grande latinista e conselheiro de D. João III. A construção deste túmulo
é atribuída ao arquitecto francês Nicolau Chanterene. Na outra parede desta capela existe o túmulo
de D. Manuel de Melo, pai de D. Francisco de Melo, que foi o 2º Capitão e Governador de Tânger.
The chapel of the Blessed Sacrament commands respect with its gilt altar, dating from the 18th century. Standing out on one of the side walls, the 16th-century Renaissance tomb of Dom Francisco de Melo, a great Latinist and adviser to King Dom João III. The tomb’s design is attributed to French architect Nicolau Chanterene. On the other wall of this chapel, we find the tomb of Dom Manuel de Melo, father of Dom Francisco de Melo, 2nd Captain and Governor of Tangier.
In the chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary, the gilt carved altar features paintings by Josefa de Óbidos and a sculpture from the 17th century. There are two bronze tombstones on the floor, of Dom Rui de Sousa and his wife Dona Branca de Vilhena, works of art of the Flemish school, dating from the 15th century.
The church’s current sacristy, with its 18th-century paintings, features a 17th-century fresco on its walls, depicting the figure of Jesus Christ. In the original sacristy, now the Wax Room, you can view part of the Roman wall with a sculpture, rare in Portugal, of Saint Apollonia. The other sculptures in this room are also from the 18th century, except for the one depicting the Baby Jesus, which is believed to date from the early 19th century.
The Church of the Cadaval Palace frequently hosts religious celebrations, for the family of the Duchess of Cadaval, in addition to music recitals. It is open to the public throughout the year.