San Francisco and San Lorenzo dos Grilos: two excellent examples.
Northern Portuguese capital.
The rich historical wealth of Porto, a city whose cultural, demographic and industrial clout has earned it the title of the “capital of northern Portugal”, is also obvious in the beauty of its temples, whose stones bathe the streets caught up in its surrounds with a gentle romanticism. Churches like San Francisco or San Lorenzo dos Grilos are worth noting, in addition to the aforementioned cathedral. Should you visit the first of them, you will be left open-mouthed by the three inner naves which are clad completely in gilded carvings, whose construction took more than 300 kilos of gold dust powder. Another striking item in the complex is the Arból de Jesé (the Tree of Jesé), a polychrome wood sculpture touted by the experts as one of the best of its kind in the world. On a sour note, you’ll be shocked to the core by the sight of a charnel house containing thousands of human bones which become recognizable as such through glass on the floor of the catacombs. On the other hand, the charm of San Lorenzo dos Grilos church lies in its simplicity and lack of undue ornamentation, whose practically naked façade conceals behind it the curious Museo de Arte Sacra y Archeología (Museum of Sacred Art and Archeology) which wastes or wants for nothing. Although the name may not ring any bells, it’s certain that you’ll have seen its strange scarlet coloured spiral staircase somewhere or other before, as it has appeared in such appropriate films as the renowned Harry Potter sagas. Now do you remember? Well, whether the answer is yes or no, what is obvious is that you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it is deemed to be Europe’s most beautiful bookshop, and even for some, the most beautiful in the whole world.Its extremely high shelving and thousands of books comprise a booklover’s paradise for any self-respecting bibliophile. Its delightful façade, a mixture of the neo-gothic and modern, is only a foretaste of what is to come on the inside for us. Natural light filters in to the place via a large glass dome which crowns the centre roof, endowing the complex with the most mysterious and charming of atmospheres. The motto “Decus in Labore” (“Pride in work”) is engraved on the aforesaid glass. The Lello e Irmao bookshop was founded in 1869, selling new and old copies in different languages and is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm. It comes as no surprise for many people that this is one of Porto’s best kept secrets.
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