As you drive west from Faro in the Algarve along the busy N125 towards the popular holiday resorts of Quinta do Lago, Vilamoura and Albufeira you might catch sight of the roof of an intriguing church. Once you know that this is the amazing Igreja de São Lourenço you can follow the signs and visit the church.
Originally a crumbling medieval church it was rebuilt in the mid-18th century after the villagers prayed to Saint Lawrence for water as they dug a well, during a desperately dry season. As an abundant gush of water appeared, they determined to build a new church, in gratitude. The Brotherhood of the Church of São Lourenço had important connections within the Algarve and worshippers contributed to the building of a simple white church with an extravagantly ornamented interior.
Two brothers, Manuel Borges from Faro and Antão Borges, an azulejo artist, from Lisbon started the rebuilding. Azulejos are the beautiful blue and white tiles which can be found on buildings, especially churches, all over Portugal, but in this case the entire church surface was lined with the tiles apart from the gilded areas. Generally, the tiles are attributed to Policarpo de Oliveira Bernardes, a famous painter from Lisbon, but possibly some of the azulejos may have been made by a painter in his vicinity.
Luckily the earthquake of 1755 which so badly damaged Lisbon and was strongly felt in the Algarve, only damaged 5 glazed tiles. There is a barrel-vaulted nave and a small cupola. The azulejos show scenes from the life of St Lawrence, who was martyred in 258 AD.
On the pillars of the church are the seven virtues: wisdom, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope and love. This stunning Baroque church is well worth visiting, preferably when there are no coach parties present.