After a short tour in Largo da Sé, if you walk down the side of the old fortified tower, you’ll find a great view over Douro and Ribeira. Below this terrace, there’s a craggy stairway that will lead you to a large, strange church seated on a stone hillside. This strange church is Convento de São Lourenço (Church of St. Lawrence), but all the locals call it the Igreja dos Grilos, which means Cricket’s Church (yes, cricket, the bug). And, of course, there is a story behind this name!
When the Jesuits settled in Lisbon, in the 16th century, made their headquarters in a street named Rua do Grilo (Cricket Street). In 1577, a mission of those Jesuits came to Porto to build a new church. The people joked about the origin of the priests (and also because they only use black tunic) and started to call them Padres Grilos (Cricket Priests) and Cricket’s Church to their temple. Even today this nickname remains.
The building is a large 16th century church, built in very a sober style, following the Italian Mannerism. There are no religious images on the front, and any sumptuous decoration, because Jesuits like austerity in all aspects of live, including architecture.
In 1759, Marquis of Pombal expelled the Jesuits from Portugal and the church ended up in the hands of another monks, this time the Augustinians. During the Civil War of 1832-33, the church was used as a military barracks by the Liberal Army. Almeida Garrett, a celebrated poet and soldier, was there on duty, during that time.
Inside the church, the ceilings and columns are coated with gold and the baroque altars are full of wooden saints, very different from the severe outside. Yet inside, it’s worth the visit to the archaeological museum and see the Roman pieces collection found in Porto.
At the same time, usually there are several classical music concerts in the church. If you have the chance, it’s worth attending to one of these shows.