The Torre dos Clérigos (Clérigos Tower) is one of the most iconic buildings in Porto. Located at the top of a hill it is the tallest building in Porto and is an excellent landmark. It is the bell tower of the Baroque-style Igreja dos Clérigos (Clérigos Church), which was built for the Irmandade dos Clérigos (Brotherhood of the Clergy) by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni in the mid-eighteenth century. The 75-metre bell tower was added a bit later, being completed in 1763 and was based on the design of the bell towers found in Nasoni’s native Tuscany.
A €3 ticket gave us entrance to the church, its exhibition rooms and the tower. We were directed to the church before being given access to the tower and were struck by the oval-shaped interior. The church is small but is opulently decorated in gilt and marble. The upper floor allowed us good views of the whole church. We passed through the small museum and made our way to the entrance to the tower and embarked on the 240 steps to the top. As with most old European bell towers the ascent involved climbing a few steps, then pressing ourselves close against the wall while we let people coming down pass. We eventually stepped out onto a narrow crowded viewing platform and while trying to identify the buildings below found ourselves being pushed around the entire 360° of the viewing platform and eventually back through the doorway to the stairs, where the descent was as frustrating as the ascent, by the sheer number of people. That is not to say that we didn’t have time to enjoy the views to the north, west, south and east of Porto, aided by information panels which didn’t always match the view in front of us.
To the immediate north and north-west of the tower are part of the University of Porto, the charming Jardim da Cordoaria, the famous bookshop Livraria Lello & Irmão and the Praça de Lisboa. The Praça de Lisboa is a recent addition to Porto’s central area (built in 2013) and appears to be a park on a hill above a shopping arcade, but from the tower we could clearly see that the park is in fact on top of the arcade, as a ‘green’ roof which is stylishly designed in a geometric pattern. To the immediate south-west is the Rua Campo dos Mártires da Pátria with the striking building of the former prison, dating from 1767, which now houses the Centro Português de Fotografia (which hosts permanent and temporary photographic exhibitions), and the monastery and church of São Bento da Vitória on Rua de São Bento da Vitória. In the distance we could make out the Atlantic Ocean. To the south-east is Porto Cathedral, with the grand building of the Paço Episcopal (the former Bishop’s Palace) to the right of it and the modern glass building of the Tourist Information Office in front of it. Behind the Cathedral, on the other side of the River Douro is the Serra do Pilar Monastery with the circular 16th-century church at the top of the hill. The monastery is now used as army barracks. To the south is the distinctive facade of São Lourenço church and beyond it is the river and the port lodges of Vila Nova da Gaia on the south bank. To the east is São Bento station and Avenida dos Aliados, with the ornate 19th-century buildings visible, and to the north-east, further up the Avenida dos Aliados, is the Praça do General Humberto Delgado, which houses the striking green-domed city hall building.
The church and tower of the Irmandade dos Clérigos, Rua de São Filipe de Nery, Porto
Entrance fee (June 2016): €3.00 for the tower, church and exhibitions; Opening hours: 9am-7pm