Santo António ChurchSanto António Church is built in Rococo style with splendid decorations that seek to enhance religious faith and worship
At the beginning of the 16th century, in Santo António parish, there was a temple devoted to the Saint that gave way to the current church. This temple underwent several modifications and additions over the centuries as the exponential growth of population made it imperative to build a larger temple.
The construction of the new temple took place in the beginning of the 17th century in terrains given by the parish priest Antonio Afonso de Faria. Between 1665 and 1682, the main chapel and the chapels of the Santíssimo Sacramento and Almas were built, as well as other important improvements. The temple has six altars, which reveals its large dimensions. It is ornamented with gilded carvings and grandiose decoration, which gives it the denomination of rich church.
It is supposed that, at the end of the 17th century, it underwent new improvements and additions; however, due to the 1748 earthquake that left the church in ruin and the growth of population, it was demolished in 1785. According to historic accounts: " Santo António Church has several openings in the frontispiece: the stonework of the main door is disjointed and the walls of the church are broken in several places, as are those of the workshops, and the celling as serious damage "(Silva, 1929). The Santíssimo Sacramento Chapel was the only one that remained.
Despite the damage, the construction of the new temple began only in 1783, 35 years after the 1748 earthquake. The church was completed in 1789, although the religious service began to take place in the new temple in that year, the improvement works continued until the beginning of the 19th century, with the construction of Guadalupe Chapel, that finished in 1798, the Central Chapel, and the conclusion of the Santíssimo Sacramento Chapel in the beginning of the 19th century.
In 1883, the bell towers were built, but in 1899, due to the lack of stability resulting from its poor construction, the South tower collapsed and for security reasons, the North tower was also demolished. Between 1921 and 1928, the church was the target of rehabilitation works with the monetary help of the parish inhabitants. It was also at this point that a clock was added in one of the towers, a watch offered by Madeiran industrialist Mr. Harry Hinton who commissioned it in London, fitted with a modern system and a harmonious chime, which played the same notes and tones as the bells of the Westminster Cathedral.
The Santo António Church was built in Rococo style, characteristic of Madeira island. It is derivate from baroque style, but lighter and more intimate, and used mainly indoors. The decoration is naturalistic, based mainly on seashells and acanthus leaves, which are present in architectural elements and sculptures.
As far as architecture is concerned, the main features of the exterior are the granite walls that contrast with the white walls with smooth and aligned facades. The doors and several windows are ornamented with round arches. As for the characteristics of the interior, the rococo style is known for the existence of a main chamber with some secondary rooms, decorated with paintings, sculptures, Portuguese tiles, stucco-work and gilded carvings.
Santo António Church extraordinary high interior walls ornamented by Via Crucis oil paintings some of which are already restored, displayed in gilded carving frames. Its ceiling with exuberant and rhythmic adornments has in the centre a canvas representative of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. At the entrance of the church, you can see the beautiful windbreaker of the main door, made of walnut wood, a work by wood master João Rodrigues Pimenta. Several windows and several lamps and chandeliers provide the lighting of the church. There are 3 chandeliers in the Main Chapel and 8 in the main body of the church, as well as the large central chandelier with 30 lamps. In total there are more than 200 lamps illuminating the temple.
In the Main Chapel the walls, ceiling and altar were recovered and gilded. In this chapel, you can observe the sculptures of St. Anthony, St. Louis de Gozangue and St. John Francis of Regis occupying two upper niches of the Main Altar.
Luís António Bernes recovered the so-called «arch mouths» of the Main Chapel, the Santíssimo Sacramento and Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapels, with a fresh painting work and excellent and original ornamentation.