Year 2009. “The old cathedrals are good, but the great blue dome that hangs over everything is better.” Thomas Carlyle
The Sta Engracia church in Lisbon took almost 400 years to be built, from 1570 to 1966. Marred with all kind of problems, neglects, corruption, wars, invasions, financial disgraces, fires, disbelieves and earthquakes, the site has been anything but the church itself. In 1916 the Portuguese government, during a low moral and desbelieve period felt the need to find a place to enshrine its national heroes dispersed in every church or cemetery around the country. The site of the Sta Engracia church which dome has never been built has finally been approved to be the place; the Panteão Nacional would replace the church and was finally concluded in 1966 but not without another series of disgraces and neglected incompetences.
Those 400 years are rich and gave rise to anecdotes, legends and mockeries, the most frequent being related to public works that in general take too long either because incompetence, corruption or neglect and laziness; “this will take as long as the Sta. Engracia church…”, is the most frequent gossip and sceptic comment when a big project starts.
Among many documented stories there is one that would kill him twice should he ressuscite. In 1630 someone stolen the sacrário of the would be church located in the construction site. At that time the Inquisition was at its rampant pick towards the hunting of Jewish so it was easy to find a culprit. Someone, by the name of Simão Solis, a new apostatised, has been seen in the vicinities but refused the alibi (he paid regular visits to a nun of a congregation existing in that area). He was then sentenced to death by burning alive, the most frequent sentence required by the Inquisition, and before the fire went on he exclaimed; “I am so innocent as the construction of this church will never happen!”. Almost.