In 1424 work began on the then church of the old convent of S. Domingos, but with the nationalisation of monastic property in 1834 and the outbreak of a terrible fire in 1897, the old convent facilities were practically destroyed. The temple was saved and later, in 1922 and by order of Pope Pius XI, Vila Real was elevated to a diocese and the church became the Cathedral.
This monument is particularly notable for its set of vigorous naturalistic sculpted capitals and for the gothic arches in which several members of the local nobility are laid to rest. One can see in the front part of the temple rise two powerful buttresses that demarcate the naves, between which slightly advances the body where the beautiful but simple gothic portal is torn. A few metres above, a wide window opens up, probably a rose window. The side door on the North side is of the same type, but simpler, the door on the South side is formed by a round arch with an unusual diamond-tipped paneled frame.
The solid church, which despite being gothic maintains a strong Romanesque style, would suffer some changes in the 18th century and in 1755 some changes were made to the structure of the head of the church. The sacristy and the main chapel now have rocaille style exterior decoration, also evident in the imposing new bell tower that was added to its southern flank.
The visitor can see that the interior has its roof in wood and is the same as other church models of the time. Three naves with the same number of transepts and protruding transept, those being bordered by longitudinal arches of broken arches. All of them supported by huge pillars with embedded columns and edges cut by concave chamfers. The lighting of the temple is completed with a clerestory and small chinks in the walls of the side naves.
In the main chapel, of the filling with which it was then equipped, part of the blackwood armchair is still preserved. This was removed during the restoration works and during which the carved altarpiece was also replaced by another, more classical and more appropriate to its regained austerity.
On the huge walls there are several gothic arches, where the one that most stands out to the observer’s eyes is the one containing the tomb of Diogo Afonso and his wife Branca Dias, with a beautiful broken arch of trilobed mirror and chest resting on stone lions.
But what causes greater astonishment and admiration is the remarkable set of capitals decorated with a great variety of anthropomorphic and phytomorphic motifs. In them you can glimpse figures of adorable profile surrounded by a tangle of leaves, such as the priest, the warrior, the hunter – who waits for his prey behind a tree, the grape-gatherer – who picks the grapes with tenderness and the other who accompanies them to the grape-gatherers’ baskets.
In the sacristy you can see a small 16th century tablet, still well preserved, which represents the Virgin.