The Sé Catedral is an immense structure and from its bulk and towering location, you could mistake it for a military fortress. It sits on a hill next to the Ponte de Dom Luís I, overlooking the Ribeira district and the Douro. The city you see today owes much of its growth to the Sé and its protective walls. The extremely narrow houses and narrow streets in the Sé district (now a seedy part of town, best avoided at night) were built that way to fit inside the former walls.
The Bishop Hugo commenced construction on the Sé in the 12th century. The fortress underwent alterations and reconstruction in the 18th century. Religious structures stood on this site since the time of the Visigoths (and maybe before). There’s some speculation as to the exact history of the spot.
The cathedral features a round gothic rose window under the wide arch over the main entrance. The entrance is guarded on either side by two sturdy looking towers. With all the alterations that have taken place, you’ll find a mix of Baroque, Gothic and Romanesque architecture on the grounds. Nicolás Nasoni, a prolific Italian architect living in Porto, designed a Baroque loggia for the Cathedral in the 18th century.
The Sé Catedral has a wonderful terrace with sweeping views over the city and the river. You’ll have to pass by the hanging column (where the Bishop used to string up his fellow citizens) to see panorama. Don’t worry… the column is just a replica. No blood stains remain.