The Igreja de Sao Vicente de Fora, together with the adjoining former Augustinian monastery (now closed), stands on a hill to the east of Alfama and is visible from afar. The Largo das Potas de Sol, on the edge of Alfama and where a memorial to St Vincent was erected in 1970, offers a fine view of the church in the distance. From here the additional name de Fora (outside), referring to its position, can be appreciated; at the time of its construction, the church stood outside of the city walls.
Several partly contradictory legends have grown up about the life of St Vincent to whom the church is dedicated. Both Portugal and Spain lay claim to the saint. Confusion reigns mostly about his burial site; one claim holds it to be in Avila in Spain in a church named after him, another points to St Vincent's mother of pearl encrusted reliquary in Lisbon's Sé Patriarchal, which used to be kept in a former church on the site of Sao Vicente de Fora. He is commonly considered to be a Spanish saint, but is also held to be a Portuguese one. In Portugal he is the patron saint of sea voyages and of viniculture, and the people of Lisbon have recorded his life in the coat of arms of their city. According to Portuguese tradition, during the fourth C. the body of St Vincent was washed ashore at Sagres in the Algarve in one of two ships accompanied by ravens (Cabo de Sao Vicente is thus the name of the most southwesterly rocky plateau near to Sagres). In the 12th C. Afonso Henriques had his remains transported to one of the churches commissioned by him on the site of the present Sao Vicente de Fora.