Road Trip

Provavelmente, a igreja mais estranha de Portugal

Located in the parish of Soutelo, municipality of Vieira do Minho, or Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Lapa, it is a very pleasant place, with shaded areas and some tables and benches that you can take advantage of to make a snack. To get here, you will have to go up to Cumeada do Monte de Penamourinha, with a car ride to ask for the first and second moves, through the narrow asphalt roads. In days of chuva formam-se nevoeiros that make it difficult to see the landscape and the horizon, hair that will have to be counted.

It is said that, in 1805, Nossa Senhora da Lapa arose from a little shepherdess. When she was soube do ocorrido, o pai da menina foi ao local. When I booked for the local appearance, Nossa Senhora was there again. The news spread quickly to the nearest towns, starting the pilgrimages not the first day of the month of June that year.

On June 10th we will gather more than 500 non-local people. Due to the enormous influx of pilgrims, the abbot Rodrigues Ramos ordered the construction of an altar by lowering the granite block where it had appeared. He also ordered that the surrounding area be prepared to receive as many pilgrims as possible.

Nossa Senhora da Lapa Sanctuary

Not limited by the storm, João Gonçalves and his wife Margarida da Silva ordered the construction, in 1694, of Senhora da Lapa’s chapel, taking advantage of some granite outcrops in the area.

The small temple is in a cavity on the rocks, enclosed by a granite slab wall, which forms a facade with simple designs, where we highlight the windows and doorways. There is also a niche with a small image of Nossa Senhora.

A gate in grade gives access to the interior, where you can see various inscriptions engraved on the roof and a picture with the history of the sanctuary, written by Father José Maria Machado in 1851.

Nossa Senhora da Lapa Sanctuary
Nossa Senhora da Lapa Sanctuary

The sanctuary enclosure is distributed over two patamares, incorporating a core, installations to support the pilgrimage and fountains. A cappella appears já referenced in the book “Memórias Paroquiais” of 1758.

Thanks to its construction on the rock, a cappella is probably one of the most invulgar religious constructions in Portugal, residing in its beauty in the simplicity and originality of the space, allied to a history of faith that built and cared for it.

Nossa Senhora da Lapa and as “other Lapas”

Do you know what “Lapa” means? It is a rock that forms a cave or a natural shelter. There are many “Lapas” a little throughout the country. It is very natural to attribute some kind of legend, mysticism or religious significance (or the most famous sanctuary of this genre is the Santuário da Lapa, in Sernancelhe.)

The same happens with other rocks of large dimensions, just as we do not see Lapas: see or case of Penedo dos Cuckolds (em Amarante)from Pedra do Galo (not Redondo) or from Rocha dos Namorados (in Reguengos de Monsaraz).

These rocks would be the object of worship before the arrival of the Christian religion in the territory that now corresponds to Portugal. Nelas were performed rituals pagans two more diverse types and with different purposes. Instead of condemning the Catholic Church for carrying out these rituals, it simply opted to “Christianize” these rocks. It was attributed to each of them a saint of devotion and, now, it was simply built a cross without its top. And it also allowed that or povo continued to see those places as sacred but, this time, within the new religion.

Nossa Senhora da Lapa Sanctuary
Nossa Senhora da Lapa Sanctuary

In the particular case of Senhora da Lapa, in Vieira do Minho, the original reasons for the worship of the local are not clear. The fact of finding no cume de um miradouro had an easy explanation: the places of adoration were always chosen or highest possible, “next two céus”, where we would be honored deuses.

As for the giant rock (a Lapa), she could be the object of worship simply because, to get there, it would be necessary to pass through 2 large rocks, or that at the time it would pay to have any symbolism. The rituals of passagem were common at altitude: a passagem da adolescence for altitude, a passagem do Inverno for Spring, etc…

Paid or cristão, with legends or without legends, it is certain that it is very worthwhile to visit this small church in Vieira do Minho. The place is nice to hang out and spend some time. And from here I can explore or Gerês, for example.

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