Religious heritage, Land of Culture

Valadares Church

A humble temple with a longitudinal layout, a main chapel that is lower and narrower than the body made up of one unique aisle. The construction of this church will have been carried out in the end of the 8th Century, including various bricklayer marks and using masonry from an older construction from 1188 according to the inverted inscription on the north wall of the main chapel.

The inscriptions also display the formula used by the Roman calendar (era of 1226), having to deduct 38 years to gage the date according to today’s calendar. Above the inscription, a bricklayer’s mark has been engraved in the shape of a “crosier” laid in a horizontal way.

The masonries used in the construction of the church have different shapes and sizes, conferring an irregular look. Various initials can be seen on both the inside and outside walls of this temple. Decorative elements have only been used in some parts, namely the main chapel, the north façade of the nave and the main façade. The highlights are the dog figurines on the north façade with traditional Roman decoration, using geometric designs (rolls and spheres) and figurative elements with “anthropomorphic” features, but poorly preserved. On the main façade, two lateral figures can be seen by the warp, one of them possibly representing a hare or rabbit. The gate of the main façade has a broken arch with two archivolts, with the interior one displaying a pearled rim above the chamfer, which is also repeated at the level of the cornices. The Church of Valadares can thus be categorised as being what has been called “resistance Romanesque” or “Rural Gothic”.

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But it is the fresco paintings from the 15th Century on the back and lateral walls of the main Chapel, “hidden” behind the main altarpiece, that confer a special interest and an exceptional heritage value to this church.

On the back wall, the painting is split into various panels by frames. On the side of the Evangelium, Saint Catherine of Alexandria can be identified due to the toothed wheel and the spade in the left hand, placed on the head of the tyrant by her feet. This is followed by the representation of the Mourning of the Dead Christ and, immediately after, Saint James as pilgrim with the pointed cane in his right hand and a book in his left hand. On the side of the Epistle, Saint Barbara is portrayed with a book in the left hand and the grey tower to the right.

These four panels are headed by a frieze of angels, which could represent the Sky and which is interrupted in the Centre by a small alcove depicting Our Lady with the Boy on her lap. This frieze is topped but another one with interchanged stripes in red and white, overlaid with an imitation of tapestries. On the side of the Epistle, we can look at Saint Paul, holding a sword in his right hand and a book in his left hand. Above this portray, is a painting of Saint Peter, holding a key in his right hand and also holding a book in his left hand.

On the side of the Evangelium, Hell and the Final Judge are displayed, with fairy-tale creatures, such as an unusual black bird with a rooster head and a goose beak, a two-headed figure with two horns and a creature with human body and head of a dog. Above, a large animal head can be seen swallowing some characters. Finally, still on the back wall by the Evangelium, part of an inscription can still be seen today, revealing who ordered the mural paining and the date: [man]dou fazer juan camel […] abade desta ygreja: era de mil cccct, […] ([ord]ered by juan camel […] abbot of this church: from thousand cccct, […]). It could be referring to João Camelo de Sousa, son of Álvares Gonçalves Camelo and brother of Luís Alvares de Soura, who both used the title of lords in Baião.

The medieval church underwent various changes during the modern era, today maintaining the altarpieces in the baroque style and having added, besides the baroque sculpture of the peregrine image of Saint James on the main altarpiece, the painted image on the headliner of the nave and on the cross arch of Saint James, the “moor-slayer”.

Rota do Românico. (2014) (“Romanesque route”). Lousada: Centro de Estudos da Rota do Românico. (“Study centre of the romanesque route”)

Tip: Click on the pictures to enlarge.

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