Week 75: Going to church

Medronho (Arbutus unedo; strawberry tree), with fruit and flowerbuds at the same time

Medronheiro (Arbutus unedo; strawberry tree), with fruit and flowerbuds at the same time

Loquat in flower

Loquat in flower

A Great Grey Shrike* appeared at the top of a spindly oak in our garden this week, rather puffed-up and self-important, its black eyeband suggesting a tonsure so that it looked like a medieval monk surveying the monastic lands from on high. Its acolyte, a tiny – by comparison – Blue Tit, capered from branch to branch below, hoping for favour. The shrike had an apricot tinge to its belly feathers, identifying it as the Iberian sub-species (called Lanius excubitor meridionalis) and enhancing its well-fed look. In the carob trees on the other side of the garden two Blackcaps appeared, a male with the black cap its name predicts and a female with a red-brown cap. They, too, have a rather clerical appearance, with their plain colours and their neat zucchetti skullcaps.

Could it be that I have spent too long recently thinking about churches? …

… Because I have been finding out as much as I can about our beautiful local town of Tavira, starting with its abundant religious buildings: nineteen churches/chapels in the town itself and two chapels of pilgrimage just outside. The town flourished from the late medieval period until about the middle of the eighteenth century. It was the richest and most populous town of the Algarve, serving as a jumping-off point for Portugal’s expansion into North Africa. The churches represent power as often as they do piety: established to celebrate a victory in Morocco, or to provide physical and spiritual relief to returning adventurers, or to showcase a family’s or brotherhood’s wealth. They are absorbing windows into the past, as well as still in some cases being places of worship. In Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, Plain and Baroque styles, from the gorgeous to the hideous, each one is fascinating.

Tavira's beautiful 'Roman' (actually medieval) bridge

Tavira’s beautiful ‘Roman’ (actually medieval) bridge

The Chapel of Santa Ana, one of the oldest in Tavira – and a yellow Renault 4

The Chapel of Santa Ana, established in the thirteenth or fourteenth century (and a yellow Renault 4)

Seventeenth-century tiles inside the tiny Chapel of Our Lady of Consolation, which once gave succour to the town's prisoners

Seventeenth-century tiles inside the tiny Chapel of Our Lady of Consolation, which once provided succour to the town’s prisoners

Rua D. Paio Peres Correia, a street named after the Master of the Order of Santiago, who took the town from the North African Muslims in 1242

Rua D. Paio Peres Correia, a street named after the Master of the Order of Santiago, who took the town from the North African Muslims in 1242

The typical Algarvean chimney is white, with a lacework design, and reminiscent of Moorish style. In Tavira, the traditional chimneys are four-sided, like these, and not round - though you see many examples of both kinds

The typical Algarvean chimney is white, with a lacework design, reminiscent of Moorish style. In Tavira, the traditional chimneys are four-sided, like these, rather than round (though you do see both kinds in the town)

Another Tavira chimney, near to the castle wall

Another Tavira chimney, near the castle wall

A four-sided chimney in our valley (which is in the district of Tavira)

A four-sided chimney in our valley (which is in the district of Tavira)

Anniversary

On 25 October we celebrated our first anniversary. It was a year since we had driven over the Spanish border in an over-full black Polo and arrived in Portugal to begin our lives here. It was a month later that we completed the purchase of our house and moved into this spot in the valley (giving us another anniversary to celebrate in four weeks’ time). We haven’t regretted the move for a moment. As I write, Husband is singing while he works, preparing his biggest batch of loaves so far, while I sit amid growing piles of books and leaflets for study.

 

*I decided, after some internal struggle, to use the proper nomenclature for birds: i.e. giving their species names in capitals. This makes it clear that our little owl, while being a little owl, is also a Little Owl – and who, by the way, after some silence over the late summer is now, happily for us, back in full throat at the close of every day and during the night.

Our lunch spot by the sea on beautiful day this week (at Fábrica do Costa)

Lunch by the sea on a beautiful day this week (at Fábrica do Costa)

Our local Climate March, taking place in Tavira on Sunday 29 November

Local climate activists. A march takes place in Tavira on Sunday 29 November, in line with others all over the world

4 Comments

  1. Madeleine

    All so beautiful and quite idyllic. I loved Tavira and look forward to spending more time with you both there. The rain here this morning is quite relentless and I have a swimming pool in my front garden! xxx

    Reply
  2. Hazel

    I like a good trudge round a few churches, me. Sounds like I’ve got a bit of catching up to do in Tavira when we’re over next! On 29 Nov, I’m going to the 80th birthday bash of a friend, women only, a tea party at a swank hotel somewhere in town. I shall think of you on the march in Tavira as I sit in a Bridget headpiece, swigging tea. xx

    Reply
  3. fatma

    Once again, it is the detail and knowledge with which you write that impresses, together of course with the art. The photos complement. We are travelling this journey with you and fascinating it is. We are learning to ‘stop and stare’, take note, appreciate. I remember on a trip through Italy when I felt if I saw one more church I might weary with the repetition of it. The reaction may not be so different today, but then again perhaps I would now bring some understanding of the wider, greater, historical context these ubiquitous edifices represent……Maybe!

    Reply
  4. Patricia Roberts

    Your blog is so knowledgeable, wonderful, I can pick up scents. I shall enjoy seeing the churches when i am with you in May. I loved your eclipse day. My love to you

    Reply

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