General Information
Chapel of Our Lady of Vale 
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  • Name: Chapel of Our Lady of Vale
  • Typology: Chapel
  • Classification: Public Interest Building, by Decree 37 728, DG 4 of 5th January 1950
  • Municipality: Paredes
  • Patron Saint´s Day: Lady of Vale – Feast on the Sunday immediately following the 8th September   
  • Worship Hours: Saturday - 7 pm   
  • Visiting Hours: By appointment   
  • Support Services:
  • Telephone : +351 255 810 706 / +351 918 116 488 
  • Fax: +351 255 810 709 
  • E-Mail: rotadoromanico@valsousa.pt  
  • Web: www.rotadoromanico.com 
  • Location:
    Largo Vitorino Leão Ramos, Cête, Paredes, Porto.
  • How to Get Here:

     

  • Geographic Coordinates: 41° 10' 33.067" N / 8° 20' 58.035" W 
History
History
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Chapel of Our Lady of ValeThe architecture of this Chapel shows a construction methodology typical of late 15th century or early 16th century, with similarities with the architecture of the Monastery of Saint Peter of Cête, particularly with regard to stone coat of arms.

The person who commissioned the works of the Manueline period of the Monastery of Cête is likely to have been the same responsible for the construction of the chevet of the Chapel.

Historical Figures
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Master Arnaus
The mural painting of this Chapel of great artistic beauty and, according to Luís Afonso, would have been the result of a campaign conducted in mid-sixteenth century by the painter Arnaus, author of the frescoes of the Church of São Paio Midões (Barcelos), dated 1535.
This would have been a particularly imaginative artist with technical skills far above his peers, the most interesting painter of frescoes of the Portuguese Renaissance, whose work is very well known and dominated by plastic effects of great technical virtuosity.

The importance of the painter of frescoes, who would also be a great painter with easel, art considered nobler at the time, lies in the fact that he was commissioned by important figures of the society of the time, as stated by Luís Afonso, including the abbot of Pombeiro, D. António de Melo. The contract, according to the author, would have included works in the Churches of Vila Verde, Arnoso and Vila Marim, all part of the heritage of the Monastery of Pombeiro.

The high skills of Arnaus lead him to make the most of the relationship between mural painting and architecture, cleverly making use of windows, recesses and blind arches to create, or increase, the scenic effects of optical illusion.  Through this technique, mentions Afonso, Arnaus gives his art greater realism and depth.

Legends and Curiosities
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There are still traces of mural on the chevet's front wall, evidence of the high quality of the craftsman's workshop, mainly due to the two-dimensionality of the picture and the design of the angel faces, comparable, according to Luís Afonso, to the work of the painter Arnaus. The latter, which has well known works in the region, may have been responsible for the mural paintings of the Chapel, probably performed between 1530 and 1540.

The miraculous virtues of the Lady of Vale are well reflected in two 18th century ex-votos displayed inside the building. The earliest reports a miracle occurred in 1747 when a Portuguese emigrant in Brazil would have been saved from a siege, occurred between seven in the morning and four o'clock in the afternoon by a group of Indians, in a hinterland in Paraná, thanks to the intervention of the Lady of Vale. 

The most recent one, dated 1796, shows the storm that hit the boat in which Custódio Coelho Ferraz Moreira was departing to Brazil. Custódio Ferraz, born in Cête, is saved from the shipwreck by the grace of the Virgin of Vale who, after an appeal for protection, provided the castaway with a fragment of the mast, in which he sailed for three hours before being found by the pilot of the Harbour of Figueira.

Chronology
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15th-16th – Original Construction of the Chapel;

16th Century – Erection of the porch;

1530-1540 – Mural painting programme;

17th Century  – Altarpiece on the Epistle side;

1979/80 – Repairs in the roofing, restoration works by other entities, removal of the inner and outer coatings; cleansing of batters and joints; demolishing of the exterior staircase to the choir; demolishing of the Chapel found in the North façade and reclosing of the inner span providing access to it; placement of the altar from Gatão; removal of the pulpit and tiling;

1998 – The Chapel of Our Lady of Vale is included in the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa;

2004 – Works for the general preservation of roofing, batters and exterior spans;

2005 – Works for the general preservation of ceilings, inner pavements and electrical wiring, and preservation of mural painting, performed in the scope of the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa;

2013 – Works for the general conservation, mostly at the levels of the roofs, external walls and lighting/ventilation openings, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque.

Specialities
Architecture
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This is an example of Romanesque religious architecture, comprised by a chapel of longitudinal plant and single rectangular nave with a modern porch, also rectangular. The extension to the right side is intended for the sacristy.

Plans of the Chapel of Our Lady of Vale.

The nave has a wooden roofing and the chevet, currently also in wood, was originally designed to receive a vault with crossed ogives. The remaining ribbing is supported by corbels of Manueline style.

Outside, the buttresses of the angles of the chevet are examples of the late 15th and the first quarter of the 16th century, as is the square planimetry of the chevet. Yet, the span providing access to the sacristy presents a frame of the Manueline period.

The main façade, oriented towards the west, features a broken arch entrance gate, with two archivolts, the latter decorated with semi-spherical elements, crosscut at the centre by a water shoot.

Each archivolt is supported on columns with capitals decorated with masks. Over the portal there is a crevice, surmounted by a small bell tower, interrupting the pediment.

The remaining walls, without any openings, except the ones in the sacristy, present only four stepped buttresses, two of which in the corners of the chancel and the remaining in the division between the latter and the nave.
Wall of the Chapel of Our Lady of Vale.

Leaning against the main façade is a porch of the previous period, but the corbels in the upper level indicate an even earlier porch.

The porch is supported by columns sitting on a small wall, crosscut sideways and at the front by an entrance with iron gates. Inside the porch and flanking the entrance gate to the nave there is a cylindrical baptismal font, resting on a decorated column and a cubic-based calvary.

The interior space of a single nave features a gilded altar on the side of the Epistle and a slightly broken triumphal arch, supported by thin colonnettes.

The placement of the pulpit outside the Chapel reveals the existence of pilgrimages, when the influx of devotees compelled to an open air celebration.

Surroundings
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In the scope of the Study for the Enhancement and Protection of the Monuments of the Route of the Romanesque of the Vale do Sousa, in which the guidelines and framework of the subsequent development of technical projects for implementation and respective works for the enhancement and protection of the surroundings were defined, the conditions considered most relevant for the preservation and requalification of the surroundings were described.

Surroundings of the Chapel of Our Lady of Vale.

The aim of this Study is to preserve the context in which these are integrated, namely the integration of constraints on legal provisions - such as Special Protection Areas - restricting urban interventions that may endanger the integrity of the surroundings.

We also proceeded to the definition of areas and interventions of general nature to take into account in the surroundings, in order to extend the planning to a wider area and allow better circulation of tourists in the region.

Finally, the Study defined the priority interventions to be carried out in the surroundings, to allow the stabilization of the territories and, simultaneously, correct and/or create structures and supporting infrastructures.

The diagnosis outlined by this Study on this monument reveals the need to safeguard and value the set that the three squares define within the space of Our Lady of Vale, and to take caution regarding the urban interventions taking place in the premises. 

Standardise the awnings and signalling of commercial establishments is another priority. At the same time the façades of the buildings should be valued.

The Chapel will be subject to specific lighting, and the supports for aerial pots, currently on streetlamps  shall be removed, and all visible cables will be installed underground.

The wash-house and the fountain shall be removed or requalified.

Restoration and Enhancement
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The back wall of the church was totally covered in fresco painting until, at an undetermined point, the placement of a wooden altarpiece led to its chipping.

The fragments that resisted this intervention featured great cohesion of the plaster and optimal adherence to their support, except in a small area.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Chapel of Our Lady of Vale.

The painting, according to the technicians who performed the recovery, represent six musical angels, three on each side of the central niche, with the upper ones playing wind instruments and the two at the bottom playing the harp.

One can not tell whom the upper angels are turning their eyes to because of the destruction of the closure area. The lateral walls of the niche are covered by decorative painting of a reduced palette upon a black background, and an underlying decoration may also be perceived.

The opening of two "windows" on the lateral walls of the niche allowed achieving greater cohesion of plaster with a significant layer of colour, executed in fresco, similar to the angels. Above is a tempera painting.

In order to protect the layer of colour of weaker cohesion, dry cleaning sponges were used, with particular emphasis in the white and colour areas, to enhance the contrast with the black background. Yet, the underlying painting was wet-cleaned.

Not all gaps were filled with lime mortar and low grain sand, because traces of an earlier fresco had been discovered, in the upper right side.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Chapel of Our Lady of Vale.

This finding is consistent with the existence of an earlier back wall.

A chromatic reintegration was performed, with watercolour, of the small gaps in the colour layer of the most recent paint layer, however the underlying paint coating did not undergo such process.

The joints of the back wall received a mortar of lime and sand of medium grain size in the filling in depth, after which they were subject to levelling by applying the same mortar used on the sidewalls. Then, two whitewashes were applied to erase the traces of dark blue plastic paint, concluding with a whitewash lightly pigmented with earth.

The wet-cleansing of the back wall of the chancel was conducted before proceeding to its consolidation.

The fresco painting was executed on thin fresh plaster, and the colour palette limited to white, black, earth colours and blue background. Probably the artist did not enjoy the intensity of the blue, so he applied it a thin layer of lime water, in order to smooth it.

The lateral walls of the chancel were, at first, white whitewashed, followed by a layer of lime mortar and sand of low grain size in the joints, in order to mitigate the huge gap between the filling with cement, but without any concern for total levelling.

Then, a first whitewash of lime pigment, similar to the one used in the back wall of the niche, and a second whitewash of pigmented lime were applied only in the stones.

Gallery
  • +Nave of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +Chapel of Vale

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  • +Mural painting of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +Corbel of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +Mural painting of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +Pulpit of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +Galilee of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +West portal of the Chapel of Vale

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  • +Chapel of Vale

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  • +Chapel of Vale

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Know More
Bibliography

AFONSO, Luís Urbano de Oliveira – A Pintura mural portuguesa entre o Gótico Internacional e o fim do Renascimento: formas, significados, funções. Lisboa: [s.n.], 2006. Tese de Doutoramento em História da Arte, apresentada à Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa. 3 Vols.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de – “Religiosidade popular e ermidas”. Religiosidade Popular - Studium Generale: Estudos Contemporâneos. Porto. Nº 6 (1984).

ARAÚJO, Agostinho – “A pintura popular votiva no século XVIII: algumas reflexões a partir da colecção de Matosinhos”. Revista de História da Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto. Porto: Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto. Nº 2 (1979) p.27-41.

AZEVEDO, José Correia de – Inventário Artístico Ilustrado de Portugal. Lisboa: Edições Nova Gesta, 1992.

MATTOS, Armando de – “A ermida românico-ogival da Senhora do Vale”. Douro-Litoral. Porto: Junta da Província do Douro-Litoral. Segunda série, vol. VIII (1947).

ROSAS, Lúcia (coord.) – Românico do Vale do Sousa. Lousada: Comunidade Urbana do Vale do Sousa, 2008.

SOALHEIRO, João – “Ex-Voto”. In Dicionário de história da Igreja em Portugal. Lisboa: Círculo de Leitores, 2000. Vol. II.

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