General Information
Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde 
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  • Name: Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde
  • Typology: Church
  • Classification: Public Interest Monument, by Decree 740-DU/2012, DR 248, of 24th December 2012
  • Municipality: Felgueiras
  • Patron Saint´s Day: Saint Mammes – 17th August   
  • 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:
    Rua do Românico, São Mamede, Vila Verde, Felgueiras, Porto.
  • Geographic Coordinates: 41° 18' 17.190" N / 8° 10' 55.612" W 
History
History
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Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde before the restorationThe most ancient documents refer the existence of a Church of Saint Mammes in 1220, then integrated in the patronage of the Monastery of Saint Mary of Pombeiro.

However, the current building corresponds to a later reform, already in mid Gothic period, although it still resorts to the Romanesque construction.

The "Inquirições" [administrative enquiries] of 1258 indicate that D. Mendo de Sousa settled in the place of Vila Verde in 1258. The chapel would, most probably, be erected in the 13th century.

Martim Anes and his sister, Maria Anes, donated the Quintã of Vila Verde to the Monastery of Pombeiro, on the 20th February 1301.

Some details of the frescoes that we may admire today in the chancel were painted by Master Arnaus, in the 16th century. The tiling and plastering decorated with painting is still visible in the nave. The patron saint was Saint Mammes.

For a long time in ruins, without any roofing, the Church has suffered the effects of weather and neglect.  This neglect would have begun after 1866, when a new parish Church was built in Vila Verde. In 1959 it had already lost its roof.

Historical Figures
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Master Arnaus
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.



Martim Anes 
Ensign-chief Martim Anes Ribavizela commanded the troops alongside Gonçalo Mendes de Sousa, in 1211-1216, in defence of the sisters of King D. Afonso II who protested against the usurpation of their lands.



Gonçalo Mendes de Sousa
Imagem de Gonçalo Mendes de Sousa
Gonçalo Mendes de Sousa, the Good, was born in 1124. He was the son of Mem Viegas de Sousa and was a counsellor of King D. Afonso Henriques who, in 1155, gave him a royal estate in the "Couto" [place of privileges] of Pombeiro and recognized as lord and ruler of the “Terra” [territory].

D. Gonçalo de Sousa chose the manor of Unhão for his residence and erected the local Church, dedicated in the year 1165, by Archbishop of Braga D. João Peculiar. It is said that, that same year, King D. Afonso Henriques was welcomed in his home, having then occurred an erotic episode, narrated in the “Livro de Linhagens” [Book of Lineages] of Count D. Pedro and later resumed as the theme of the curious historic novel, titled “O Pecado de D. Afonso Henriques” [The Sin of King D. Afonso Henriques], written by playwright D.  João de Castro.

Gonçalo Mendes de Sousa died on 5th October 1179. In his last wishes, he chose the Monastery of Pombeiro as his grave, leaving to the monastery all his estates of Basto, three pounds of Church of Margaride, five pounds of the Church of Saint Verissimus, the Church of Samarim to remake the sacred vestments and tower (current home of the “Paço” [Palace] of Pombeiro) that he built for hospice and inn for those pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela.

Legends and Curiosities
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Saint Mammes has a reputation as a protector of cattle, hence the location of this Church, in an area devoted to grazing.  The saint would have been a shepherd and martyr of Caesarea, in Cappadocia.  In the desert, he would have built a place of prayer where he preached the Gospel to wild animals.  An angel told him to use the milk of the animals to make cheese and offer it to the poor.

Saint Mammes

The Emperor Aurelian persecuted Saint Mammes, eventually condemning him to be devoured by a leopard, a lion and a bear.  These, however, refused to attack Saint Mammes and, instead, knelt at his feet.  After suffering countless martyrdom, the relics of Saint Mammes were transported to Italy, Germany and France.

Chronology
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1220 - Registration of the parish and Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde;

1258 - D. Mendo de Sousa settles in the place of Vila Verde, according to the "Inquirições" [administrative enquiries] of 1258;

1301 (Feb. 20th) - Donation of the Quintã of Vila Verde to the Monastery of Pombeiro by Martim Anes and his sister Maria Anes;

14th century - Rebuilding of the Church;

16th century - Interior remodelling, changes to the chevet and mural painting campaigns;

18th century - Construction of the sacristy;

1866 - Construction of the new parish Church of Vila Verde;

19th century - Abandonment of the temple;

20th century (1940s) - Transferring of the graves to the new parish cemetery;

1959 - The Church had already lost its roof;

1998 - The Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde is included in the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa;

2004/2006 - Construction works, under the responsibility of the DREMN – Direção Regional de Edifícios e Monumentos do Norte [North Regional General Directorate for Buildings and Monuments], under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa;

2015 - Works for the general conservation of the Church, under the scope of the Route of the Romanesque.

Specialities
Architecture
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Vila Verde is a building of religious architecture, with a late Romanesque style, of longitudinal plant, composed of a single nave and rectangular chancel.  There are traces of a fresco coating in the chancel.

Plan of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

The orientation of the Church follows the canonical rules, ie, with the main façade facing west.  The rectangular chevet, following the regular scheme of medieval Portuguese architecture, takes on the parochial function and is narrower and lower than the nave.

Façade of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

One of the main features of the Romanesque of the Tâmega and Sousa relates to the longevity of the construction models. This monument follows this rule, because the construction techniques, the plant and façades are characteristic of the Romanesque architecture, however, at the time of its construction, the Gothic style had already been predominant for a long time. 

 Façade of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

Specific elements, such as the arrangement of the portals and the use of flat corbels, help to identify the period in which the Romanesque churches were built.

Façade of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

 

In the chancel there are frescoes, finished with decorative frames, in hues of gray, red ochre and white.  The side walls of the nave show ochre-coloured stucco, painted with a red organic linear design.   

Façade of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

The trapezoidal sarcophagi, in granite and with no lid, externally flanking the main portal belong to the founders Martim Anes and his sister Maria Anes.

Archeology
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The Church suffered an archaeological intervention from June 21st to July 6th, 2005, aiming to understand the constructive solution in the binding of the triumphal arch to the chancel, in order to adequately inform the architectural design on the articulation of the different floors and assess the existence of archaeological restraints to the execution of the works planned for the use of the temple.

According to locals, the graves in the Church would have been transferred to the new cemetery of the parish, during the 1940s, therefore those responsible for the archaeological work did not expect to find primary traces of burials.

The excavations began in the interior of the chancel, the triumphal arch and the northern side of the nave.  We then proceeded to the graphic and photographic survey of the flooring and numbering of all items for an eventual reassembling in the paved area of the chancel.

The collected estate was subject to a preliminary cleaning, marking, inventory and classification, and temporarily stored in the facilities of the Archaeology Unit of the University of Minho, comprising 175 fragments of different types of materials, from contemporary glass, modern and contemporary ceramics, associated with the secondary context of the landfills listed after the transference.

A coin, two ceramic rosary beads and a small wooden crucifix, coated with copper plate, dating back to the 19th century were also found.

In the initial phase of the excavation, it was possible to conclude that the foundation trench of the modern triumphal arch cuts the feet of one of the modern sepulchral cavities, plus the basement of the south pillar of the original medieval arch.  The latter extended further south, determining a lower span.

The excavations have clarified that the dialogue between the nave and the chancel, confirming the existence of an original gap between one space and the other and that the widening and elevation of the triumphal arch did not translate into any change at the level of quotas as the report of the archaeological works refers.

The deep and almost total revolving of the Church's ground was also confirmed, as a result of the transference of the graves to the new cemetery in the mid-20th century.

The altar was disassembled and the chancel received a new paving, resorting to original elements, including parts of the stone corresponding to the altar table.

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.

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.

Surroundings of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

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 landscape surrounding the monument requires the stabilization of the plotting to the east, thus not allowing its extension to the west.

The landfills located here should be subject to planning, interrupting them or removing them partially, in order to restore the visual relationship between the Church and the valley.

The implementation of the football field and of the respective parking lot created a site that should be subject to study and integrated in the rehabilitation of the area.

The streets near the monument should be redefined in order to create parking lanes and sidewalks, as well as the lighting will have to undergo some changes as not to disturb the visual contact. The aerial cables should be buried.

Restoration and Enhancement
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The Church was subject to works of conservation and enhancement, in which we proceeded to the restoration of the mural paintings. These were in a worrying state of degradation as a result of the prolonged state of ruin which the building was subject to.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

According to those responsible for the restoration, the painting extends across the entire back wall of the chancel and goes on till half of the adjacent walls.

In the nave, there is a painting at the end of the side walls, near the wall of the triumphal arch, in a status similar to the previous one.

The restoration began by the dry removal of the mosses and lichens that covered the painting and the daily application of a specific product for the prevention of living organisms and to facilitate their removal.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

Roots were found between the plaster and the support, thus being immediately removed.  This was followed by a wet cleaning, possible only due to the exceptional of the original plaster.

The gaps were filled in depth prior to the application of the final plaster, for which a mortar with two parts of white sand, one part of yellow sand and one part and half of lime, plus a small portion of black stone powder, was chosen.

Those responsible for the restoration chose not to perform a chromatic reintegration due to the excessive fragmentation of the painting.  In parallel, we proceeded to the washing of the batters of the nave, which presented remnants of whitewashed plaster.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

The back wall painting corresponds, according to the researchers, to a campaign from the beginning of the sixteenth century and can be divided into two distinct parts.

The upper part is filled with a decorative composition of botanic elements involving a central coat of arms.  The lower part is divided into three vertical areas representing three figures of saints.  There are two monks with miter and crosier: to the left, probably Saint Benedict, and to the right, probably, Saint Bernard.  At the centre would stand Saint Mammes, despite the large number of missing elements.  These images are finished by a winding-bar-shaped frame.

On top of the composition there are traces of a second pictorial campaign, which would cover the entire back wall, extending till half of the side walls.  In the latter, it is possible to observe a representation of arms marked by stamped decorative motifs.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Mammes of Vila Verde

In the nave, the fragments found on the side walls should be part of the first campaign of the chancel.  The plaster of the upper and lower layers has, on both sides, a central gap, and features a decorative painting with a repeating pattern of red and black quatrefoils.

Gallery
  • +Mural painting of the Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Mural painting of the Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Chevet of the Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Nave of the Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Corbels of the south façade of the Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Church of Vila Verde embedded in the landscape

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  • +Main façade of the Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Church of Vila Verde

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  • +Church of Vila Verde

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  • +South façade of the Church of Vila Verde

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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.

AFONSO, Luís Urbano de Oliveira – “Arnaus: um fresquista do Renascimento”. In SERRÃO, Veríssimo (coord.) – O largo tempo do Renascimento: arte, propaganda e poder. Casal de Cambra: Caleidoscópio, 2005. p. 212-221.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de – Patrimonium: inventário da Terra de Sousa: concelhos de Felgueiras, Lousada e Paços de Ferreira. [CD-ROM]. Porto: Etnos, 1995.

BESSA, Paula – “Pintura mural em Santa Marinha de Vila Marim, S. Martinho de Penacova, Santa Maria de Pombeiro e na Capela Funerária anexa à Igreja de S. Dinis de Vila Real: parentescos pictóricos e institucionais e as encomendas do Abade D. António de Melo”. Separata de Cadernos do Noroeste. Braga: Universidade do Minho. Série História 3, vol. XX, nº1-2 (2003) p.67-96.

BOTELHO, Maria Leonor – São Mamede de Vila Verde: um testemunho tardio do românico do Vale do Sousa. Felgueiras: Município de Felgueiras, 2011.

CRAESBEECK, Francisco Xavier da Serra – Memórias ressuscitadas da Província de Entre Douro e Minho no ano de 1726. Ponte de Lima: Edições Carvalhos de Basto, 1992. Vol. II.

FERNANDES, M. Antonino – Felgueiras de ontem e de hoje. Felgueiras: Câmara Municipal de Felgueiras, 1989.

FONTES, Luís; CATALÃO, Sofia – “Intervenções arqueológicas no âmbito da Rota do Românico do Vale do Sousa”. In Actas do I Encontro de Arqueologia das Terras de Sousa. Oppidum - Revista de Arqueologia, História e Património. Lousada: Câmara Municipal de Lousada. Número Especial (2008) p. 257-281.

MALHEIRO, Miguel [et al.] – “Torre de Vilar”. In Estudo de Valorização e Salvaguarda das Envolventes aos Monumentos da Rota do Românico do Vale do Sousa: 2ª Fase. Porto: [s.n.], 2005. Vol. II.

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

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