The monastic ensemble of Cárquere shows the passage of several construction periods, which explains the scarcity of visible Romanesque traces. Despite the fact that it underwent many transformations according to the aesthetics and tastes of different periods, there is still a topography with a Romanesque flavour that prevails mostly in the spatial organization of the monastic ensemble.
The fact that the original cloister was placed on the left side of the Church, that is, to the north, justifies the positioning of the Resendes pantheon, the lords of the land, as an independent chapel.
On the opposite side, i.e., on the south side, we find the structures of what has been called as the "conventinho" [little convent], which contributes to emphasize the multiple meanings of the rich spatial articulation of this built ensemble.
Comprising two floors, which can be accessed through a straight-lintel door found on the ground floor, this structure is difficult to date, given the vernacular nature of its masonry work. The existence of multiple scars shows that it was subject to several transformations.
However, the quadrangular and rectangular corbels place its chronology sometime within the Middle Ages, though they do not allow us to establish a specific chronology; therefore, we believe that this structure was built after the construction of the Romanesque Church.
This volume is connected by an arch to that which has come to be known as the custodian's house. However, we should notice the persistence of scars in its upper register, suggesting an extension of what used to be the "conventinho" [little convent] to the south or, alternatively, the existence of a passageway that allowed a connection between the monastic structure and the custodian's house.
The entire ensemble is topped, on its southeast corner, by the robust crenelated tower that was built on a granite outcrop, with a clear Romanesque layout. This structure, with a defensive and manorial nature, may have been built on the same period of the monastic ensemble, which some authors date back to the last quarter of the 12th century or already to the 13th century.
Returning to the Church, the chevet may have been built in the turning of the 13th to the 14th century, still within the Gothic style, as evidenced by the mullioned window with a small three-lobed oculus on the front wall, which is only visible from the outside, because inside it is hidden by the main altarpiece.
The structure chosen for the vault also refers us to the Gothic aesthetics, with ribs resting on columns, placed on the corners and closed by a finial. We should also notice the wide opening that, composed of a broken arch dotted by pearls, allows the access between the chancel and the existing sacristy.
On the outside, the corbels suggest the same chronology: with a rectangular shape and predominant geometrical ornaments, some are dotted with pearls. However, interestingly enough, on the north side we identify a corbel in which there is a carved human figure resembling a bearded man sitting with his legs crossed. Due to the fact that it has a more quadrangular shape than the others, this corbel cannot be a reuse of a piece from the Romanesque construction.
The most likely situation is that this chevet replaced a previous Romanesque one. Only a section remains from this period; it is found on the existing nave, in the wall face on the Epistle side, as suggested by the three walled-up crevices that are clearly visible from the inside.
Therefore, what we may conclude is that there was a clear reuse of the Romanesque construction during the Manueline transformation of the nave's volume. The mason's initials on the Church's south wall certify its chronology as a Romanesque building, besides confirming the good quality of its construction.
However, in the Church, and besides the wall on the Epistle side, there are still some prevailing traces, or reminiscences, from the Romanesque Period. We refer ourselves to the oculus that, on the main façade, surmounts the Manueline portal. Moreover, confirming a usual feature of most Romanesque buildings, we find a Romanesque crevice over the triumphal arch, whose imposts show a chequered motif. The archivolt is embedded in the thickness of the wall itself.
Aesthetically, the triumphal arch is clearly Gothic, not only due to the large diameter of its span, but also due to the fact that its three archivolts - which are still round - show carved capitals with a refined language, in which floral and phytomorphic motifs prevail.
However, it is on the tomb chapel of the Resendes that we find this ensemble's most significant Romanesque sections. Featuring a rectangular plan and opening to the space where once stood the cloister, the funeral chapel of the Resendes keeps four granite chests inside, whose monolithic lids are shaped as gabled roofs.
Being about two meters long each, the ones placed on the left side of the chapel are framed by an arcosolium.
We highlight the crevice found on the front wall. Composed of two round archivolts, this crevice is ornamented, both on the inside and the outside. On the inside, a geometric language prevails, with carvings in relief on both archivolts; the inner archivolt has a zigzag motif, while on the outer one we identify a chained rope-shaped motif.
However, if we look at it carefully, we can see that the voussoirs in this archivolt are not fully connected in terms of the motifs they depict, which leads us to believe that, for some reason, this crevice may have been reused, belonging to a different area of the building.
That episode may make sense if we take into account the chronology assigned to the tomb chests kept in the pantheon and the fact that it is believed that the chapel may have already been built in the 15th century by Vasco Martins de Resende, according to the information contained in his will from 1433.
On the outside, the geometric-flavoured motifs of the crevice's outer archivolt stand out, while on each of the inner archivolt's voussoirs the highlight is put on the animals that are all facing forward and curving along the arch, which are not too modelled and show plenty of graphic elements.
We stand before the so-called beak-heads, imported from the Anglo-Saxon culture and that, according to Manuel Real, became very popular among us as a result of the Benedictine action that spread out from The Church of Saint Peter of Rates (Póvoa de Varzim), showing an obvious familiarity with the figures depicted on the triumphal arch of Tarouquela (Cinfães), on the portal of the tower of Travanca (Amarante) and on a single voussoir from the cloister of Paço de Sousa (Penafiel).
These archivolts rest on sculpted capitals where, on one side, we find birds with their necks contorted and, on the other side, a bird with open wings whose head meets the capital's corner.
Under this crevice there is a section of a frieze in which intertwined motifs stand out. The quality of this ensemble demonstrates the magnitude and artistic talent that the Romanesque Church of this Monastery must have had.