General Information
Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe   
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  • Name: Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe
  • Typology: Church
  • Classification: National Monument, by Decree 14 425, DG 228 of 15th October 1927, ZEP, DG 15 of 18th January 1951
  • Municipality: Penafiel
  • Patron Saint´s Day: Saint Genesius - last Sunday of August   
  • Visiting Hours: By appointment   
  • Support Services:
  • Telephone : +351 255 810 706 / +351 918 116 488 
  • Fax: +351 255 810 709 
  • E-Mail:  
  • Web: 
  • Location:
    Largo da Igreja, Boelhe, Penafiel, Porto.
  • Geographic Coordinates: 41° 8' 5.85" N / 8° 14' 33.41" W 

Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe  Mafalda, daughter of King D. Sancho I and granddaughter of King D. Afonso Henriques would be, according to tradition, one of the historical characters responsible for the foundation of this Church in the 13th century. The style of construction, much in the fashion for that period in this region, seems to confirm this.

Oriented with longitudinal plant, the Church comprises a single nave and a square chancel. It features articulated volumes, with a lower chevet.

As particular features, the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe features an axial portal with concave capitals, of great originality in the echinus and very successfully decorated, dug and almost graphical, which extends through the lines of ashlars. The frequent initials and acronyms suggest a work executed by a handful of craftsmen.

Historical Figures
D. Mafalda 
D. Mafalda
Princess D. Mafalda (1195-1256) was the daughter of King D. Sancho I and of D. Dulce de Aragão and granddaughter of King D. Afonso Henriques. Offered in marriage to
Henrique I of Castile, who would die two years later, she returns to Portugal to settle in the Monastery of Arouca. Her uncorrupted corpse remains there still.

The connection of Princess D. Mafalda to the region of the Tâmega and Sousa comes from the trust that King D. Sancho had in the Ribadouro family, putting the education of his legitimate daughter in the hands of Urraca Viegas, a daughter of Egas Moniz.

D. Mafalda
D. Mafalda
Princess D. Mafalda was the daughter of Amadeu III, Count of Moriana and Savoy, and of his wife Mafalda (or Matilde) of Albon, and was born in 1125 and died between 1157 and 1159. She became the first Queen of Portugal by marrying King D. Afonso Henriques, in 1146. She is buried in the chancel of the Church of Santa Cruz of Coimbra, alongside the remains of D. Afonso Henriques.

Tradition attributes the foundation of the Church of Boelhe to Queen D. Mafalda, famous for founding inns and bridges, which was considered, in the Middle Ages, as a work of piety and penitence. The queen founded a hostelry in Canaveses, where poor travellers were taken in and cared for, tradition crediting her with the bridge over the Douro river, in Barqueiros, and another bridge, over the Tâmega, as well as the passage boats “for God” in Moledo and Porto de Rei.

The foundation of the Church of Saint Peter of Abragão is also awarded either to the Queen D. Mafalda or to Princess D. Mafalda, daughter of King D. Sancho I and granddaughter of King D. Afonso Henriques.

D. Sancho I
D. Sancho I
Sancho I (Coimbra, 11th November 1154 - Coimbra, 26th March 1211), was nicknamed o Povoador [the Populator], by the way he promoted the settlement of people in the territory, namely through the creation of the cities of Guarda (1199), Gouveia (1186), Covilhã (1186), Viseu (1187) e Bragança (1187), resorting to immigrants from Flanders and Burgundy.

Knighted by his father, King D. Afonso Henriques, he takes on the throne at 18 years of age, in 1172, after an accident which impaired the king during the Battle of Badajoz, in 1169.

He was the leader, while Prince, of an offensive military campaign in Andalusia (1178), that earned him the support of his father and of the Portuguese population. In a counter offensive, the Almohads made several incursions between 1179 and 1184, while the kingdom of Leon also resumed its hostilities against Portugal.

Proclaimed king on 9th December 1185, King D. Sancho takes advantage of the death of the king of Leon, the absence of the sultan of Morocco in Africa and the support of an army of Crusades to plan a new attack against the Almohads. Once the Algarve was conquered, he takes on the title of King of Portugal and of the Algarve.

The Portuguese king was responsible for the restoration of the finances of the Kingdom and the promotion of the culture in Portugal and abroad.

Urraca Viegas
She was born around 1130, and was a daughter of Egas Moniz and Teresa Afonso, of the family of the Ribadouros.  Patron of the Monastery of Saint Saviour of Tuías, in Marco de Canaveses, she was a maid of Princess D. Mafalda, daughter of King  Sancho I and granddaughter of King  Afonso Henriques, who raised her as his own daughter, leaving her, in 1199, a considerable portion of his property.

Legends and Curiosities

The walls of this Church present set of geometrical and alphabetic initials, indicating the decorative work of at least six different masons. The pseudo-isodome ensemble reflects the excellence of the works, and the presence of initials may be explained by the need to account for each mason's work, whenever these were contracted per piece. 


3th century – Construction of the Church;

17th-18th centuries – Enlargement of the chancel;

1928 – Beginning of the restoration works;

1930-1932 – Reconstruction works: rebuilding of the walls, cornice, cornice ornaments and belfry; removal of all the existing mortar in the Church; disassembling of the bell tower; rebuilding of the primitive chancel; lowering and tiling the Church and chapel’s pavement;

1935 – Reconstruction works: disassembling and transfer of the chancel’s back wall to its original place, rebuilding of the nave’s crevices; tiling of the nave and chancel; placement of steps and landings in the main portico;

1936 – Reconstruction works: placement of three exterior doors, assembling and covering of roofs.

1950 – Restoration works: disassembling the entire South façade, repositioning all the elements in their original places; demolishing the walls that extended the transept and building its front in the place indicated by the foundations; disassembling and rebuilding the belfry; unblocking the nave’s lateral door; compressing the foundation; covering a door that existed in the main chapel’s North façade; restoring the triumph arch, pediment and crevices; building concrete merlons and a new coating; cleaning and repairing joints, placing stained glass windows; replacing the cross from the main façade; laying tiles in the nave and main chapel; placing the stone-made main altar; laying an external pavement around the Church; setting new doors; transferring the cemetery and general repairs to the churchyard;

1971 – Conservation works in the roofing and electric installation;

1986 – Conservation works and roofing recovery;

1998 – The Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe is included in the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa;

2003 – General conservation and enhancement of the building within the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa project, which included the archaeological follow-up in the probing led in the churchyard;

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


This monument is a fine example of the religious architecture of the Romanesque. It is a relatively low and architecturally very simple Church, with a single rectangular nave and square chancel, following the most common planimetry of Romanesque architecture in Portugal.

Plan of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

Despite this apparent simplicity, the quality of the walls is outstanding, quite notorious in the amount of engraved geometric and alphabetic acronyms. These elements reveal the prestige of the masonry trade, corresponding to the signature, a situation that became common after the early thirteenth century, in Romanesque architecture. In Boelhe, the frequent and repeated initials suggest that the Church was probably built by half a dozen masons.

Plan of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

Worth noticing is the sculptural originality of the capitals in main portal, composed of the beveled palmettes, typical of the rural Romanesque of the Tâmega and Sousa, graphitic ornaments of crosses within circles, ancient motifs, influenced by the Visigothic and Mozarabic periods.

Façade of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

In the South side of the main façade’s pediment remains the arch of the belfry or bell tower that housed the bell. Yet, on the south lateral façade, the modillions seem less carved, while on the north side the modillions present motifs ranging from bull heads to men carrying stone, or even geometric elements.

Façade of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

The reason for this difference lies in the fact that the north façade was not intended to be covered by buildings. This exuberance in the decoration of the modillions highlights two of the main features of national Romanesque: the variety and the desire to impress.

Façade of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe


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 Genesius of Boelhe

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 interventions to implement around the property are of corrective nature and intend to strengthen the identity of the monument. Priority should be given to the enhancement of the new Church square, including the remodelling of the street lighting system, the safeguarding of any construction that may be erected behind the cemetery and the upgrading of the buildings near the road that makes the connection to the N312 .

Among the interventions of general nature, it is important to maintain and clean the forest cores, integrate the nearby unit for exploration and processing of inert materials and consolidate and maintain the slopes of the valley till the river Tâmega, by preventing or conditioning the erection of any building.

Restoration and Enhancement

In 2003, the Church was subject to an intervention for works of general conservation and enhancement of the property, which included work in the roofing, batters, pavements and spans, in decorative elements and electrical wiring, as well as in the churchyard and its wall and accesses, including site drainage.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

The ceramic coating in all the roofing of the Church was raised, as well as the slabs, the casings and gutters. The decayed and degraded parts of the liner and the joisting were removed and the woodwork of the structure was restored, including an anti-xylophagous treatment. All wooden elements received a finishing with melted beewax, applied with a brush.

The joints in the crowning of the batters which border with the coverage were subject to cleaning and treatment, namely with full removal of cement mortar in the cover finishing, concluding its repointing with lime mortar and sand to which a water repellent product was added.

The granite elements, including cornices under the edges, bell tower and crowning of the gables, underwent a cleaning treatment which included washing with water and a brush, without resorting to abrasive mechanical means and chemicals, with particular care in areas of carved stone.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

New joisting and new lining were applied to replace the removed parts, identical to the existing wood, among other interventions made in the roofing, particularly with regard to the laying of tile in the fibre-bituminous corrugated slab and the application of roof fans, one millimeter thick lead plates in the crowning of the elements in granite and tile, with subsequent placement of self-adhesive asphalt tape.

Regarding the batters outside the Church, the mortar was removed and the masonry joints of the exterior batters were cleaned; the joints were sealed in depth with traditional lime mortar, crushed stone and sand grain of varied sizes and free of salts and organic matter, to which a water repellent product was added.

The cleaning of the outer and inner batters was made by washing the masonry work with sprayed or atomised water and a soft nylon brush without resorting to any chemicals or mechanical means.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

The mortars were removed and a deep cleaning of the masonry joints of inner batters was performed, followed by its re-sealing with mortar and lime, crushed stone and sand grain of varied sizes and free of salts and organic matter, to which a water repellent product was added. This procedure was also followed for the inside flooring.

The wooden doors were all repaired, including the stripping of existing paint, the revision of the hardware and the dismantling of the electrical cabinet door to install a new one.

The crevice frames and rosette have been subject to full review, including sealing, replacement of damaged or missing metal parts, replacement of damaged or broken stained glass by identical ones, fixings and finishings.

Restoration and Enhancement of the Church of Saint Genesius of Boelhe

Finally, the electrical wiring was completely revised in the property premises, including replacing the cabinet, the removal of interior lighting projectors, which were replaced by other ones in new locations, and the installation of outdoor lighting embedded in the churchyard pavement to illuminate the property.

As far as the exterior is concerned, the intervention involved the lifting of the flagstones in the perimeter of the Church and the probing of the subsoil as well as the execution of bed and waterproofing of the exterior batters of the building, the placement of drainage tubes in soft PVC and the execution of inspection pits. A herbicide, compatible with the granite of the property, was used to clean the vegetation in the perimeter flagstones and on the walls of the churchyard.

The intervention was concluded with the execution of works on the landings and stairs of access to the churchyard, including the demolition of part of the west wall, required to widen the access to the churchyard, and with the implementation of a surface drainage channel and the application of new paving in the churchyard.

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  • +Capitals of the west portal of the Church of Boelhe

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Know More

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ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de – História da Arte em Portugal: arte da Alta Idade Média. Lisboa: Publicações Alfa, 1986.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de – História da Arte em Portugal: o Românico. Lisboa: Publicações Alfa, 1986.

ALMEIDA, Carlos Alberto Ferreira de – História da Arte em Portugal: o Românico. Lisboa: Editorial Presença, 2001.

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CARDOSO, Luiz, Pe. – Diccionario geografico, ou noticia historica de todas as cidades, villas, lugares, e aldeas, rios, ribeiras, e serras dos Reynos de Portugal e Algarve, com todas as cousas raras, que nelles se encontrão, assim antigas, como modernas. Lisboa: Regia Officina Sylviana e Academia Real, 1747-1751. Vol. I e II.

COELHO, Manuel Ferreira – “O Concelho de Penafiel nas Memórias Paroquiais de 1758”. Penafiel – Boletim Municipal de Cultura. Penafiel: Câmara Municipal de Penafiel. Terceira Série, nº 4 e 5 (1987-88).

COELHO, Maria Helena da Cruz – Arouca: uma terra, um mosteiro, uma santa. Arouca: Real Irmandade da Rainha Santa Mafalda - Museu de Arte Sacra de Arouca, 2005.

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.

DGEMN – Monumentos: Boletim da Direcção Geral dos Edifícios e Monumentos Nacionais: número 62. [CD-ROM]. Lisboa: DGEMN, 1998.

GRAF, Gerhard N. – Portugal Roman. Yonne: Zodiaque, 1986 – 1987.

GUSMÃO, Artur Nobre de – Românico Português do Noroeste: alguns motivos geométricos na escultura decorativa. Lisboa: [s.n.], 1961.

PASSOS, C. de – Penafiel Antiga. Igreja de S. Gens de Boelhe. In Boletim da Câmara Municipal de Penafiel, Penafiel: Câmara Municipal de Penafiel. (1931).

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

SANTOS, Reynaldo dos – O Românico em Portugal. Fotografias de Mário Novais. Lisboa: Editorial Sul, 1955.

TOMÉ, Miguel – Património e restauro em Portugal. Porto: Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto, 1998. Vol. I, II e III.

VASCONCELOS, Adriano M. Strecht de – Lendas e tradições de Castelo de Paiva: poemetos. Porto: Gráficos Reunidos, 1981.