This church is hard to miss, sitting high atop a hill overlooking the city of Penafiel, about 40km east of Porto. This church is also hard to say all in one breath. Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Piedade e Santos Passos (Igreja do Sameiro) translates to Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy and Holy Steps (Sameiro Church) in English. We spent the day around Penafiel because I wanted to pay a proper visit to the city and photograph this church against a blue sky to make up for the one other time I’d passed through, a year ago on a cloudy day enroute to Amarante. I remember the first time I saw the church and how dramatic it looked from the road, but when the sky is white the photographs turn out flat. On Sunday the weather was much more co-operative, and the sandy colour of the church was the perfect contrast to the backdrop of blue.
Igreja do Sameiro is one of many churches around Portugal with two and sometimes three names, much of that owing to their long histories. Information about this church was hard to come by on the internet, and after some research, I found only one website (below) with much detail about it. The building looks quite new, but according to the website its construction began on February 1, 1886, and was only fully completed on July 14, 2002! Needless to say, with the blood, sweat, and tears invested into this 116-year project, it is a great source of civic pride for Penafiel.
The site is in Portuguese, but check out the aerial views of the church to see the architectural details from above:
We spent some time in the surrounding network of park and gardens, which include ponds, bridges, water features, and sculptures. I remember a year ago remarking on how skilled the builders are who make the concrete look like wood. It’s an aesthetic I haven’t seen anywhere outside of Portugal (at least to the degree where it looks that natural), and the first time I noticed it was in Penafiel.
The church has an unparalleled view of Penafiel from the steps of the sanctuary, and I had a look inside while Paulo supervised Ice. There’s a sign on the door prohibiting photography in the interior of the church, but since the church attendant was standing right there I thought I should ask him permission to take photos from the doorway facing outwards to the town. He agreed and watched me taking the pictures, and then suggested that I go inside to take photos because I didn’t use a flash.
So for anyone reading this and wondering whether I ignored the No Photography sign, I did not. (I’m the person who only photographed the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel after a raging case of the guilts and much hemming and hawing and my friend poking me to hurry up and take a picture already, because every single person around me was ignoring all the signs and pre-recorded warnings and the guards were ignoring the tourists’ blatant disregard for the prohibition.) Anyway, all that to say: promise the attendant you won’t use a flash to take pictures of the inside of the church and hopefully you’ll have the same outcome.
I usually take many more interior photos of churches versus their exteriors, but as you can see I was quite taken with this one. You can find more photos of Penefiel in the (growing) album.
Penafiel is about a half hour drive east of Porto
January 25, 2015
Album: Penafiel [JAN 2015]