Tavira, in Portugal’s Algarve, has so many churches that I often walk by without a backward glance. Taking our customary first day stroll back in April, I spotted a sign outside the Church of Santa Maria do Castelo. An invitation to a temporary exhibition of Sacred Art. My curiosity piqued, nothing for it but to step inside.
Photos were not allowed within the exhibition space, so I contented myself with absorbing the atmosphere of the empty church.
The Church of Santa Maria do Castelo is a 13th century building, rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755. Believed to be on the site of a former mosque, as the name suggests, it is perched up on the hill beside the castle. All that remains of the castle are a few walls and an evocative garden.
Within the church lies the tomb of the seven knights of Santiago who, according to legend, were killed defending the town from an ambush by the Moors. The wood carving is exquisite.
One of more than 30 churches in and around Tavira, this link will give you a brief introduction, if you are at all interested. Until the end of August, 12 of the towns churches will be open during the week, so now is a good opportunity to take a look.
Some of the artwork is overly decorative and not to everyone’s taste but it is set in a serene and beautiful white space, and the ceilings are wonderful.
As I slipped out of the door I paused to capture an angelic wood carving, and incurred the wrath of the curator. I had forgotten to take the flash off my camera. Be warned!
I left feeling very guilty, but I hope that, if you’re in the neighbourhood, you’ll stop by.