Santa Maria do Castelo

Such a gentle expression

Such a gentle invitation

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.

Peaceful in prayer

Peaceful in her alcove

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.

The wood carving is  outstanding

The wood carving is outstanding

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.

The azulejo panels are also incredibly beautiful

The azulejo panels are also incredibly beautiful

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.


  1. 🙂 I’m glad you forgot to take the flash off 🙂 The same thing happened to me when I was shooting those frescoes in Istria (the one I took you walking with me ;)) This is a beautiful place, Jo. I absolutely love that angelic carving 🙂 🙂


  2. The wood carving was so intricate and detailed. I’m always so over whelmed at the amount of work, dedication and money that has gone into building the churches of the past. You have done a great job of showing it to us Jo, thank you.


  3. You chose the right word to describe the carving,
    I always enjoy your blog, you pick subjects I like and photograph them expertly.
    Because of the dedication religious art and architecture it is good.
    Regardless or what religion I like to visit them all.


    1. I expect we could have a great discussion on beliefs, Jack, and I’m sure your knowledge is far wider than mine. I’m just drawn to beautiful subjects. Thank you for your kindness 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have a couple of lovely shots of the bell tower and the floodlit facades. Sweet memories 🙂
      On the seafront at Great Yarmouth now. Not quite the same 🙂


  4. Thank you for reconciling me a bit to decorated church interiors: partly thanks to you and partly thanks to the serene Madonna. Your photos are superb, especially of the carvings, which I would never have taken for wood.


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