The Church of São Francisco


Tavira, in the Eastern Algarve, has a reputation for restoring her many churches.  In the years I have been visiting I have marvelled at some of the changes wrought.  Still it is a thrill to turn a corner and find another, ripe for renovation.  If you look closely at the gallery below, you will see what I mean.  Exposed bare plaster scars the walls and alcoves.

Previously I had only been into the gardens, the church being always locked.  Just occasionally the gardens would be padlocked too, and I’d feel a sense of deprivation.  A quiet bench, the overgrown trees dappling patterns onto ruined walls, somehow they provide a warm and soothing space.

Still, it was a revelation to venture inside this church.  First appearances can be deceptive.  A curtain veiled the entrance to a side chapel.  Stepping through a little cautiously, I was utterly unprepared for the figures that greeted me there.


The Church of São Francisco has met with it’s share of disasters.  Since construction in 1272 it has suffered 2 earthquakes (in 1722 and 1755), a landslide in 1843 and a fire in 1881.  Perhaps it’s time it had a little luck.  Should you find yourself in Tavira and the church happens to be open, please deposit a few coins in the collection box.  It may help speed the recovery.

This might not be what Paula had in mind for Traces of the Past this week, but it’s an opportunity to share with you Thursday’s Special.



  1. Jo, these are breathtaking!! 😀😀 The figures are amazing, so tender in their expressions. The restoration is wonderful but wow, what an undertaking and I’d love to visit and leave some money in the collection box. I’m touched that the churches are being rescued and restored, such love, care and time showered on them – we all gain in the process! 😀

  2. Wow! What a find Jo. I love those sculptures in their individual alcoves, it is something I’ve never seen in a church. When we see churches or cathedrals overseas Hubby usually stays outside while I venture in to see the art and how the interior is decorated, it is fascinating. I hope that they get the funding they need to restore that church 🙂

  3. Taken right back to Catholic childhood of Mass on Sundays … looking at statues of Saints … The Virgin Mary et al .
    Struck some kind of chord long forgotten . Such a beautiful Church … since 1272 really surviving against the odds ! Lovely share Jo .

  4. Oh my that sounds like a very big run of bad luck! Being in Canada I always have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea of a building being constructed in the 1200’s! You have captured it beautifully Jo.

    1. There are more than 20 churches in the town of Tavira, Patrick. Many of them are in good repair and over time the local council has been implementing restoration. It’s an expensive and time consuming business. 🙂

  5. I hope it gets restored, it’s beautiful. However, I Have to say that those life sized statues freak me out, I’m not a fan of Baroque statuary, let alone when they have real human hair!

  6. Churches seem to attract all kinds of people, even pagan witches like me, I can never resist one. I really hope they find enough money to restore this one to glory and it needs to be sooner rather than later. I see that someone else finds the figures creepy, can’t remember where I saw some, perhaps where I saw the Fado, but they give me the heebie jeebies.
    Hope your cold clears off for the weekend babe, doing anything exciting? 🙂

    1. They just finished the one by the bombeiros, Gilly, and I haven’t seen it open yet. I’ve loved the gardens of this one ever since we found them, years ago. Such a nice surprise to find it open. 🙂 Nothing much this weekend. James will be home sometime on Sunday for his Monday birthday. Hopefully we’ll have some idea how things stand with the job then. How about my favourite pagan witch? 🙂

  7. Thank You showing this beautiful church. Always when on travel, I visit to churches and admire the art inside them. Our churches are very modest, because parishes are poor.

    1. I’m often astounded at how elaborate the Catholic churches are, Sartenada. I sometimes think that the wealth would be better spent helping the poor but these art works go back and back in time.

  8. I hope I’m not alone , noticing a particular innocent expression on the statues’ faces
    This reflects the Portuguese people’s mind , on my opinion….
    Your find is extraordinary , thanks for this fabulous share!

  9. Those figures are amazing. And the church is so old, I think there is something lovely about old churches they are comforting. Shame about the earthquakes. I hope you didn’t get a fright when you pulllec back the curtain.

  10. Having just seen the marvellous film “Silence” these statues of saints had a real relevance for me. They are amazing, as someone else said above, the material looks like porcelain and as though they’d just been manufactured. Almost too realistic. I’m glad you went there and are able to share this with your readers.

  11. You know I always like to have a nosy around a church and this is a good one if only for its unexpectedness! They do ornate well in Portugal don’t they? Some of the statues do look very modern, like those porcelain dolls you see – do you know what they are of? Saints? I would love to be sitting on the bench alongside you in the garden, having a natter.

    1. Yes, they’re saints, Jude. Unlike me 🙂 🙂 I said to Meg I don’t have much info on the churches but I can tell you that St. Anne is featured and the sculptures are from 18th century. I’d have to sit on a different bench so as not to infect you 🙂 🙂

  12. So simple on the outside and elaborate on the inside. When I was reading your post and looking at the photos, it occurred to me that this church might fit well in the “ambience” category, which is the WordPress photography prompt this week…

  13. A beautiful post. The lead figure in the last lot of photos has such a modern face. How recent are the statues? I’d love to sit in the garden, breathing in tranquillity. Can I join you?

    On the subject of church restoration did you see walkingwoman / Iceland penny’s recent posts on church restoration in the Andes? I think I owe my pleasure in her posts to Monday Walk. So thank you.

    1. They’re described as ancient Gothic in the text, Meg, but it’s quite hard to track down facts on local stuff. I’ll have a look later. 🙂
      I don’t know Iceland Penny! Will have to look her up too. Off to provide some lunch for Mick.

      1. I’m hopeless and suffering from attention deficit. I’m slowly registering that you’re viral; that my sickness if not the only one in the universe. I hope you fight it off quickly with Jo vigour. I’ve never been a fan of broken shifts, and that’s how our childcare is panning out. I’ll blame it for not sending curative hugs sooner. There’s a truckload of them now.

  14. Stunning . . . . . . I’ve not even been in the garden! On the list now to explore (fingers crossed it will be open when we go) perhaps on the day we try the restaurant you recommended 😀

    1. I had thought that because it’s the right area of town. 🙂 🙂 So much to do, so little time! I’m working my way through some training modules for the RVS and watching the Oz tennis. Have a happy day!

      1. You are a superstar creating a perfect afternoon for us 🙂 thank you x

        Love the fact you are multi-tasking! We are huddled indoors today, despite the weather forecasts saying cold but sunny it is freezing and the odd rain shower out there at the moment! Such a change from Tuesday when I was in shorts and Tshirt. Still at least it means I can catch up on emails, posts, blogs and stuff without feeling guilty I am not out exploring 🙂

    1. There are so many churches in Tavira, Tish! Impossible to keep up with the history of them all. It’s wonderful thought that they are all gradually being restored. I haven’t managed to get inside all of them yet and this one was a huge bonus. 🙂 🙂

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