Church of Saint Isidore of Canaveses – Marco de Canaveses

Having integrated the “julgado” [jurisdiction] of Santa Cruz, the parish of Santo Isidoro grew around a cult that became hagio-toponimic, revealing both its venerability and its importance during the progress of local Christianization (or of resistance, in times of occupation).

Saint Isidore of Seville was a Hispanic bishop of the 7th century and if, as Pierre David refers, the fact of not being a martyr places him as the patron of churches built after the 9th century, it is nonetheless revealing of the presence of this invocation, so close to the paths of the Reconquest, along the banks of the Tâmega.

Father Carvalho da Costa locates the building at “Couto” de Travanca [place with privileges], in 1706; this was a regular abbey with an income of approximately 250 thousand réis [former Portuguese currency unit]. Twenty years later Francisco Craesbeeck confirms the patronage, stating it was an “old and sacred” Church, but with no tabernacle. In 1758, the Abbot João de Freitas Peixoto provides us with more comprehensive information, giving a more focused description of Santo Isidoro, his parish.

It belonged to the archbishopric of Braga and reported, spiritually and ecclesiastically, to the province of Entre-Douro-e-Minho and to the municipality of Santa Cruz do Tâmega, of which the Count of Óbidos was the done. In secular terms, it reported to Guimarães, since it belonged to its judicial district.

Within the reorganizing impulse of the 19th century, the parish became part of the judicial district of Amarante, of the municipality of Marco de Canaveses and of the Diocese of Porto, being transferred to its territory in 1882.

The Church of Saint Isidore, built on the right bank of the river Tâmega, stands out by the fact that it shows a very well-preserved structure of Romanesque flavour, with a single nave and a rectangular chancel.

Inside, in addition to the smooth exposed granite wall faces livened up by narrow crevices, there is a simple triumphal arch, slightly broken, without any ornamental elements.

Deprived of its altarpiece ensemble, the Church of Saint Isidore appears nowadays in the eyes of the visitor as a bare space due to the deep restoration works it underwent in 1977, which uncovered a series of high-quality mural paintings located on the chancel’s back wall and on the ones that stand right next to it.

We are in the presence of a pictorial set that, besides being dated back to 1536, was signed by the painter Moraes. Very little or nothing is known about this artist, besides the fact that he had some influence within the Renaissance atmosphere experienced in the geographically close urban area of Porto, at the time of the patronage of the bishop of Viseu, D. Miguel da Silva (1480-1556).

Located on the back wall, the painting presents itself as a triptych, divided by two yellow columns. The central panel showed, naturally, the figure of the patron saint of the Church, Saint Isidore; nowadays, around the Romanesque crevice, we are only able to see the ends of his mitre and crosier and the lower part of his mantle.

We find the saint’s head in a stone fragment, which is displayed in the chancel. The patron saint was once flanked by elegant female figures wearing in courtly clothes: the Virgin and Child and Saint Catherine of Alexandria; the latter was holding the sword and the wheel of her martyrdom, having the severed head of the pagan emperor responsible for her death at her feet.

False architectures create a scenic sense. On the adjacent walls, on the Gospel side, we have Saint Michael weighing souls and defeating the dragon and, on the Epistle side, Saint James is depicted as a pilgrim.

Regarding the pictorial collection, we should also highlight two oil paintings, one on wood and another on canvas. The former, from the 17th century, depicts the Calvary scene and the latter, from the 19th century, shows the well-known model of the Immaculate Virgin.


1115 – First reference to Santo Isidoro de Ribatâmega;

13th century (2nd half) – Possible construction of the Church of Saint Isidore of Canaveses, according to the remaining Romanesque traces;

1520 – The parish appears documented as being dedicated to Santo Isydro;

1536 – Date inscribed on the remaining mural painting panel of Saint Isidore, accompanied by the signature Moraes;

18th century – Saint Isidore is shown as belonging to the patronage of Travanca;

1976 – Discovery of the mural painting of Saint Isidore;

1990s – Records regarding several conservation works;

2010 – Integration of the Church of Saint Isidore of Canaveses in the Route of the Romanesque.

Architecture and Furniture

The Church of Saint Isidore has a single nave and a rectangular chancel; it is a fine example of Portuguese architecture from the Romanesque period, considering its simple construction, which is precisely the result of the juxtaposition of two rectangles.

On the main façade, an elaborate portal, composed of three torus-shaped and slightly broken archivolts, shows a surrounding arch made up of billets. In terms of the impost, we have the typical motif from Braga, which we may also find in other buildings from the Tâmega basin (as Tarouquela and Saint Christopher of Nogueira, in Cinfães); here it extends itself along the entire façade, much like a frieze.

Carved in deep relief, we have inverted hearts that are joined by pairs of loops. The palmette motif from Braga is also well-known; this drawing, of classical origin, is a result of the palmette’s simplification, leaving only its external outline. We find it on the south side portal of the Braga Cathedral.

The two internal archivolts are supported by columns with their capitals, since the external one is resting directly on the wall faces. The external column on the observer’s left is prismatic, whereas the other three have a smooth cylindrical shaft.

The capitals are all different and have a fine design that combines phytomorphic motifs with other motifs, of vegetal nature. The tympanum, resting on a lintel with its corresponding corbels, shows a cross “pattée”. Over the portal, a small four-lobed oculus brings light into the nave.

It is likely that there were porch-like structures on both side façades, a feature corroborated by the existence of corbels set halfway up the corresponding wall faces. If, on the north side façade, these are smooth and square, on the opposite façade a few feature ornamental motifs.

On the south side façade, the presence of an eave over the corbel level confirms the existence of a porch-like structure on this side of the Church. The side portal would be sheltered under this element, with an apparently simpler structure than the one of the main portal, pointing us to a later chronology: two slightly broken archivolts with sharp edges fall within the thickness of the wall itself, resting directly on their walls.

Were it not for the presence of a tympanum with a hollow cross, identical to the one on the main façade, and we could say that this was a typical example of a portal framed within what has been called as the “românico de resistência” [resistance Romanesque]

However, the obvious colour difference between the granite in this tympanum and in the remaining ensemble leads us to believe that we stand before a tympanum built on a significantly later period than the one under study; we might even call this period as neo-Romanesque, corresponding to a construction date which is extremely hard to specify.

The Church’s interior is illuminated by narrow crevices that open up the walls of the nave and the chancel, including also the back wall. In both of the bodies that shape this Church, there are series of corbels, which are more elaborate on the south side, that remind us of the north side façade of the Monastery of Roriz (Santo Tirso), despite the fact that, in Saint Isidore of Canaveses, these are not supporting any cornice on little arches.

On the north side, the corbels are simpler, mostly flat and rectangular, corresponding to a model which is more common in the Tâmega basin area.

Inside, in addition to the smooth exposed granite wall faces livened up by narrow crevices, there is a simple triumphal arch, slightly broken, without any ornamental elements.

Regular guided visits

By appointment.

Opening times

Celebrations: Saturday – 5 pm and sunday (only on summer) – 8 am.


Church of Saint Isidore of Canaveses
Lugar da Igreja, Santo Isidoro
Marco de Canaveses