The Church of Saint Mary of Veade retains significant portions of Romanesque architecture that immediately suggest us the existence of a large ostentatious building during this period. However, despite their regional character, these elements still constitute one of the best works by our Romanesque artisans.
The origin of this Church lies probably on a small hermitage, founded on private property, which in the 13th century associated itself to the Guedeões lineage. The inscription that, engraved on a granite ashlar, was inlaid on the north side wall of the Church’s nave, close to the portal, on its left side, may well be a proof of this circumstance: SUB : Era : Mª : Cª2 : X’ª : VIIª / OBIIT : FAMULA : DEI / MIONA : DOLDIA : GOMEZ.
This is the funerary inscription of D. Dórdia Gomes which, by being referred to herein as Miona, would likely be a person of high social position. The designations Miona, Miana or Meana, derive from the expression mea domina or mea domna and were used only within a very restricted group of “ricas-donas” [wealthy women] of the 12th or 13th century.
Their high social status would be combined with the piety for having often been involved in the founding of monastic houses. Thus, having died in 1159, it is possible that Dórdia would have somehow been related to the origins of the monastic institution which the “Inquirições” [administrative enquiries] of 1220 designate as monasterium de Bialdi, although the Church of Veade was already a parish temple by then.
Despite the uncertainties about this female figure, who was buried in Veade, there is a later reference that can only be associated with her. The “Inquirições” [administrative enquiries] of 1258 mention the name of D. Dórdia Peres de Aguiar, best known for being the mother of the Master of Santiago, D. Peres Paio Correia.
This lady who belonged to the region’s nobility was the great-great-granddaughter of the first person from the Guedeões or Guedaz lineage, whose area of influence was between the Douro, Minho and Trás-os-Montes. The canon Gomes Alvites who, before 1258, unexpectedly sold the Church and all the farmhouses to the Order of the Hospital, would have likely been a relative of D. Dórdia.
Knowing the private churches system, which entitled rights and assets to the descendants of a specific founder, it is somewhat surprising to find a single individual taking control over a vast heritage that should be in the possession of several people.
The Church, primarily a smaller temple that the inquiries of D. Afonso define as the monasterium of Biadi, would have been a hermitage offering easements to the hermits, a common typology among the first family cenobies, some occupied by family members themselves, others handed over to the management of strangers who devoted themselves to living in solitude or in small groups.
It is likely that this chapel was followed by a bigger and nobler building – perhaps due to the intervention of the Guedeões, namely at the hand of Gomes Alvites, related with the clergy of Braga -, of which significant portions remain embedded in the current edification.
However, the most remarkable investment in the ecclesiastic space would later occur under the responsibility of the commanders of Moura Morta, whose job was to reap the benefits and to present the mother church’s prior or vicar of the mother church and, later on, of the affiliate, annexed or suffragan church’s priest.
As the author of the Memories of 1758 explains, “the edification of the Mother Church and Annex and Churches runs all on account and expense of their Patrons”. These patrons, represented by the Commander, did not refrain from leaving their mark and symbols of authority and prestige. Perhaps due to the need to rationalize the commendatory heritage management, which was scattered and vast, Veade joined the commendation of Moura Morta.
This parish, which nowadays belongs to Peso da Régua, became the seat of one of the commendations of Malta yielding 113$352 réis [former Portuguese currency unit] in the 17th century, a benefit that was then handed over to D. Luís Coutinho.
Among the commanders of Veade, we highlight the name of Diogo de Melo Pereira (d. 1666), who had the houses of Commendation built in 1641, as stated in the inscription found under the stone crest: ESTAS CAZAS MAN/ DOU FAZ[ER] O COM[ENDAD]º[R] / DIOGO DE MELLO P[ERE]Y[R]A / DE BERTIANDOS. / NO. ANNO DE / 1641.
One of the bailiffs who followed him was Friar Martim Álvaro Pinto, the person responsible for the great reform conducted on the small medieval Church, according to the taste of the Modern period, which is a good reflection of its mentor’s origin and status.
In the inscription commissioned by Commander Martim Álvaro found over the portico of the Church of Veade, we learn a little bit more about his origin : ESTA IGR.A MANDOV REEDIFICAR DE NO / VO. O COMENDADOR FR MATIM [SIC] ALVARO PINTO / DAFONS.A E SOUZA DA CAZA DE CALVILHE / ANO 1732
Therefore, it is within the context of this family and of the Institution of the Order of Malta that we should understand the important reforms conducted in the Church of Veade in the 18th century and that, in some way, contradict or at least minimise the common idea that the commanders only profited from the benefits they were provided with, without giving anything in return.
The investment in buildings or rebuilding works, despite being expensive, allowed their mentors to leave a mark of their prestige and power, often stimulating the influx of believers, pilgrims or offerers to the new or renovated space.
1159 – Meana Dordia Gomes was buried in Veade;
13th Century – The private Church of Veade was associated with the Guedeões lineage;
13th Century, 1st half – Construction of the Romanesque edification of Veade, of which some significant portions remain;
1220 – The “Inquirições” [administrative enquiries] of D. Afonso II mention the Monasterium de Bialdi, although the Church of Veade was already a parish church by then;
Before 1258 – The canon Gomes Alvites, from Braga, sold the Church of Veade and all the farmhouses to the Order of the Hospital;
1641 – Construction of the Commendation Houses, commissioned by Diogo de Melo Pereira (d. 1666);
1732 – According to the inscription engraved on the main portal’s lintel, the Church of Veade was rebuilt by Commander Friar Martim Álvaro Pinto, of the House of Calvilhe (Lamego);
18th century, 2nd half – Design of the Church’s contents: liturgical furniture, woodwork and imagery;
1967 – Restoration works in the Church of Veade;
1980-1990 – Restoration of the altarpiece;
20th-21st century – Redevelopment of Church’s surrounding area under the Celorico de Basto Town Council’s responsibility;
2010 – Integration of the Church of Veade in the Route of the Romanesque.
Architecture and Furniture
Based on the existing traces, we can place the construction of the Romanesque church in the first half of the 13th century. We can appreciate the side portals from this period, despite the fact that they were moved during the Church’s reconstruction in 1732, by Commander Friar Alvaro Pinto, of the House of Calvilhe (Lamego), according to the proof provided by the inscription that tops the main Baroque portal.
It is important to take into account that this reconstruction forced the reorientation of the Church reorientation, with the addition of a new chevet, now placed to the west, which is larger than the one that would have been possible to have within the primitive Romanesque chancel’s area.
Therefore, it is built in contradiction to the rules of Romanesque architecture: the present east-facing façade of Veade is directly opposite to the Commendation Houses, built in 1641 by the Maltese Diogo de Melo Pereira. A monumental public space was created here, much to the Baroque style and respecting the regional scale.
The main façade – of a Baroque, but quite contained, nature -, contrasts with the language of the nave’s side elevations where significant Romanesque portions were preserved and side portals were opened on both sides.
According to the only description we have of the medieval Church, dating back to the first quarter of the 18th century, the Romanesque edification had a high quality; its triumphal arch and main portal, as well as the side portals are elements that stand out.
Several loose parts, which are kept in the outbuildings of the Church itself and in the Archaeological Museologic Centre (a space adjoining the Celorico de Basto Municipal Library), may belong to the former.
The two portals, which stand in their original place, are profusely decorated, featuring decorative themes that are in line with these loose stones. Besides the archivolts adorned on both sides (with several decorative motifs like pearls, vegetal and phytomorphic themes), identical to the ones found in the north portal’s external archivolt, there are portions of chequered friezes and capitals where we can identify the common theme of the Tâmega and Douro basins, clearly influenced by the Braga Style, interpreted as alluding to the scene of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den”.
The current position of the portal, now to the north, is nonetheless curious. Almost in the middle of the façade it is devoid of its primary function, as a result of the lowering of the floor that occurred when the adjoining road was opened.
In the south portal, which is better conserved, the pair of double-tailed mermaids that adorn the first voussoirs in each of its archivolts stand out. The capitals, in which vegetal themes prevail, let us imagine the quality that the main Romanesque portal would have had.
Inside, however, few elements from the medieval organization remain. The entire space was changed in order to receive the foundation of several side and collateral altars, which maintain their original position.
Their language suggests that some of them, showing a Mannerist style, may be prior to the rebuilding of 1732, while others, from which the utmost example is the largest ostentatious and scenographic altarpiece, already incorporated Baroque motifs, of the so-called National or Joanine style, in their design.
Here, the Eucharistic throne was overtaken by the semicircular dome and by a pelmet on which curtains, held by two angels, are hung. The excessive use of putti (little angels, sometimes represented without wings), birds, floral motifs, twisted columns and other elements emphasize its monumentality and scenography.
The tile skirting that adorns the chancel’s side elevations surely belongs to this same period. Using cobalt-blue on white, in accordance with the common practice of the time, the vases adorned with flowers are framed by edgings that fit into the most usual motifs used in the 18th century.
Besides the large number of imagery pieces, which reflect the devotions of their commissioners, of different periods and of the place itself, we highlight the existence of two paintings; one is dedicated to the Calvary (in the Crucifixion altarpiece); the other shows, face to face, the bishops Saint Blaise and Saint Fructuosus (in the Saint Anthony altarpiece)
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