Church of the Saviour of Ribas – Celorico de Basto

The toponym Ribas derives from the uneven sloping ground, into which the parish is integrated. The Church of the Saviour itself is a synonym of this spatiality, as it is built on a halfway up a hillside overlooking the river Veade, a tributary of the Tâmega.

According to tradition, the origins of this space date back to the 12th century when a small monastery was founded by the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine in this place. Although the “Inquirições” [administrative enquiries] of 1220 and 1258 make no reference to the existence of this monastery, the truth is that tradition and certain chronicles have associated the foundation of the Church of Ribas with certain legends: D. João Peculiar, the archbishop of Braga, would have taken responsibility for the monastery’s foundation and protection following a visit to the region, and after learning about the many miracles worked by a picture of the Saviour of the World located in this place, inside a hermitage.

Later he would have asked D. Mendo, a religious man, to come from Coimbra to take the chair of monastery prior. D. Mendo’s body would perform miracles, long after his death, in 1170.

According to the legend, in the mid-16th century, the grave of D. Mendo would have been opened and it was found that the lower part of the feet and legs were intact and still wearing shoes. To the Canons of Saint Augustine this was a sign that the aforementioned religious man had only walked in the service of God, and that would be the reason behind the incorrupt feet.

Regardless of the legends and uncertainties about the monastery’s foundation, we know that it had desirable incomes, to an extent that in 1320 it contributed with the sum of 350 Portuguese libras to support the Crusades.

By this century it was part of the heritage of the Order of Christ, where it would remain roughly until the 16th century, when its management is transferred to the commendatory abbots. However, several attempts were made in order to return it to its founding Order again, but these were unsuccessful. The Cardinal-Prince D. Henrique always showed his opposition regarding this claim. In the following century, in 1617, the rents of the commendation of Ribas amounted to 215,000 réis [former Portuguese currency unit].

The early 18th century marks the monastery’s decline. In 1727, it was already in ruins. By this time, its Commander was D. Diogo de Sá Correia e Benevides, the third Viscount of Asseca. Twenty-one years later, the rapporteur of the parish memories no longer mentions the monastery.

In turn, the construction of the Church of Ribas was probably finished around 1269 according to the inscription made in a reused ashlar from the Church’s bell tower. This date marks the end of the building works, as the first reference to its existence dates back to 1240 when it is mentioned as ecclesiam de Ripis.

Considering this date, and bearing in mind the way in which churches were built in Romanesque times when, as a rule, the construction began by the chevet and, once this had been consecrated, it was possible to celebrate religious services while the building works for the remaining temple went on, we might suggest that in 1240 the chevet of Ribas would have been built, since it was already considered as being the House of God.

History

12th century – Probable existence of a hermitage where the Saviour was worshipped;

1220 – The “Inquirições” [administrative enquiries] of King D. Afonso II mention that the Church of Ribas were not part of the royal patronage;

1258 – The witnesses of the “Inquirições” [administrative enquiries] of King Afonso III mention that the patronage of the Church of Ribas belonged to some knights and governors;

1269 – Probable date for the edification of the subsisting Church;

1320 – The Church of Ribas is taxed in 350 Portuguese libras to support the Crusades;

1565 – The date suggested by tradition for the exhumation of the body of the blessed D. Mendo, who would have been buried here in 1170;

1726 – The only trace of the worship of the blessed D. Mendo is the tooth that was used against the bite of mad dogs;

1758 – The Church had four altars and there is no mention to traces of the cloister and/or monastic outbuildings;

1878 – Pinho Leal says that part of the monastery still existed and served as the parish priest residence;

1970 – Records about building works in the Church, made at the parish’s expense;

2000-2001 – Records about building works in the Church, made at the parish’s expense;

2010 – Integration of the Church of the Saviour of Ribas in the Route of the Romanesque.

Architecture and Furniture

The Church of the Saviour of Ribas presents itself as a space that preserves several principles and particularities of its Romanesque building, despite the architectural solutions that were adopted in later centuries, which are visible, for example, in the bell tower, from the second half of the 18th century.

Surrounded by private and community support buildings and decorated with a front garden – where the bust of Father Magalhães Costa and a stone cross commemorating the Centennial stand -, this Church, dedicated to the Saviour, features a longitudinal plant consisting of a rectangular nave and chancel, a bell tower, a parish hall, a side chapel and a sacristy.

We should highlight that its Romanesque plan is well preserved, in terms of its exterior and homogeneity, expressed in its walls that do not display any marks which may indicate interruptions or changes in the primitive design; therefore, this Church was likely built in a single phase.

Another Romanesque feature becomes apparent in the decorative coherence shown by the pearls in relief that appear in the two main portal archivolts, in the crevice at its top, in the cornices of the main façade’s gable, of the triumphal arch and of the chevet’s back wall, as well as along the side cornices of the nave and the apse. This same decorative motif is also visible in its few corbels.

The composition of the gables’ terminal crosses, the presence of narrow crevices, the layout given to the south side portal, the corbels that suggest the prior existence of a sheltering porch, are other elements which lead us to consider that this space was built in the mid-13th century.

In the Church’s walled churchyard, close to the back façade, and despite its poor condition, we can still see another Romanesque trace: the old font, with its bowl, foot and circular and smooth design.

Despite the fact that its exterior takes us to a Romanesque context, the same cannot be said about its interior. The only exception is its triumphal arch, in which the capitals are almost repeating the decorative scheme found on the main portal: foliage in relief is clinging from these, showing a reduced volume and matching a composition made by small aligned pearls in the ensemble of the Church’s exterior.

Otherwise, the Modern period is especially prevailing in its interior, with the use of the Mannerist and Baroque styles. From this new environment, we may highlight the presence of frames, on the Epistle side, leading us to assume that there were changes during the Modern period, perhaps during the campaign that opened a rectangular window on the same side of the chancel’s wall.

In terms of gilded woodwork, we highlight the main altarpiece, of Mannerist inspiration, though deeply marked by later additions that sought their model in the Baroque style. In fact, the remaining ornamentation of the altarpieces shows the presence of artistic styles that marked both the 19th and the following centuries.

Of the imagery ensemble that enriches the interior of this Church, we highlight the 17th-century image of the Lady of the Valley, in upholstered wood, and the 18th-century sculptures of the Most Holy Saviour and of the Virgin of the Rosary.

We should note that the main altar restoration works, carried out in the 1940’s, uncovered reasonably well-preserved wall paintings, which are located in the chevet, behind the aforementioned altarpiece: at the centre, there is a large-sized image of the Saviour; to its right there is a figuration of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and to its left, there is what may be a part of the Annunciation scene.

Regular guided visits

By appointment.

Building

Church of the Saviour of Ribas
Lugar de Cerdeira, Ribas
Celorico de Basto
Portugal

Opening times