Palm Saturday – if there is such a thing – in Caminha

Thursday, March 31, 2016, 11:59
Main square in Caminha with fountain
Main square with fountain in Caminha

On the Saturday before Palm Sunday we decided to have a day out in Caminha, a small market town on the estuary of the River Minho which looks across to Spain. The cold March weather seemed to be keeping the townsfolk at home. Even the cafes round the fountain in the main square were devoid of customers. It was as though the place was sleeping before the festival which would take place on the following day.

We headed for the riverside where the remains of the town's defences surround the 15th century Igreja Matriz, the parish church.

To see more of Caminha and its parish church click here.
Door of the Igreja Matrix with details of carving

Built like a fortress, this is the kind of Portuguese church I like best. Solid, simple and unpretentious, the outside is of plain faced stone, which sets off to perfection the west door and round window above. With its fish, stone mermen and fishy-tailed sea monsters, no one could doubt that this is the church of a sea-faring people.

Round window above the west door of Caminha parish church

The same contrast of simplicity and ornament is evident inside too. Though the side chapels have busy baroque altars, the plain nave terminates in a small apse where a simple table serves as the high altar beneath a stone ribbed roof. Three ungilded statues and a crucifix are the only decorations on the wall.

Interior of the parish church, Caminha

Above the slim columns are traditional tiles of a pleasingly uncomplicated design. This restraint is the perfect foil for the church's surprising roof made of wood in an ornate, Moorish-style.

Moorish style wooden roof of Caminha parish church

As you can see, the church is dressed for Palm Sunday, with palm branches curving over the aisle. Here too we were alone except for one lady who was making sure that all was prepared for mass.

We didn't see Palm Sunday in Caminha, when undoubtedly the church was full and the town bustling. We were in Ponte de Lima for the traditional procession instead but that is for another post.

Do you have a favourite church in Portugal? Are you, unlike me, a fan of the baroque? Do write in and tell us.  If you are Portuguese, please feel free to write in your own language. You don't have to write in English. (O que é importante não é a língua mas a contribuição.)

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