Tavira Churches

Igreja de São Pedro Gonçalves Telmo (ou de Nossa Senhora das Ondas)

This chapel was constructed in the early 16th century being commissioned by The Corporação do Corpo Santo, commonly known as the Mariner and Fishermen´s Association.
An important part of tavira’s popular layer in the 15th and 16th centuries was composed of fishermen and mareantes, who joined the Holy Corps Corporation, commonly known as Maritime Commitment. Of a religious nature, this association of corporate solidarity or brotherhood ensured the regulation and arbitration of professional aspects of the class and planned assistance in sickness, old age, disability and poverty in relation to its members. We know that the Tavira corporation has been since the 15th century, and has already taken on the need to build a house that reflected, to a fair extent, the prestige and relevance of the class of fishermen and mareantes of the city. There is virtually nothing left of this primitive 14th century temple, which is renewed by the richness and modernity of the aesthetic proposals of the Renaissance during the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Under the sign of this style and by deliberate mecenaic stimulus of the noble Menezes family – Marqueses de Vila Real, Condes de Alcoutim and usufrutilia, by royal concession, the rents of the tavira customs toll – important campaigns were promoted in the building, which came to update the architectural forms and artistic collection according to classical and Italianizing criteria attributable to the probable intervention of the well-known master André Pilarte. The triumphal arch, still visible today, marked the Renaissance form that extended, according to the accounts of the time, to other elements such as the main portico and altarpiece stands out. The earthquake of 1755 caused damage to the building, determining its restoration and partial reconstruction by the hand of the famous algarvio master-flower site Diogo Tavares and Ataíde, in terms adjusted in contract between it and the Confraria do Corpo Santo in 1756. The temple was then restored with maintenance of the chancel, reconstruction of the walls of the nave and updating of language in the new portico, now with triangular pediment closed, topped the royal weapons – synonymous with royal protection – wrapped in a rocaille decorativism. The damage inflicted by the earthquakes, the repair interventions of the temple and the natural changes of artistic taste came to consume much of the 16th century works that remained there, causing its decorative collection to be updated, essentially, within the molds of the 17th century Baroque. In this chapter, the valuable painting of the illusional perspective of the church ceiling, a work of skillful scenographic flavor executed by the Tavirense Luís António Pereira in 1765 and one of the rare and most important pieces of this artistic discipline in the Algarve province, should be highlighted in this chapter. From the remaining movable and integrated heritage of this temple is noted the importance of a set of altarpieces, paintings and sculptures, of which stands out the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Waves (seventeenth century). These and other iconographic expressions represented in this church, patented in its altarpieces, help to unravel the main devotional practices that underpinned the spirituality of Tavirian seafarers during the Old Regime. In general, artistic works are present here to support the worship practiced in a space inhabited by watering people: the will to protect the sacred powers against a sinister sea is manifested and the veneration of the patron saints of the travelers, the holy protectors of the paths and those whose lives counted as they had mastered and exceeded the same bad weather, attacks and shipwrecks that so ate the sailors are accentuated – the representations of Lady of the Waves and saints as St. Pedro Gonçalves Telmo, São Pedro or São Francisco de Paula, among others. After several statutory reforms imposed by the Constitutional Monarchy throughout the 19th century, this and other Maritime Commitments were extinguished and replaced by the former Fishermen’s Houses, created by the Corporate New State (Law No. 1953 of March 11, 1937). The extinction of the Fishermen’s Houses after April 25, 1974 determined the passage of the church to the possession of the Pension Fund and Family Allowance of Fishing Professionals and, later, in 1992, to the Regional Center of Social Security of the Algarve.

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