On the main road from Lagos to Sagres, between the villages of Figueira and Raposeira, there is a small isolated church, dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe, where it is known that Prince Henry the Navigator1 (1394 - 1460) attended Mass.
Rumoured to have been originally built by the Knights Templars in the 13th Century, this ermida, an isolated chapel, was one of the earliest to be dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe in Portugal. The miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe took place in 1320, in Caceres, Spain, when a shepherd discovered an image of the Virgin. Immediately, this image was attributed to the workmanship of St. Luke.
The first known invocation of Our Lady of Guadalupe was by King Afonso XI of Castile (1312 - 1350) before the Battle of Salado against the Moors2, on 29 October, 1340. King Afonso IV (1325 - 1357) of Portugal was also there, with his forces in support, and as a result this cult was brought into Portugal.
Afonso XI of Castile greatly enriched Guadalupe, the Spanish sanctuary, which became an important pilgrimage site between the 15th and 17th Centuries. This pilgrimage was believed to be of particular benefit to navigators and mariners as, along with the Virgin, St Luke is a patron saint of sailors and prisoners of war, and their ransom in particular.
The Raposeira chapel is about three and-a-half kilometres inland, but not far from Sagres, Cape St Vincent and the many sheltering bays of the south coast of Portugal. Therefore, its position was convenient for visiting sailors. On the other hand, the area was also depredated by pirates, raiding parties and corsairs. Accordingly, the Commission of Ransoms for the area, which arranged the recompense to be paid for the safe return of prisoners of war from the Moors, was set up here by King Afonso IV in 1352.
It is known that Prince Henry the Navigator, son of King João I and Philippa of Lancaster, owned property in the area of Raposeira and it was here that he entertained the Venetian explorer, Luis de Cadamosto, in 1452. The land adjoining the chapel has pertinencies to Quinta da Raposeira, where some farm ruins have been dated to the 15th Century.
The chapel is built of a local reddish-colour sandstone, the corners, buttresses, doorways and arches contrasting sharply with the body of construction, which is whitewashed3. A simple tiled ridge roof covers the nave and sacristy. Two gargoyles shoot the rainwater from the sacristy4 roof through the wall on the south side and over the vestry.
Inside, the space is illuminated further by two small windows in the north wall and a door and larger window on the south side, together with the double gothic window in the east wall of the sacristy.
The rectangular sacristy is vaulted with human heads, animal and plant motifs on the bosses and capitals. The ox is the symbol of St Luke and human heads, fish, ropes and nets symbolise the essence of the sea and captivity.
A small vestry leads off to the south.
For its seeming remoteness, this is a large building, overall covering some 220 square metres, where upwards of 400 people could have gathered to attend Mass.
The chapel is visible from the main EN125 road, and sign posted on a brown monument sign onto an access road.
There is a knowledgeable curator at the church every day except Mondays, from 9am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5pm. Closed Good Friday, Easter Sunday, 1 May and Christmas Day.
The Ermida de Nossa Senhora de Guadalupe is a Portuguese National Monument.
Municipio Vila do Bispo - Igrejas e Capelas (Leaflet)
Instituto Portuguesa do Patrimomio Arquitectonico - Guide leaflet in English
Guia Turistico e Ambiental - Concelho de Vila do Bispo (multilingual)
The Portuguese National Monuments site - search in the Architectural Heritage Directory for Faro/Vila do Bispo/ermida or Faro//ermida will give you a complete list of the ermidas in Faro district.