The Festa Areias, Ferreira do Zêzere is a feast in Honor of Our Lady of Grace (Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Graça das Areias) and is held annually in August and is a three day event that entails a great deal of organisation. This post concentrates on Areias town, the church of Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora which was the first Portuguese church where I attended mass at Christmas and is in the immediate vicinity of where I live in this beautiful country.
I cheated here a bit on research of both the church itself and Areias as I wanted to understand more what the festa was about and some of the lower text here is a copy and paste, for those interested, from a Portuguese government website.
Areias itself has a long history and is declining significantly in population. Over the past hundred years it has lessened by some two thousand people to around thirteen hundred now if not less. Many that reside here are elderly and still work the fields daily. There are more deaths than births unfortunately and this is of great concern to the local authorities. In reality, nothing much can be done as time marches on with less opportunities and interest by the young that is very understandable. This is not only the case here, but for much of Portugal’s inland areas.
Areias Local History
Occupied since the Paleolithic, the territory that constitutes the town of Areias integrated the domains of the old castle of Waxes, located in Tomar. This fortress, as well as all the territories that belonged to it, were donated to the Templars by D. Afonso Henriques in 1159, and after the extinction of the Order of the Temple in 1312, the goods that this had in Portugal passed to the instituted Order of Christ. Thus, in 1321, when the Order of Christ divided its territorial domains into several commendations, the settlement of Areias was designated by the Grand Master D. João Lourenço headquarters of the commendation of Pias.
The town’s main church was founded in the 15th century, with reports of its existence in 1489 (SEQUEIRA, Gustavo de Matos, 1949). This date undoubtedly corresponds to the beginning of the construction of the temple, since the chancel was sent in 1502 by D. Manuel, and the sacristy was completed in 1510 (Idem, ibid.).
Dedicated to Our Lady of Grace, the church was rebuilt around 1548, in a construction campaign led by João de Castilho (SERRÃO, Vitor, 2002, 67), the architect responsible for the great works of the Order of Christ at the time of the reform Undertaken by Frei António de Lisboa. The temple retained the structure of Gothic taste, with rectangular plan arranged longitudinally, whose interior space is divided into three naves. The facade of the church, transformed into the campaign of João de Castilho, presents an advanced body of three registers, in a model of tower facade , where it was built on the ground floor the Galilee resting on robust Ionic columns and covered by ribbed vault. In the second register was placed a niche with Balanchine, on which was opened the window that illuminates the choir-high. In the last record the bells were opened, and a gable finishes the set.
Inside, several perfect back arches resting on Ionic columns mark the layout of the ships, covered by wooden ceiling. The main chapel is covered by a vault of ribs whose spaces between ribs are totally decorated with brutesco painting , possibly executed in century XVII. The keys of the vault are decorated with the Cross of Christ and the shield of Portugal, embossed in relief. The side walls of the main chapel are covered by panels of blue, yellow and yellow tiles of the 16th century, and in the center was placed the retable of baroque gilded carving. In the interior decorative program, the stone altarpiece, built in the first side chapel on the side of the Gospel, dating to 1596 (SEQUEIRA, Gustavo de Matos, 1949), stands out as a Mannerist model of erudite lines. The church as of late has been beautifully restored where this was completed just a short time before my arrival here.
My Visits to Areias Today in Photos
It’s only a short distance to Areias from where I am and I visited twice. On my first visit, it was just to hot to be walking around for too long so I returned early evening and was able to enjoy the lighting also. The church I feel is magnificent both externally and internally and other aspects of the area are just a beautiful in the own right even if not kept well. The images are in photographic order. The festa is held around the church grounds.