An open door

s bento 4Today we’ll be taking a short trip to Gerês, in the North of Portugal.

Gerês has been mentioned here on the blog a lot of times – it’s a common destination for anyone who wants to spend time in Nature, enjoy the thermal baths/spa or just have a good time enjoying the food, looking for examples of unique architecture or even hiking.

bear grylls
No thanks, I’ll pass!

So today I’ll be talking about a religious monument which is a must see in Gerês, whether or not you’re a religious person. It has a unique architecture and some beautiful painted tiles, a cross between the old azulejo and modern techniques. This sanctuary is known in Portuguese as São Bento da Porta Aberta, which translates as Saint Benedict of the Open Door.

Yes, you read that right Mr. Tsoukalos!

The sanctuary was characteristic for keeping its doors open at all times, even at night. Why was that? As you might have guessed it, there’s a legend for that!

Shortly after the original church was built something strange happened: the statue of Saint Benedict was found outside the church, on a tree top, even though the doors had been locked all night. The statue was brought back inside and the doors were closed again. Still, on the next morning the statue of the saint was, again, on top of a tree. This went on for a few more days until the people of the village gathered with the priest to decide what to do.

Nobody had any idea as to what it meant and after much discussion they reached an agreement: The doors would be substituted for metal railings, so that people could look at the saint even on the days when it was closed.

Today, right next to the 19th century church there’s a modern sanctuary (which opened in 2002) and it seems like the architect drew inspiration from the legend because you find only one door (as far as I remember).

s bento1No thick stone walls, lots of open spaces and plenty of light.

On the outside there’s a series of big coloured tiles depicting the life of Saint Benedict and some passages of the Bible.

s bento 2One of my favourite features here, besides the beautiful tiles, are the several stone “windows” allowing you to enjoy the view.

s bento 3I like to visit religious monuments for their art and history, all the legends and stories related to them.

Does your country have any legend similar to the one I shared? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


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  1. great site, was there more than once… it’s very peculiar and people should see for themselves, it’s a fascinating place indeed…

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