On my last post I showed you some bits and pieces of the sanctuary of Peninha, in Sintra. Naturally, being both a religious monument and in Portugal, its origins are closely connected to a legend. What’s the fun of saying a church was built somewhere odd just because? No fun at all!
The legend of Peninha
According to legend it was in the reign of king John III (1502-1557) that a miracle happened in a place called Almoínhas Velhas – a miracle which would be the origin of the sanctuary of Peninha.
A mute shepherd girl was herding her sheep on the hill, as usual. Suddenly, she notices one of her sheep is missing and desperately tries to find it, looking everywhere she could.
After a long search she sees a beautiful lady carrying her lost sheep. The poor girl, being mute, thanked the lady in the best way she could, using gestures. The lady then asked the girl for some bread, to which the girl replied that there wasn’t any because the crops had been very bad that year.
The lady then told her to go home, call out for her mother and ask her for some bread. The shepherd girl tried to explain that both things were obviously impossible but the mysterious lady insisted on her requests.
As soon as she got home, lo and behold, the shepherd girl was able to speak and call out for her mother. Despite this miracle the mother told the girl there would be no bread, as she was well aware. Still, they went looking for it and, you guessed it, they found bread enough for themselves and the whole village.
On the next day everyone in the village went up the hill, wanting to thank the lady and, on the place where the girl had found her, there was now a cave with a small statue of Our Lady. On that same place a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Peninha, would later be built.
Whether or not you believe in legends (and in this one in particular) I always find them interesting because I see them as important cultural aspects of a country and its people.
You’ll find this “pattern” of legend in other places, both in Portugal and in other countries, mostly connected to religion and religious monuments. Are they just pure invention, stories that somehow travelled from one country to another and were altered as time went by? Are they somehow the remains of a time of miracles and heroes and actually have some truth to them?
What do you think?