Tavira Churches

Igreja Matriz de Santiago

Founded in the 13th century, little is known about the origins of this church, whose patron saint evokes the period of reconquest and the influence of the Order of Santiago on the territory (which was responsible for the conquest of Tavira in 1242).
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Founded in the 13th century, little is known about the origins of this church, whose patron saint evokes the period of reconquest and the influence of the Order of Santiago on the territory (which was responsible for the conquest of Tavira in 1242). Given the orientation of the temple – different from the traditional orientation to the Spring of the medieval churches – it is suspected that it was built on an ancient building of the Muslim period. In 1270 D. Afonso III makes a donation of the church and its collegiate to the fourth Bishop of Silves, D. Bartolomeu, being from then on the possession of the Cabido of this bishopric. It was the seat of a very extensive parish that, until the fifteenth century, covered the place of Moncarapacho. The building will have maintained much of its medieval structure until the earthquake of 1755, which inflicted damage to the church, determining its reconstruction. Due to the lack of means of the parish, D. José I ordered, in 1763, that the income of the confraternities active in this church be applied in the financing of the works. In architectural terms, it highlights a great sobriety of the reconstruction, revealing the lack of means of the post-earthquake period. The simplicity of the plan, of single nave and rectangular chancel, is only broken in the south elevation, where a set of protruding volumes that result from the side chapels, sacristy and annexes confer a great dynamic and make the outer elevation particularly interesting. The main façade features an exuberant 18th-century medallion that exalts the figure of the patron saint, Santiago, depicted as a warrior, recalling the legend of his miraculous appearance in a battle fought during the Christian reconquest. Inside stands the side chapel of the Most Holy that presents some Renaissance remains, from the mid-sixteenth century, namely the dome and a recondite sculpture in relief, located on the front of the altar, representing the Instruments of the Passion of Christ and the four Evangelists. At the entrance of this chapel, highlight for the famous Panels of Santa Maria, a set of paintings on wood, from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, representing St. Peter, St. John the Baptist, St. Blaise and St. Vincent, originally exhibited in the nearby church of Santa Maria. The damage inflicted by the earthquakes and the repair interventions of the temple came to consume much of the altarpieces, paintings and sculptures that this church held before the eighteenth century. The decorative collection was thus updated within the post-earthquake artistic molds. This aspect is particularly visible in the chancel, whose altarpiece is already from the late eighteenth century or from the beginning of the 19th century. From the same time will be the four large paintings, representing themes of the life of the Virgin, by the Algarve painter Joaquim José Rasquinho (1736-1822). On the nave are exposed carved altarpieces, images and religious paintings, from various eras, some from other temples of the city.

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