Just south of Porto, Portugal, lies the Chapel of the Lord of Stone, a tiny chapel set on a bed of rocks that’s completely surrounded by the beach
Portugal is well-known for its beautiful beaches, but did you know there’s a chapel in the Porto area that’s completely surrounded by one?
Capela Do Senhor Da Pedra (“Chapel of the Lord of Stone”) in Miramar, south of Porto, was erected in the 17th century, and is built in the shape of a hexagon, nestled on top of a bed of rocks, as the name suggests.
At first glance it looks like the Atlantic could easily swallow this chapel whole, and indeed every day the sea surrounds the base and licks the foot of the stairs during high tide. And yet it stands.
Brutal winter storms in January 2014 did destroy one side of the stair wall. But after more than three centuries of currents and crashing waves, the chapel remains intact.
Is it some sort of miracle?
Deepening the air of mystique, Capela Do Senhor Da Pedra is believed to have ancient pagan roots. There are two tile panels of azulejos to the side of the front door, one describing it as the oldest place of worship in the parish of Gulpilhares, the other tile panel describing it as an archaeological site.
The chapel was built with a pagan altar before its conversion to Christianity and was part of a wave of Christianity that swept across Europe determined to stamp out paganism. Or in this instance, build right over it.
The legend of Senhor da Pedra is one of the great mysteries of Portugal. Stories that have survived the sands of time include one that suggests the image of Christ emerged from the sea near this spot. Another states that a light appeared over the rock as a sign from heaven, indicating this was the site to build the church.
The chapel serves as a point of reference for fisherman, like a lighthouse, and has the odd distinction of having its back to the sea, giving weight to the local belief that it attracts practioners of sorcery.
Today, the chapel continues to be a magnet for believers in mysticism. Every year a three-day festival takes place on the beach of Senhor da Pedra, starting on the Sunday of the Holy Trinity and ending the following Tuesday with a procession led by people wearing hooded robes.
During the rest of the year, the chapel receives mysterious nocturnal visits that are rumoured to be the work of witchcraft and practices of black magic.
Visit the chapel after nightfall if you dare, and let your imagination run wild.
Whatever narrative you choose to believe is easily forgotten on a beautiful day when the wide, sandy beach positively gleams in the sun, and the crashing waves of the Atlantic against the rock foundation creates a dramatic backdrop for Capela Do Senhor Da Pedra.
The setting is incredibly photogenic whether it’s night or day, ranging from majestic to haunting, depending on the weather and the light.
A word of caution: watch out for the tide if you don’t want to be marooned at the chapel!
Visiting from Porto is easy: Miramar is a short ride on an urban train on the Aveiro line running hourly from 6am-1am and less than three euros roundtrip.