An important place of pilgrimage with its C15th statue of the Virgin
chapel was built here in in 1470 by Adam Goncalves, who was the first
child to be born on the island and had an estate here. A larger church
was built in 1741 to accommodate the growing congregation, but this was
destroyed in the 1749 earthquake. The present building dates from 1818.
The altar displays a revered statue of the Virgin found by a shepherdess in near by Terreira da Luta sometime in the C15th, after she had seen visions of the Virgin there. One of the azulejo panels on the front of the church depicts the moment of discovery.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte is the most important pilgrimage site in Madeira, and during the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin on August 15th, pilgrims climb the steps to the church on their knees to pay homage to the statue of the Virgin. The statue is taken in a procession around the town.
The church is reached up a very steep road from the famous toboggan run and a steep flight of dark basalt steps.
It is an impressive white and black building with domed twin towers with a statue of the Virgin Mary above the door.
Across the front is a pillared portico. This has azulejo panels depicting the finding of the statue of the Virgin as well as the Last Supper with Judas hiding in a corner.
Emperor Charles I is buried in the church and there is a statue of him in front of the church.
The inside of the church is a mix of very plain with splashes of Baroque splendour. Walls are plain with small pictures of the stations of the cross. There is a small semicircular balcony above the west door supported by two pillars. There are wall mounted wooden stalls on the back of the side walls.
The tiled baptistry is at the back of the north wall behind wooden railings.
The panelled wood ceiling is painted, with chandeliers hanging from it.
The tomb of Emperor Charles I is in a rather spartan side room off the north wall, behind iron gates. He was sanctified in 2004 for his efforts to prevent the First World War.
The high altar and reredos fill the east end with a massive painting of the Assumption of the Virgin. On the altar is a silver case containing the small statue of the Virgin dating from the C15th.
The two smaller alters and reredos on either side of he chancel arch have statues of Sacre Coeur and Christ Crucified.
There are two side chapels at the end of the nave. That on the north wall has a gilded altar with statue of the Virgin.
That opposite on the south wall, has red drapes across the archway. The reredos has a small statue of Christ Crucified with a sun burst and gilded pillars. The walls are decorated with paintings and cameos.
This is an impressive church from the outside and its size dominates its surroundings. In some ways, I felt the inside let it down and it wasn’t as impressive as some of the other churches seen. It does get very busy with a steady stream of visitors.
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