Turismo Prerrománico > Phases > Visigothic > Maturity > SAN PEDRO DE BALSEMAO


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Historic environment

It is a monument as emblematic as it is difficult to analyze in terms of its origin and architectural problems. Located near Lamego, occupying a promontory at the crossroads of two rivers, with high strategic value. National Monument since 1921 (Decree No. 7586, 1st series No. 138, of 08-07-1921.

Traditionally, a first phase of construction of the church around the 6th or 7th century has been proposed, along the lines of researchers such as Schlunk, Ferreira de Almeida or Hauschild. In recent years, some researchers have taken up the old proposal by Joaquim de Vasconcelos (1911) that , in parallel with the church of S. Pedro de Lourosa (founding epigraph of 912), point to a building in the framework of the expansion of the Asturian kingdom and its influences in the context of the Reconquest (9th-10th centuries or more possibly, second half of the X), hypothesis taken up by Mário Barroca, Manuel Real, Ricardo Teixeira or Paulo Almeida Fernandes. Some construction elements belong to this period, such as a foot of the altar decorated with the Asturian cross, a clypeus and, above all, the imposts of scrolls decorated with very characteristic heart-shaped motifs (Almeida Fernandes, 2016), but determining the date of construction. original. it is still very problematic. This difficulty is due to the various reforms that the building received. The impost of the entrance door has a cross from the time of D. Afonso Henriques, which suggests a reform in the Romanesque period, although there are no other contemporary elements. The Gothic inscription next to the arches of the presbytery indicates that the installation of the sarcophagus of the Bishop of Porto, D. Afonso Pires (today in the central position of the nave), motivated the carrying out of works in the mid-14th century. In addition, the church underwent important works with the addition to the local palace of Pintos, the Viscounts of Balsemão, dating from 1643. These works greatly altered the design of the space, only conserving two walls that advance to the nave and helped to close the choir , integrating decorated imposts that continue in friezes (Almeida Fernandes, 2016), thus completely altering the original perception of the building, which would have been square and had three naves with a basilica plan, with horseshoe arches. The removal of the narthex, referred to in a 1430 document as the “portico”, can be dated to this time (Pessanha, 1921-22: 136). It is very likely that the building is today partly built on the ruins of the previous temple, as suggested by observing the topography of the terrain on the outside, where there is a podium with a significant difference in elevation.


The Church of São Pedro de Balsemão is located near a villa or an important Roman site (sanctuary?), which incorporates some elements, such as a very rare terminus augustalis from the government of Emperor Claudius, or the two altars reused as altar elements. It is possible that there was a sacralization of the spring that is near it.

It is a temple with three naves divided by arcades formed by three arches, based on columns with Corinthian capitals reused from a nearby Roman site, emphasizing that they are very different from the columns. The chancel has a rectangular plan, built in a solid apparatus of rectangular blocks. In the passage to the presbytery, there is a horseshoe arch, in accordance with the original construction plan, but in the nave it has been redone (none of the arches preserve this typology), although it is the product of the recent restoration campaign, as becomes apparent in later descriptions. It presents uniform staves, denouncing that it remains entirely in the original structure, it is based on very long imposts, with stylized scrolls and cord decorations (similar to Iron Age Indian motifs, but actually due to the “revival” of autochthonous motifs that it has place from the 9th century, and not for Mozarabic reasons, as interpreted by Manuel Real in 2007: 141), closed with Corinthian capitals. The section is narrow and the presbytery is almost hidden, in the tradition of the “reserve” of early Christian churches, a situation that is aggravated by the existence of two sockets grouped in each of the saimeis, which can be interpreted as the apposition . as a structure from which a cloth or cloth hangs to conceal the altar at specific times during the liturgy.


Other interesting information

Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Free visit.



FERNANDES, Paulo Almeida (2016) Materia de Asturias. Ritmos y logros de la expansión asturiano-leonesa en el actual centro de Portugal. Siglos VIII-X. Tesis doctoral en Historia del Arte presentada al FLUC.
PESSANHA, José (1921-22), S. Pedro de Balsemão: notas complementarias, O Archeologo Portuguez, serie 1, vol. 25, Lisboa, p. 134-141
REAL, Manuel Luís (2007), Escultura decorativa en Portugal: el grupo «portucalense». Escultura decorativa tardorromana y alta medieval en la Península Ibérica, Mérida, CSIC, p.133-170.
VASCONCELOS, Joaquim de (1911), Ensayo sobre la arquitectura románica en Portugal IV-VI. Presbyterio de Lourosa, Arte, n. 82, Porto, Marques Abreu, octubre de 1911, págs. 75-80; no83, noviembre de 1911, págs. 82-88; no87, marzo de 1912, págs. 25-28
FERNANDES, Paulo Almeida (2016) Matéria das Astúrias. Ritmos e realizações da expansão asturiano-leonesa no actual centro de Portugal. Séculos VIII-X. Tese de doutoramento em História da Arte apresentada à FLUC.
PESSANHA, José (1921-22), S. Pedro de Balsemão: notas complementares, O Archeologo Portuguez, série 1, vol. 25, Lisboa, p.134-141
REAL, Manuel Luís (2007), A escultura decorativa em Portugal: o grupo «portucalense». La escultura decorativa tardorromana y altomedieval en la Península Ibérica, Mérida, CSIC, p.133-170.
VASCONCELOS, Joaquim de (1911), Ensaio sobre a arquitectura românica em Portugal IV- VI. Presbyterio de Lourosa, Arte, no82, Porto, Marques Abreu, Out. 1911, p.75-80; no83, Nov. 1911, p.82-88; no87, Mar. 1912, p.25-28


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