Camino Portugués: The Church of the Divine Pilgrim

Snowpocalypse/Snowmageddon/Snowzilla 2016:  Day 4. 

Frankly, I love being snowed in.  We have heat, electricity, food and…time. 

Some of that time I spent wandering through photos from my pilgrimage on the Camino Portugués in 2010.  Among them, I came upon these of the most wonderful, little church in Pontevedra, Spain, La Iglesia de la Divina Peregrina (The Church of the Divine Pilgrim). 

Camino Portugués - Nuestra Señora del Refugio

La Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Refugio

While other depictions of the Virgen Mary as a pilgrim exist along the various Camino routes, they are few and in my opinion, this chapel in Galicia is the most beautiful.  It is easy for pilgrims to find, as it sits right on the Camino Portugués in the Praza Ferreira.

As you arrive in the Plaza, the first thing you notice is the unique design of the sanctuary. It is shaped like the vieira, or scallop shell that is the universal symbol of pilgrims and pilgrimage.  In the front is a large fountain, graced on either side by matching staircases that lead to the glass doors of the main entrance.

Camino Portugués - La Divina Peregrina, Santiago,San Roque

Above the balustrade, La Divina Peregrina, Santiago, San Roque

Looking up, slender twin towers – the left, a clock tower and the right, the bells – flank an allegorical representation of Faith.  Just below this there are three niches.  In the center, is a sculpture of Mary the Pilgrim. On either side of her are two of the most iconic figures of the Camino – Santiago (St. James) and San Roque.   It reminds me very much of the sculpture of St. James on the Cathedral of Santiago, which of course if you are walking this Way, is your ultimate destination. 

Camino Portugués - Santiago Peregrino

Santiago Peregrino

This is one of the most important churches in Pontevedra since Nuestra Señora del Refugio (Our Lady of Refuge) or La Divina Peregrina (The Divine Pilgrim) is the Patroness of the city.  So unlike many rural churches, you will nearly always find it open. 

Camino Portugués - Main Entrance

Main Entrance

Built specifically as a sanctuary for La Divina Peregrina, symbols of the Camino de Santiago appear everywhere!  On each of the plate glass doors, a large, etched, vieira welcomes pilgrims.  These are crossed by the bastón (staff) and gourd and accompanied by a pilgrim hat also bearing a shell. 

Camino Portugués - Stained glass

Stained glass – bastón y calabasa

Just inside, a huge oyster shell forms the Holy Water Font.  The elegant, stained glass windows, the doors of the confessionals and the benches also all bear the symbol of the vieira crossed with the staff and gourd.

Camino Portugués - Vieira

Confessional

Above the main altar is the image of the chapel’s namesake, the Divine Pilgrim.  She is dressed in the style of a French pilgrim and her dark curls contrast with the vivid green dress, cape and hat.  In her right hand, she holds the staff and gourd of the pilgrim, in her left, the infant Jesus. At the highest point, suspended as it were by cherubs, is a lovely relief of the flight into Egypt. 

Camino Portugués - Main Altar

Main altar – La Divina Peregrina

Camino Portugués - Nuestra Señora del Refugio

Nuestra Señora del Refugio

Construction of this unique chapel began in 1778 – it was consecrated in 1794.  The style is late baroque with neoclassical elements.  In 2008, the church underwent a major renovation to repair the main altar, the paintings, stained glass and the clock, which originated (1896) at the Hospital of San Juan de Dios, now demolished.  

Historically and artistically, the church is a designated monument.  But for the pilgrim, it is a special place of great beauty and refuge.  Pilgrims always ask, “Is there any place that I must see?”.  When on the Camino Portugués, this is definitely one. 

Do you have a “must see” place on the Camino Portugués?  Tell us about it in the comments. 

4 thoughts on “Camino Portugués: The Church of the Divine Pilgrim

  1. Laurie says:

    Dierdra, I finally saw this church and was very moved. You’re right, it is a must-see for pilgrims on the Camino Portugués. Thanks for sharing your photos and research in this post.
    Cheers,
    Laurie

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