Monday, October 1, 2012

Melillo's Pilgrimage: Lapa 11 Sernachele' Portugal


Buenos Tardes (now that we are back in spain)
We drove from Lamego, Portugal and arrived at “Lapa II” about 40 minutes later.  It was a very calming ride … this time, no mountain ranges to deal with.  Because it was so easy, it confirmed to us that the original Statue of Our Lady of Lapa had to have been moved here because it seems to us that “Our Lady” loves to appear in the hardest of all places to find … making it a “pilgrimage” to get to Her.
We drove in to a very, very old and very, very small town (hamlet) with very few houses, and a lot of structures in disrepair or falling down.   There is a small square in the center of which is the Shrine that is the focal point of Sernachele' (Lapa II). 
As we got out of the car, I saw a very small “lawn shrine” across the way depicting “Our Lady of Lapa”.  I thought quickly and said to Susan … let’s go … we have to kneel here for this “is the shrine”.  She almost bought it and believed but I didn’t get away with it.  (guess she’s not in that “gullible” mode today).
We entered the Shrine and the rest is almost unexplainable and we hope that you will really look at the photos closely. 
Many years ago, this Shrine was built around a huge rock in an attempt to depict the original Chapel of Our Lady of Lapa.  The representations of the deaths of Jesus, Mary & Joseph were incredible … the death of St. Joseph on one side … the death of Jesus Christ on the other … and the death of Our Lady near the Main Altar.  There was soft and angelic music piping through the Shrine that brought us into a “different world”. 
Off to the right of the Main Altar was a very low part of “The Rock” … we walked towards it thinking we might see something.  Much to our amazement, Our Lady was encased on the other side of the “rock entryway”.  We learned that legend has it that if you can get your body through the cavern of the rock and stand before “Our Lady” … you are free of sin.  If you cannot get through, you have sins to confess.  So, with that in mind, I fit through “like a breeze”.  Susan did well, too, although I had to tug at her a bit to get her to the other side (I’m in big trouble for lying about this one!).  Actually, it was sort of a frightening thought to think about the legend while trying to squeeze through.
As we stood before the original Statue of Our Lady of Lapa, it was so calm, so reverent and so beautiful.  You could actually see the singe marks on Her from the time the little girl in Lapa found the statue, took it home to her mother who through it in a fire and the little girl spoke for the first time in her life (for you, Karina … it will happen!).
After spending quite a bit of time in the Shrine, we left knowing that we had about one hour to drive to the hotel.  We stopped for a beer across from the small plaza at the 1 of 2 cantinas in Sernachele’ (quite honestly, we both had to use the restrooms and stopping in for a short beer was a great excuse). 
Well, the man of the house took my order and had trouble tapping the beer for a draft.  As we waited, Susan and I used the restrooms and returned to see that he was still trying to work on the draft machine.  While standing there, a woman who we presumed was his wife came walking up and put a platter of sausages, smoked ham, etc. in front of us and, we could tell from her gestures, wanted us to buy something.  We decided that if we missed getting to a SuperMarche to get something for dinner, at least we could have a hunk of dried smoked ham to nosh on so we took it and shook our heads … yes … to buy it.
While the woman went off to weigh and price the ham, the husband came back with two bottle of beer, indicating that his draft machine was not working.  That was fine, I asked him how much and he signaled $2 Euro.  I paid him.
The wife came back with the slab of ham we had purchased .  I said “how much” and she signaled $8 Euro … pointing to the ham and to the two beer bottles.  I said and signaled … but I already paid him … she said something to her husband and he pretended like he was busy … not responding to her.  She signaled again to me that it was $6 Euro for the ham.  I kept pointing at her husband and saying … I paid him $2 Euro for the beers.  I owe you $6 Euro.  So there I was … man to woman (and a silent husband who we think had “stashed” the 2 bucks to hang out with the guys).  She signaled “8” … I signaled “6” … she signaled “8” … I signaled “6” … she won.  I paid the $8 Euro and we went outside to enjoy our beer.
We sat down so Susan could rest her foot after a very long day.  I saw a religious shop and told Susan that I would go in there to get our “memory” keepsake and the medal for Susan’s bracelet.  There were 3 older town’s men sitting at a table nearby.  As I stood, I did understand one of them saying something about “wife”.  I looked at them, smiled and said … “Yes, Wife, as I pointed to Susan”.  I left for the shop and Susan said that while I was gone, the three men acted very protective to be sure they kept her safe for my return. 
 We finished our beer, took our smoked ham and mementos and bid farewell to Our Lady of Lapa.  Headed to Guarda, Portugal for the night.
Smoked ham in hand, we decided we would search out a Super Marché, get some wine, cheese and fresh bread and “camp out” for the evening.  Found a Super Marché right down the street.  After buying our “in room dinner”, we drove down the street towards the hotel.  It was situated in an industrial area close to get us back on the road in the A.M.  As I pulled in, it appeared that the hotel was shut down for renovations (uh-oh).  Fortunately (and smartly), I drove around the broken down hotel structure and found the “new hotel” which was actually little condos.  There were two beds in the room … one GIANT BED for me and one OKAY (SMALL) BED for Susan.  Once again I said “ah … the thought of a good night’s sleep”.
After we settled in to our comfortable surroundings, I began working again on our Trip Reports.  Susan, in the meantime, had the job of “making dinner”.  With knife in hand, she began the tedious chore of slicing the fresh bread and cheeses and, then, she fought with the smoked ham until it finally cooperated with her.  Soaking the bread with olive oil and the really good Dijon mustard, she prepared delicious sandwiches for us to nosh on for dinner. There was so much food she made us a large sandwhich each for tomorrow.
All was well until I went to check e-mails.  One of our banks screwed up a wire transfer I had arranged for before we left to fund our “house account” for pre-paid bills while we were gone.  Don’t know what happened, but our checks will become rubbery and bouncy by Tuesday.  I tried to get through to both Banks via phone to no avail (MagicJack wasn’t cooperating and the time difference of six hours was a problem as well).  I’ll have fun dealing with this tomorrow.  Having too much of a great time to worry about small things.
Exhaustion then spread over both of us and we retired for the evening.  Tomorrow morning … on to Pena de Francia … a Shrine we will be visiting for the first time.
I slept well till about 3am and woke up in a panic thinking about the bank  not being able to sleep I unhooked the hotel phone and quietly in the other room plugged it into Magic Jack – it ’was a miracle –it worked.  I got thru to the bank and she confirmed we had overdraft protection which in 20 years we have never used.  I told her I new that even though I felt stupid for forgetting. Relived I resumed the great sleep I was having.

Trust in God for all your needs always thru the Blessed Mother.
God Bless

Tom and Susan
 One of the most popular and traditional cults of Portugal is the Nossa Senhora da Lapa. It is said that a girl shepherdess, switches, found a statue of the Virgin in the hills and took her home. The mother did not call the statue and threw it into the fireplace. The girl, speaking for the first time in his life, asked his mother not to burn the image. Maybe that's why the statue of the Virgin that is present in the sanctuary burn marks. Another story linked to this sanctuary says a girl entertained to spin wool while herding livestock when she was attacked by a huge lizard that terrorized the region. To save himself, threw balls of wool to the mouth of this monster having been fully "stuffed". Then took him by the tip of a wire to the home, where he was killed and stuffed. And there is no doubt that among the many ex-votos of pilgrims, the shrine's ceiling a large "lizard", though skeptics say it was put there by a man to thank you Virgin saved him from a crocodile India.

When climbing the mountain of Lapa found one of the oldest and most famous shrines Portuguese, which attracts pilgrims from all over the country. In fact the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Lapa was built in the seventeenth century by the Jesuits, but the service is much older, with whom refers to the tenth century, when the attacks of the Moors made the Christian population has hidden an image of Virgin in a cave or "lapa". But stories, legends and miracles are not lacking in this sanctuary with many ex-votos and with a curious passage between rocks where only manages to sneak who did not commit grave sins.

Another belief attached to the shrine of Our Lady of Lapa says that this narrow passage between the rocks only if they can sneak those without serious sin in consciousness.
The shrine was built under the guidance of the Jesuits. It was, according to Abbot Moreira "grand staircase dug in with live rock arch that overcomes." The church is made ​​up of two parts that complement each other: the body and the chancel.
Sanctuary saves in the chancel miraculous rock with the image of Our Lady of Lapa. Of note treasures without tale offered up by kings and queens, the scenography of the altar of the Crucifixion and Death of S. Joseph, who moved him to tears, the very strong attraction of the rock crib deployed. The altar of Our Lady of Lapa was erected on the spot where, according to legend, Pastor Joan found the image hidden by the nuns. There is venerated for nearly four centuries, as crowds of Beira venerate know, the one in whom they see the light in their darkness and solace in anguish of heart. Also the altar of the Virgin Sleeping, the House of Miracles, full of paintings, weighing scales boys wheat, the lizard da Lapa, afraid, stuck to the ceiling by a chain of iron, entered the imagination of pilgrims who filled stories of the night their children. The Lady of Lapa, Portugal and Santiago de Compostela in Spain, came to be, at times, the two most important sanctuaries of the Iberian Peninsula.

The Lizard Lapa
Reportedly, the huge lizards that already for many years in the Shrine of Lapa, had come from India.
Legend has it that a local man, who lived in India, was reportedly attacked by a large alligator. At this time of great sorrow, the man would have evoked the Nossa Senhora da Lapa to give him the strength to kill the power, and it succeeded.
As a sign of appreciation and gratitude for the help, was brought to the dorsal carapace and skin with these elements reconstituted if the "bug" and was offered to the shrine.
Over the years the skin was eaten by moth while the other part remained. Later a devotee, or simply curious, remembered the restore, covering the shell with a screen well oiled renovating one of the oddities of this Shrine.
Existence of lizards, also has another explanation, this originally from always fertile imagination of the people . Thus it is said that a woman who came from a village called Forca (now the village of St. Stephen), the path Quintela with skeins of flax for weaving in the middle of the mountainside in a place that has the name "Pit Lizard" came being attacked by a huge lizard mouth open to eat. The woman, distraught, remembered appeal to Senhora da Lapa and the idea occurred to him to throw the balls to the monster that took the bag up with the tips of the wires in his hands. With the balls swallowed, the woman was pulling the wires that made ​​engasgassem and lead to death, the huge beast. In gratitude the woman brought the animal to the Lapa.
This second version of the origin of this ex-voto, arguably less plausible than the first, because a lizard (lizard) this size could hardly exist in this area, however was to give him the name by which he is known.