Language - Portuguese English French Spanish

O planalto da Torre e os vales de Alvoco e Loriga

Alvoco da Serra
vestido de branco

Arco da Ponte

Foral de 1514

Alvoco da Serra is a small village in the Serra da Estrela mountain range, nestled in a valley next to the highest point in Portugal, just 4.5 kms away as the crow flies. The village’s name is almost certainly linked to the building of the Roman road which went through it and to the bridge which has withstood time and is still the main access route. Many waters have passed beneath its arch, as well as many thousands of tasty trout, the best in the region according to those in the know.

In more recent times it became a town, before becoming a municipality in 1514 by charter from the king, Dom Manuel.

Its golden age was probably the 15th and 16th centuries, when its churches built up a splendid collection of sculptures in Ançã limestone by the Coimbra school of artists. The first of them is the parish’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Rosary, made at João Afonso’s studio (15th century). It can be found on the first altar on the left hand side of the Motherchurch, at the top end of the village. The church was built on the rock where the bridge rests and runs up the hill. According to Father José Eduardo Coutinho “it retains its original form in pleasant surroundings, is unadulterated and reveals many features added by various works in the 18th century”. This topography in the form of an altar delighted our prelate, Dom António dos Santos and he was truly inspired when on 4 August 2003 in Fatima he decided that Alvoco should not be content with having just a Museum in St. Peter’s Chapel. The value of its sculptures and the topography of the place encouraged him to set up a Religious Art Centre, consisting of St. Anthony’s Chapel, at the entrance to the village, St. Peter’s Chapel, the oldest church in the middle and the Motherchurch at the top. And to leave no room for doubt he called the route joining the three temples VIA SALUTIS which means Salvation Way. And in a logical step, Professor Dalila Rodrigues, current director of the National Museum of Ancient Art, stated in a report she wrote after a visit that “Alvoco da Serra’s application to be classified as an historic European village is well founded and opportune”.

Throughout the 19th century and up to the middle of the last century it was an important centre for the wool industry: the fame of its textiles spread as far as the Algarve. However Alvoco’s industry did not survive the crisis which destroyed almost all the region’s factories, and had devastating consequences. In the midst of this economic and social desolation a new light shone: it revealed treasures long forgotten and hidden a legacy from our ancestors. It is our duty to preserve them. Thus the Museum of Religious Art was born. The first section of the Centre is housed in St. Anthony’s Chapel. Here we provide a necessarily brief description of the most valuable part of its wealth. But in no way can it take the place of a visit to Alvoco da Serra. Welcome!

Alvoco é um altar

Igreja Matriz

Capela de Stº António, sede do Museu

Calçada Romana, Rua das Lajes.

Our Lady of the Rosary

The sculpture of Our Lady of the Rosary is, indeed, one of the Madonna with Child, with a rosary placed in her hands. It is a work of rare beauty. Professor Dalila Rodrigues identified the sculpture as coming from João Afonso’s studio in the 15th century. Very probably it was already in the church of the Holy Spirit that was here before this one.

Dimensions: 89 x 32 x 27 cms.

Tabernacle by Jean de Rouen (16th century)

This piece belonged to the altarpiece of the church which was demolished in the 18th century on the place where the current church was built. Left in a corner of the Parish Hall it was made complete by the base that supported the sculpture of St. Peter and the fleuron discovered in December 2004. It is one of the French sculptor’s finest tabernacles.

Dimensions: 170 x 57 x 25 cms.

Holy Trinity

According to the Portuguese historian Jaime Cortesão, the cult of the Holy Spirit arose in Portugal in the early 14th century and by the end of the 15th century “we can find 75 cities, towns and villages whose motherchurch’s patron saint is the Holy Spirit; it was during the 14th and 15th centuries and the first half of the next one that the cult grew the most in Portugal”. This sculpture is certainly one of the most beautiful in all Christendom.

Dimensions: 74 x 38 x 33 cms.

St. Peter

It is the most imposing of our sculptures. Its as yet unknown author clearly knew how to give him an air of authority, wisdom and steadfastness, which emanate from his face and bearing. In a word he is obviously the fisherman, the man of the sea to whom Christ said «you are Petrus!»

Dimensions : 110 x 38 x 33 cms.

St. Catherine

St. Catherine of Alexandria became a martyr in the time of Emperor Maximilian. In the 9th century, the corpse of a young girl still intact was found on Mount Sinai, The Christians called her Catherine, a name synonymous with purity and virginity. It is said that when she was 18 years old she reduced nothing less than 50 philosophers to silence. The cult of this saint spread throughout Christendom from the 11th century. She is the patron saint of Paris University.

Dimensions: 78 x 29 x 30 cms.

St. Anthony

The cult of St. Anthony is as universal as it is old. There are seldom catholic churches that do not have an image of this most popular of Portuguese saints. This is because the universality of the cult corresponds to another universality: being deemed the best interceder to God for all causes: to cure disease, to alleviate misfortune but also to bless projects, ventures, brides seeking a happy marriage, etc. This sculpture, also by the Coimbra school, reveals the simplicity of our most popular and most universal saint.

Dimensions: 66 x 21 x 17 cms.

2 Columns from the primitive St. Peter’s Chapel St. Peter’s altarpiece
These two columns were removed from the façade of the Chapel when it was last altered at the end of the 19th century. They measure 154 and 151 cms respectively. This magnificent altarpiece dates from the late 15th to early 16th century. It just needs some quality restoration. Neither the smoke from the candles and oil-lamps which it bore on the feast of St. Peter, nor the damp has diminished its value. Dimensions: 200 x 265 cms.

                      Eucharist urn Portable dossal

Rare piece, 18th century; it held the pyx on Maundy Thursday. 60 x 62 cms.

Very rare piece in cherry wood, late 18th century; 42 x 32 x 5 cms.

Our Museum is very poor; in other words it needs your help. The work that needs to be carried out on St. Peter’s Chapel – which will be used solely to house the sculptures – is very expensive. And it is easy to understand that the cost of restoring the chapel and converting it into a Museum exceeds the parish’s resources. Furthermore, many of the pieces require urgent restoration, such as the altarpiece of St. Peter. To make it easy to share your generosity a bank account has been opened at the Caixa do Crédito Agricola de Seia bank in Loriga, account number: 004540814018503176629 and IBAN: PT 5000 454 081 401 850 317 66

Our parish priest will give you a receipt for your donation for tax purposes.

Thank you for visiting us and thank you for your generosity! To visit the Museum please contact Sr. João Belarmino or the Café Brito, at the entrance to the village.


Alvoco da Serra can be reached via EN 231 – Viseu/Covilhã, is 28 kms from Seia and 45 kms from Tortozendo, near Covilhã on the A 23.

ACCOMODATION - Accommodation is available in manor houses.


Projecto e coordenação:
Fernando Moura

António Brito
António Carlos Carvalho
Carlos Moura
Fernando Moura
Mário Jorge Cardoso

Realização Web: Luís Antunes (MaloMedia)

Translator: Soares, Franco- Lª

© Copyright: Fernando Moura
Reprodução proibida