Capela de São Pedro de Balsemão

The Douro

This mysterious little chapel was probably built by Visigoths as early as the 6th century. With Corinthian columns, round arches and intriguing symbols etched into the walls, it certainly pre-dates the introduction of even Romanesque architecture to Portugal. More ornate 14th-century additions were commissioned by the Bishop of Porto, Afonso Pires, who is buried under a slab in the floor.

Check out the ancient casket dominating the entrance chamber: supported by lions and intricately engraved, it depicts the Last Supper on one side and the Crucifixion on the other.

The chapel is tucked away in the hamlet of Balsemão, 3km northeast of Lamego above the Rio Balsemão. It’s a pleasant downhill walk from Lamego through an old-world village, then a riparian corridor full of flowers, grapevines and wild shrubs, though it is a rather steep return trip. From the 17th-century Capela do Desterro at the end of Rua da Santa Cruz, head southeast over the river and follow the road to the left.

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