Church of Our Lady of the Rosary

Church of Our Lady of the Rosary

Ribeira Grande [“Cidade Velha”], Santiago Island, Cape Verde

Religious Architecture

The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary on Carreira Street is the oldest church in Ribeira Grande. It began as a chapel in 1495 and was later enlarged to become a church in 1652, with subsequent classical and baroque (portal) interventions. The oldest elements may nevertheless correspond to the original 1495 chapel (nowadays laterally situated inside the single nave, under the quadrangular shape tower) with vaulted and ribbed ceiling, and possibly to the volume of the stairs leading to the adjacent cylindrical tower. This chapel may have been the chancel of the small church originally raised on the site, which was later enlarged and must have been perpendicular to the current church. Access to the church is through a walled forecourt on a platform setting it apart from the street. The forecourt is accessed by staircases with inscribed gravestones on the upper steps. The church has a single nave with the main altar set on a five-step rostrum. The wall on the Gospel side has a late Gothic chapel with Manueline influence and ogival arch flanked by two gargoyles and topped by a rib-vaulted ceiling with polychrome keystones. It contains a baptismal font that purportedly once belonged to the Cathedral. In the 1940s an ogival-arched entrance was walled up on the side façade by the parish. A survey was made of this church (perhaps the most notable on the island) in 1962. This was followed by a reconstruction project involving a new pyramidal tower, carried out from September 1967 to May 1969. A sacristy was also built and the existing tiles replaced by others recently produced. Plans were also made to place new tiles in the interior, following the pattern of the existing ones.

Fernando Pires

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