How To Visit The Sanctuary Of Peneda In 2023

The Sanctuary of Peneda (officially, Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda) is located in Arcos de Valdevez, in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was built during the 18th and 19th centuries, inspired by the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, in the city of Braga.

If you’re thinking of visiting Portugal’s only national park in the near future, I think you should add the Sanctuary of Peneda to your travel itinerary. After all, its bucolic location in the middle of the mountains makes it a unique sanctuary!

So, do you want to know How To Visit The Sanctuary Of Peneda In 2023? Keep reading!

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Sanctuary of Peneda
Sanctuary of Peneda

Brief History of the Sanctuary of Peneda

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Sanctuary of Peneda was built in the 18th and 19th centuries, having as inspiration the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, in Braga. However, the origins of this Marian temple go back to the 13th century!

According to legend, Our Lady of the Snows (or Our Lady of Peneda) appeared to a young shepherdess on August 5th, 1220. In this apparition, the Virgin Mary asked her to build a hermitage in her honor. After the construction of this medieval hermitage, the cult of Our Lady of Peneda gained more and more followers over the centuries, which motivated the construction of the current Catholic sanctuary.

The Sanctuary of Peneda consists of a church, staircase (called Staircase of Virtues), yard (with a hotel, cafes, and small souvenir shops), staircase boulevard (with fourteen chapels depicting the life of Jesus Christ), circular square (with a pillar in the center and six more chapels around it) and a stone portico.

And although this is a place of worship visited throughout the year, it’s especially popular at the Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Peneda. Celebrated annually in the first week of September, it’s a very popular pilgrimage among Portuguese and Galician devotees!

How to Get to the Sanctuary of Peneda

The Sanctuary of Peneda is located in the parish of Gavieira, about 40-45 km from Arcos de Valdevez and just over 140 km from Porto. For this reason, I think that the easiest way to visit this secret place is by car.

Unfortunately, there’s no public transportation to the Sanctuary of Peneda – not even buses (except the ones for organized tours). As a last resort, you can also book one of these excursions, or try activities such as jeep tours with ECO4adventure!

Opening Hours & Ticket Prices

The Sanctuary of Peneda is open every day of the year and is completely free. The only place with time restrictions is the Church of Our Lady of Peneda – which has no fixed hours but is normally open from early morning until late afternoon.

What to See at the Sanctuary of Peneda

Church of Our Lady of Peneda

The Church of Peneda (officially, Church of Our Lady of Peneda) is the main structure of this Marian sanctuary. It’s not known for sure what year its construction began, but it must have been at the end of the 18th century – as evidenced by its neoclassical architecture.

On the other hand, there are records that the works were completed in 1875. And what many tourists don’t know is that this Catholic temple had only one tower in its initial project! The second was added at a later time, mostly for aesthetic reasons.

Staircase of Virtues

Like the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, the Sanctuary of Peneda has an elaborate stone staircase called Staircase of Virtues. And as in Bom Jesus, its name comes from the sculptural ensemble that ornaments the various flights of stairs: three figures representing the Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Charity) and a fourth symbolizing Glory.

The figures of the Staircase of Virtues were designed in 1854 by Francisco Luís Barreiros – a master mason and sculptor from Barbeita, Monção. This artist from Alto Minho was also responsible for other works and structures in the municipalities of Monção and Arcos de Valdevez.

Great Yard

The Great Yard of the Sanctuary of Peneda is a triangular square, which separates the Church and the Staircase of Virtues from the Evangelists’ Yard and Staircase. In addition, it’s the place where the Peneda Hotel and the main commercial and restaurant structures are located – and where tourists can park their cars.

The Peneda Hotel was adapted from former pilgrims’ dormitories in the 21st century. However, the facilities of the first accommodation were built at the end of the 18th century, when the temple was constructed. These days, this three-star mountain hotel has two dozen rooms and a restaurant serving traditional Portuguese food.

Evangelists’ Yard & Staircase

The Evangelists’ Yard of the Sanctuary of Peneda – with four statues of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – precedes a long staircase boulevard of about 300 meters (if you’re going downhill).

And along this tree-lined staircase, you’ll pass by fourteen chapels with episodes from the life of Jesus Christ – reminiscent of the Chapels of the Via Crucis in the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.

Apparently, one of the chapels seems to have more importance than the others, as it contains an inscription about the Ethiopian negus (the title given to the sovereign of this African country).

Square & Pillar

The circular square where the staircase ends – or where it begins, depending on your perspective – is surrounded by six other chapels with scenes about the life of Jesus Christ. And as happens with the others, these chapels come in different shapes and sizes.

In the center of the square, was placed a pillar offered by Queen Maria I during her reign – more specifically at the beginning of the 18th century. At the top of this stone column, there’s also an image of the Archangel Michael, also made in stone.

Portico & Staircase

The last section of the extensive Sanctuary of Peneda is an 18th-century portico, with the image of Our Lady of the Incarnation in the upper central part.

This stone arch serves as the main “entrance door” to the sanctuary and appears at the top of yet another staircase. This is where the thousands of pilgrims passed by, knowing they were near the end of their walk when they glimpsed the portico.

As you may have noticed, I mentioned the various parts that make up the sanctuary from the end to the beginning. This is because I visited them in this order. However, if you want to start your visit on this staircase and end at the Church of Our Lady of Peneda, you can park your car here.

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