Built in the 18th century under the name of Our Lady of the Lake, the chapel was greatly altered in 1930. It is a simple, neoclassically inspired building.
The main façade has a simple front, in a vertical frame of gables in smooth stonework finished by a double-pitched cornice that is crowned, in the centre, by a cross supported by acroterium and, on the sides, by stone vases. The main façade has a smooth rectangular portico, with a small circular oculus topped with a tiled image of the patron saint, Our Lady of Barca do Lago.
The sacristy is attached to the northern façade from the inside. The Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Lake preserves the chapel, dating back to the 18th century. It serves as an important pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Winter, Sunday, 12h00-19h00.
Summer, daily, 09h00-18h00.
Festivities 1st Sunday of August, das 09h00-18h00.
Our Lady of the Lake
The Patron saint of the Chapel is Our Lady of the Lake. Being the Mother of Jesus, with so many known invocations or attributed titles, this invocation of Our Lady of the Lake stands out by relating the patron saint to the place where the chapel is located. Its existence can be traced back to the Middle Ages, according to 13th century Inquisition records. The location of the Chapel of Barca do Lago justifies the invocation of Mary, protector of the walkers and travellers who crossed the Cávado river on boats ‘for the love of God’, or the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela, on one of the most frequented routes to follow from Porto to Santiago de Compostela.
The diversity of titles and invocations of the Virgin Mary includes a geo-toponymic term. Neighbouring communities as well as the fishing community have always venerated and celebrated Our Lady of the Lake in pilgrimages. The Feast of Our Lady of the Lake was famous and narrated in legends and poetry that are now part of the cultural heritage of Esposende.
Legend of Our Lady of the Lake, at Barca do Lago
The origin of the image of Our Lady of the Lake is shrouded in legendary narratives. In the 13th century, tradition has it that fishermen were busy fishing in the Cávado River when, to their surprise, no fish was caught in the nets, but an image of Virgin Mary. The event amazed everyone as they sensed the touch of God in it. Many other miraculous and legendary images appeared for the devotion of the Christian worshippers. The fishermen did not know how to invoke that representation of the Mother of Christ, but they remembered to give her an appropriate name regarding the place where she was found, and called her Our Lady of the Lake.
The extraordinary feat and miraculous condition of the image led many to ask for the intercession of Our Lady of the Lake. As the image could not remain in the house of the person who kept it, they decided to build a chapel to keep it and provide everyone with a place to celebrate the worship of the Virgin. Then a chapel was erected on the right bank of the Cávado river, the chapel of Our Lady of the Lake, in Barca do Lago. Many were the benefactors, from honourable noblemen to the simple people, where the fishermen stood out. There could not be a better place, as the road connecting the towns and lands of the south bank to the north bank passed through there, as well as the pilgrims’ way to Santiago. A shelter for the pilgrims was built next to the chapel, and the river passage had another meaning: fraternity and aid.
Tradition has it that as devotion to Our Lady of the Lake was affirmed, all those who invoked her name, whilst crossing the river on the ferry would not pay it. “Passing by God”, invoking the Virgin, was a reason for the boatman not to charge any amount. In order to maintain this tradition, so that the boat could be maintained and the boatmen were not deprived of their livelihood, the neighbouring community and pilgrims began to contribute with food and other goods.
This invocation of Our Lady of the Lake has become one of the most beloved in the region, and remains the link between Our Lady of the Lake and the men of the river and sea to this day, as well as all the pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Celebrations in honour of Our Lady of the Lake still take place, where the fishermen leave their oars in praise and supplication to the Virgin of the miraculous image among many offerings.