Chapel of St. Laurence

Century XX
The building was built in 1929. The oldest document about the existence of the chapel of St. Laurence is in Tombo, a parish of Vila Chã (1549).
The chapel is of small dimension and consists of three elements: the body of the chapel, and two sacristies, one to the south and another to the north at the back of the temple forming a cross. The façade, facing west, shows the vernacular style of the whole temple with a bell tower that does not have a bell and is crowned by three pinnacles. The main door is in a simple ogive arch, of Gothic revivalist inspiration, topped by a small window, with a perfect arch, featuring a cross on an acroterium.
Inside the main chapel, a small altar displays an image of Saint Laurence, the patron saint, and a tile panel.


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Curiosities and legends

St. Laurence
Laurence was young man, born in Huesca, present-day Spain, who was ordained deacon and archdeacon of Rome by Pope Sixtus II in the year 257. To be an archdeacon (the chief deacon) was to be close to the Pope and his administrator, a place occupied today by the cardinals. A year later, Pope Sixtus II himself, along with four of his deacons, were martyred on August 6, 258. It was the time of persecution and the prohibition of Christianity by the Roman emperors. Until the 4th and 5th centuries, only the oral tradition of these events would come to knowledge, which would be later transcribed by consecrated writers, amongst them, St. Ambrose. Based on the latter’s accounts, and on the accounts of St. Augustine and St. Maximus of Turin, we are able to know the life of St. Lawrence. Tradition has it that the Archdeacon Lorenzo bid farewell to the Pope, and at the moment of execution he said to him: “I will not leave you, my son. You shall follow me in three days”. Three days after the martyrdom of Saint Sixtus II, Cornelius Saecularis summoned Laurence, asking him to give all the money possessed by the Church. Aware of the Prefect’s intention, Laurence then distributed all the money to the poor. Thus, he gave the following response to the Prefect, “Seek me tomorrow and I shall bring you all that the Church has to offer”. The next day Laurence met the Prefect and said, “Come with me to contemplate the riches that I will present to you. [….] There are jewels of admirable beauty!” and, whilst leaving, he pointed to an army of lame and blind men, orphans, poor and sick children that the Roman Church was feeding. He added, “These are my treasures!”
The Prefect was so enraged that he immediately condemned Laurence to a horrible death. He was burned on a grill. In a moment of bravery he requested the conversion of the Roman Empire. Laurence was killed on August 10, 278. Half a century later, the Empire officially accepted Christianity. Together with the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul, the feast in honour of St. Laurence was one of the most important in the liturgy of Rome.

Legend of St. Gibas and Zides
Even at the beginning of the parish’s existence, two brothers named Gibas and Zides lived there. One was a shepherd (the Gibas) and the other was a farmer (the Zides). They lived on a hill, near the place where the Chapel of St. Laurence is located nowadays. One day, St. James passed by, on his way from the Holy Land to Compostela. It was already late and he wanted to spend the night in a house. He went to the so-called Big House, which belonged to one of the richest families of the region. However, they did not give him shelter, because they were afraid of a foreigner who was badly dressed or perhaps they were very bad people. St. James left and as he passed by the hill, he saw Gibas, who had already herded his sheep and goats. After greeting St. James, Gibas saw that the stranger had nowhere to sleep. He invited St. James to his poor thatched roof house. St. James accepted it right away. While Gibas was making supper, Zides arrived, after a day of work tilling the soil. Zides greeted the guest and was told what had happened. During supper, the two brothers listened to the foreigner, St. James, about the news of Christ, everything that had happened in Jerusalem, because he was an apostle and had seen it all. The brothers were amazed. They all went to sleep thinking about that. The next day, people heard about the presence of that stranger. They came to see him and St. James preached to everyone. However, St. James said things that they did not understand, neither about Christ nor about the message, as he said that they were all brothers and sisters in Christ and that there were neither rich nor poor in the eyes of God. People did not even want to believe it. However, the blind people and other paralytic people in Vila chã came to the gathering, and St. James cured them. He even brought one dead man back to life. After that, everyone believed and thanked Gidas and Zides for bringing that holy man. However, when St. James continued his journey, someone who was probably tempted by the devil, did not want people to become Christians. He saw the culprits in Gidas and Zides. He then killed them and hid the bodies. Gidas’ body was hidden in a swamp and Zides’ body was hidden amidst the rocks, on top of the hill. The people took notice of the two brothers’ disappearance and began searching for them. When they found the bodies, the swamp had turned into a flowery field and the pile of stones had turned into a large forest. As they witnessed the miracle, soon the two brothers were called saints and martyrs. Ever since, they have been remembered as St. Gidas and St. Zides.

Other points of interest in Vila Chã: