Capela dos Milagres
Church in Machico (Madeira)
The Capela dos Milagres or Chapel of Miracles, is one of the earliest chapels built on the island of Madeira. This historic site holds significant importance as it hosted the first mass in Madeira, conducted on the day following the discovery of the island. A vow was made at that time to construct a chapel dedicated to Christ in this location. According to popular tradition, the chapel is associated with the unfortunate tomb of Robert Machim and Ana d’Arfet.
The chapel faced destruction in the devastating flood of 1803, which nearly completely damaged it and carried the crucified Christ to the sea. The almost intact image was eventually recovered by an American galley, leading to a change in the chapel’s invocation to Senhor dos Milagres. Although entirely demolished in 1862 due to the threat of collapse, it was reconstructed and finally inaugurated in 1883. Despite the reconstruction, parts of the original chapel from the 15th century were conserved, including a section of the ogival portal and the triumphal arch, which likely belonged to the primitive construction. In 1956, the chapel underwent extensive repairs following the November flood.
What does the Capela dos Milagres look like?
The chapel follows a longitudinal floor plan with an east/west orientation, adhering to liturgical requirements. It consists of a nave and a rectangular main chapel, with a sacristy attached to the north wall of the main chapel and a Pastoral Centre to the south.
The stonework portal, featuring a broken arch, is framed within a tall triangular gable. Crowning the gable is a round oculus adorned with stained glass and the Christ cross in rigid stonework. The cymatium is also crafted in grey stonework and covered with half-cane tile, contributing to the chapel’s architectural charm and historical significance.
The chapel features a stonework portal with a broken arch, framed in a tall triangular gable. At the top of the gable, there is a round oculus with stained glass and a rigid stonework Christ cross. The cymatium, also in grey stonework, is covered with half-cane tile. The gantry, among the archivolts, displays several crosses of the Order of Christ. The facade terminates with ends in the wedges. On the North and South elevations, two openings of different sizes are present, each with a broken arch in rigid regional stonework.
Inside the chapel, just before the entrance, a checkered design of white and black tiles decorates the floor. The wooden high choir stands on a windbreaker supported by two columns (plaster) on a plinth in insular grey stonework. On the Gospel side, there’s a round wooden pulpit painted with a wooden staircase and canopy, along with two late-Baroque carved altars: Nossa Senhora das Dores and Nosso Senhor dos Passos. Above them, a triumphal arch with marbled stonework displays the national arms beneath a painted red curtain with tassels. A wooden balustrade divides the nave, and the cracks exhibit intricate decoration in polychrome carving. The plastered ceiling is adorned with vegetal elements.
The chapel houses a main altarpiece in polychrome and golden late-Baroque carving and a ceiling with a stucco cross.
The Capela dos Milagres appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Machico (Madeira)!
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Visiting Capela dos Milagres
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