Fonte de Milagre de S. Miguel
Castro Verde – Alentejo – Portugal
Fonte de Milagre
Boletim Informativo da Câmara Municipal de Castro Verde
The ‘Fonte de Milagre‘ (‘Source of Miracle’) is the site of a temple enclosing a water well located 7 km outside of Castro Verde in the lower Alentejo of Portugal. The temple is known to have been built over the remains of a former monument from an earlier unknown date.
Recently discovered documents dating back as far as 1677 refer to the ‘Fonte’ as a place where health cures were being administered on a regular basis for several centuries. This discovery is not a total surprise, considering the very rich and ancient history of spas and ‘healing from the land’ in the Southern Iberian Peninsula. The historical facts relating to the ‘Fonte’ confirm that the benefits were of such a magnitude that the Royal House of Portugal and King D. João V (1706-1750) became involved in the administration of the site. Unfortunately this patrimony has been hidden from recent history, laying dormant for more than 150 years. In 2008 the ‘Associação de S. Miguel para Medicina Bio-Energética’ was formed as a non-profit organization to research the site in order to validate the historical facts and establish treatment protocols being that it continues as a powerful area of therapeutic action.
NEWS - 2011 – 2013
The last known construction at this site was in the beginning of the 18th century (~1714) when the existing ‘monument’ structure is known to have been built over former temples at the same location.
In August of 2011 the ‘Association’ began work to provide upgraded conditions as listed below.
1. A cabin structure of 25 square meters was built on a treated lumber support base above ground level.
2. A pathway linking the outpost to the Fonte was designed and fabricated with existing stones gathered from the surroundings. The path respects construction techniques of the early 18th century
3. The east and west portico enclosures have been closed off with chicken wire screens mounted on wood and metal supports. Closing off the porticos was important for keeping the the inside of the monument free of visiting birds.The main entrance door is self closing with a pulley weight.
4. Various wall repairs have been made on the interior and exterior of the monument walls which are 110 cm wide on all sides.
5. The top of the well has been fitted with an access cover made of marine grade treated wood.
Research outpost under construction – Aug. 2011
HISTORY & CULTURAL BACKGROUND
Local history refers to the ‘Fonte de Milagre’ as a temple and water well.
The history and culture of the area includes accounts (not legends) of cures, fertility and longevity, attributed to this site located on land which has been in use for centuries for cattle grazing. The existing temple structure dates from 1714, having been constructed over a former monument from an earlier, unknown date. Confirming this are traces of roman stones (1) around the existing structure which indicate reuse of materials in the reconstruction, in particular, sections of stone steps used in the foundations of the existing monument.
The Chapel of S. Miguel
Five hundred metres to the northwest of the ‘Fonte de Milagre’, up a rise, sits the Chapel of S. Miguel.
The chapel was built in 1714 to replace a former chapel. This compound included dormitories which were built in the same year. The annexed dormitories have long been in a state of ruin since the original construction was but stone and earth with no mortar or cement.
Remains of dormitories and compound wall
The chapel and dorms, constructed on higher ground, provided for better access in the winter, and shelter for the pilgrims and those seeking treatments.
Top: View of Cross from chapel altar- Below: Straight line view Altar-Cross-Fonte
A stone cross is located 50 metres directly in front of the chapel at the end of a stone path. It marks the direction to the Fonte de Milagre, 500 metres down a gentle slope. This ‘path marker’ is in direct line from the chapel altar, pointing the way out the doors for pilgrims to make their way to the ‘Fonte’.
Stone Cross seen from chapel main entrance
Therapies – Scope and Practice
Regarding the ‘scope and practice’ of the therapies what was not registered in the manuscripts was the manner in which the sick were treated at the site. What is known is that there existed a practice of treatments at the site where the divine and the profane were interlinked in pursuit of ‘healings’; and that this practice was under strict surveillance of the Inquisition.
Image of S. Miguel behind Chapel altar
This strict surveillance by inquisitors is apparent by the fact that the image of S. Miguel behind the altar in the chapel «was adorned with a ‘garment’ (similar to those used by inquisitors) belonging to «Matias Mestre Loução, inquisitor of the city of Évora…. having been gifted and put on the saint by the priest José Diogo Guerreiro of Santiago… with the conditions that it never be removed, nor sold, nor be used for other purpose than for the image of the saint.» (2) With regard to these procedures and treatments, there existed a ‘book of miracles‘ – a ‘register’ where everything would be recorded. This registry has not been found. Was it lost, did it disappear? How… by whom? Within the past few years the mystery surrounding the ‘treatments’ and ‘healings’ at the ‘Fonte de Milagre’ has been researched. Much that was hidden has been recovered, but not all unfortunately.
What is certain is that the administrative relationship between the Chapel of S. Miguel and the ‘Fonte’ no longer exists. More importantly, the administration of treatments under jurisdiction of the church ….. ended in the late nineteenth century. This administration involved the ‘Confraria de S. Miguel’, created to ensure the economic administration of the proceeds collected there. It was responsible for the organization of banking functions (3) as we understand it today. All of these administrative relationships no longer exist and thus the ’Confraria‘ which was responsible for this administration has passed into history.
The site is being researched by the ‘Association’ so as to be restored in a manner consistent with the requirements of our times.
~ The ‘Association’ welcomes you to visit this site ~
For further information contact the ‘Association’:
Rua Morais Sarmento No. 35, Castro Verde 7780-216, Portugal
(2) Pereira de Carvalho, Abílio – «História De Uma Confraria (1677-1855)», Câmara Municipal de Castro Verde, 1989, pp. 149. (translated to English)
(3) Idem, pp. 89