Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Battlements and Bafflement – Portugal 18

Miranda Church

Miranda Church



The proximity of our latest campsite in Miranda do Douro to the town itself was a blessing. Indeed, we had a wonderful view of the town from the Boomobile. Add to that the maze of cycle tracks and bridges that wove in and around the river, and it made for a beautiful day when we rose the next morning to explore with our bikes.

It was a steep climb however, to the archway in the wall surrounding the old town, and even pushing the bikes up the last stretch of the incline began to give me some insight into the trials of the triathletes we’d encountered earlier in our travels.

Once again, thick stone walls guarded this old settlement from any threat of Spanish incursions, but, bizzarely, upon entering the church here, we were to discover that the Portuguese here had had a secret weapon in the old days, to ward of the Spaniards. Either that, or they were on drugs.

As we wandered around the interior of the church, amidst the usual religious paraphernalia, I discovered an incongruous exhibit, to say the least. It appeared to be the doll of a small boy, of distinctly oriental cast, dressed in a green frock coat and a top hat. Surrounding him in a gilt-edged glass case, were scores of different outfits, shirts and socks. I could not for the life of me, attribute any religious significance to this garish, but amusing display.

As I was drawing Miki’s attention to it, a gaggle of noisy Spanish tourists were approaching, with a guide who was explaining the church to them. Asking Miki to hang back and translate what the guide then told them about the boy in the case, we learned the following:

Back in the day, I guess the 1500’s – The Fort only had a small garrison guarding it. When the Spanish came to attack, this little boy would be standing in the road, and they’d all say “Oh, we can”t invade today lads”, and the little boy would run and tell the Portuguese soldiers, and reinforcements would come from Lisbon, then the Spanish came back, had a look at the massed troops, and thought better of it.

Apparently, this happened all the time. Nowadays in Miranda, when a woman’s having a baby here, guess what? Yeah, thats right, momma puts some money in the conveniently placed slot next to the glass case for good luck. Is there any bloody wonder I’m so cynical? You can just imagine it, can’t you? Some enterprising bishop says “Hey, I’ve got this manky old doll, we can invent some crackpot miracle theory and fleece the thicko peasants for even more of their hard-earned escudos.” Nutters.

Having had my religious fill for the day, I retired to a lovely cafe, shaded beneath lush green grapevines, and enjoyed a solitary coffee, until Miki joined me after sketching.

We never did see the little boy in the road, so I assumed the Spanish weren’t invading today….

Sun-dappled coffee cup in Miranda cafe

Sun-dappled coffee cup in Miranda cafe


Kev Moore


July 16, 2008 - Posted by | Art, coffee, culture, humor, life, personal, religion, travel, writing | , , , , ,

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