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Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Sernancelhe, Viseu, Douro, Norte, Portugal

Commemorated on June 10
Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Sernancelhe, Viseu, Douro, Norte, Portugal
The story goes that in 1498, a mute girl was herding her flock in the hills of Quintela, outside the town of Sernancelhe in north central Portugal, when she found a statue of the Virgin and Child in the cleft of a rock. Young Joana made the statue an object of personal devotion, carrying it back and forth from home, where she made clothes for it, to the hills, where she would set it on a rock, surround it with flowers, and pray while the sheep grazed. Her mother began to feel the "doll" was distracting the girl from her chores and one day threw it in the fireplace. Suddenly Joana spoke, for the first time in her life: "Mother! That's Our Lady of the Grotto! What are you doing?" The girl grabbed the unburnt image out of the fire. She was cured, but her mother's arm became paralyzed. After they both prayed, the mother regained use of her arm. As word spread through the area, people began coming to venerate the statue, and the parish priest suggested moving it to the church. But three times, the image vanished from the church, reappearing in its original place between the rocks. So a chapel was built there, enclosing the location where Joana found the statue. People believed that in 982 nuns fleeing the Islamic conqueror Almanzor had hidden the image there. 
Nossa Senhora da Lapa became one of Portugal's major pilgrimage destinations, attracting devotion from colonies in Brazil and India as well as from the Portuguese aristocracy. In 1575, Pope Gregory XIII approved the request of King Sebastian to transfer the shrine to the Society of Jesus. Between 1610 and 1635, the Jesuits rebuilt the church, decorating the interior with azulejo tilework. Later, they added a college and housing for pilgrims, students, and themselves. From the 1700s to the 1900s, the complex changed hands several times, repeatedly taken over by the state then returned to the Church. Since 1929, it has belonged to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lamego.
Photo by Artur Vaz, May 1, 2006, from "Senhora, a photo from 
Viseu, North," TrekEarth,
In addition to the huge boulders within the sanctuary, another unusual feature of the shrine is a crocodile hanging from the ceiling (as in the church of Our Lady of the Cherry Tree in Belgium)—a wooden replica of the long-decayed stuffed skin, which some say a pilgrim brought to thank the Virgin for her help against the beast in India. A more fanciful local story relates that a monstrous lizard menaced a girl who was spinning by hand while watching her flock. After invoking Our Lady of Lapa, she was able to subdue the animal by stuffing its mouth with balls of wool, then lead it home by a thread to be killed and mounted.
Although the shrine's fame has been eclipsed by that of Fatima, it still hosts three big pilgrimages annually: on June 10, Portugal Day; on August 15, Feast of the Assumption (preceded by novenas); and on September 8, Feast of Mary's Birth.
Sources include:
Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Lapa (Sernancelhe) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,
"Nossa Senhora da Lapa,"
Retratos e Recantos,




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