Monday, May 12, 2014

A Little Soul

Every so often, when walking around the lanes, you come across a little prayer post built into the walls surround a field or the walls of houses.  These prayer posts are called Alminha or Little Soul and are scattered across Portugal where ever you go.  

Maintained by the local women, an alminha is a small shrine which traditional represents a soul in purgatory and is filled with a candle and flowers (although these days it is likely to be a  battery operated candle and plastic flowers from the euro shop).  

Traditionally, passers-by would pray and offer alms when passing one in the street.   The alminh can depict Jesus or a saint, like the Patron Saint of lost things - St Antony or a Guardian Angel.  In fact there are hundreds of saints to choose from.....take a look.

It is a shame to see one not maintained but as the older generation pass away (there has been a spate of this recently with funerals every week in the local church) I think the younger people don't bother anymore.

I like them as the represent Portuguese heritage and faith.  They are a familiar 'landmark' along the lanes and villages take a pride in their maintenance.   On a basic level they are a bit of street decoration, something to look at as you pass, especially when the flowers have been picked fresh or at night with the candle flickering giving off a glow which adds to the whole spirituality of the alminha.  It is typically Portuguese.

 While not strictly an alminha I wanted to highlight one shrine which consistently makes me smile.  In our village opposite the church we have this shrine.
I assume it represents our village Patron saint.  However a couple of years ago the image of the saint within the shrine was dropped and off came his head and ever since then Pera has had a headless saint sitting in the shrine.  It shouldn't make me smile, but it does.....I wonder what happened to the person who dropped it....he's probably in purgatory!

 For those wanting to find out more about these shrines and see some more pictures this thesis was written by Olinda M Rodrigues a devotee of Pera living in Lisbon.