THE PARISH CHURCH OF BALASAR
The old interior
the Autobiography, Alexandrina says that she “liked much to
go to the church”. Among other reasons it could be that it was a new
church with very attractive furnishings, particularly the main
altar. Effectively, when it opened to the cult, in 1907, the small
Alexandrina was only three years old. The previous one was where the
cemetery is today and it dated from the 15th century. For
the localization of the current church, the importance of the
devotion to the Holy Cross of Balasar was certainly taken into
photograph of the exterior, from Fr Pinho’s archives, shows it to us
as it was in Alexandrina’s time: the structural differences in
relation to the present are minimal.
It is not
certain that Dona Ana da Costa’s second daughter was
baptized there: if the work of the new church lasted four
years, as Fr Leopoldino writes, and finished in 1907. Then
they started in 1903, and she was born and baptized in 1904.
During the period of its construction the chapel of D. Benta
Farm served as the parochial church. Did the child receive
baptism in that chapel? The register of the time only says
that it took place “in this parochial church of Saint
Eulália of Balasar”.
One of the
pictures that better give us account of the interior of the
Parochial Church of Balasar – the one that Alexandrina knew
- is the picture of the interior which also came from Fr
Pinho’s archive. The retable of the main altar, of
neo-classic inspiration, is a gorgeous composition. At the
centre, a panel shows the Good Shepherd looking after His
sheep. Below the panel, behind the altar, can seen the rich
baldachin of the tabernacle, offered by Alexandrina.
On the reverse
of the photograph, Fr Pinho has placed this note: “Parochial
Church of Balasar – on the main altar can be seen the
beautiful tabernacle (to the value of 10$000,00), offered by
Alexandrina”. 10$000,00 are of course 10,000$00, or ten «contos».
Even without knowing the exact date when the tabernacle
(indeed, a baldachin of the tabernacle) was acquired – some
time in the 1940s or ’50s – it is a very meaningful sum.
composition tends towards to an elegance, perhaps of Rococo
inspiration. For a Mary of the Calvary-Tabernacles as
Alexandrina was, it had something of
Calvary. Indeed, on the baldachin proper rises a cup,
from the centre of which rises a crucifix. As the Blood of
the Crucified One collects in the cup, two doves drink from
it. The Eucharistic symbolism is clear.
the importance of the Bld. Alexandrina’s devotion to the Blessed
Sacrament, there is much to quote; let’s read this fragment from the
did not leave any day to pray the stations, to visit the Blessed
Sacrament, to meditate, to be in the church, to be at home, even on
the roads, without always making a spiritual communion in this
my Jesus, come to my poor heart! Ah, I desire You, do not delay!
Come to enrich me with Your graces; increase in me Your holy and
divine love. Join me to Yourself! Hide me in Your Sacred Breast!
The main chapel has something of the appearance of a tabernacle,
with its tent-like covering. On the right side of the church are
placed an image of the Little Flower, the harmonium, the pulpit and
a confessional. The Little Flower, because of the similarities that
join her and Alexandrina, (once the French Carmelite even promised
her that she would come to receive her as she passed into eternity),
the harmonium – was this a gift from Alexandrina too? - to
facilitate singing, for which Alexandrina says she had a mad
was when I twelve years of age that I was given the post of
catechist and singer; I worked with much pleasure, as much in one
post as in the other, but for singing I can say that I had a mad
The confessional - she also offered one.
And as for the pulpit, it is represented because from it, or what
existed before it, on the north side, Fr Pinho would have preached
Indeed, in the other wall of the church there is a second pulpit, a
memento of old times. That one represented the Holy Family.
The new interior
The works of 1978 radically transformed the main chapel of the
Church of Balasar but also leave it very beautiful, though in a
modern style that bears no likeness to the one before.
Where before carvings dominated today plain granite has taken over;
but it has remained a structure of great dignity and harmony.
Alexandrina’s tomb can now be found at the left of the main altar.
To appreciate its importance, it is necessary to know this prodigal
promise that Jesus made in June 1946:
promise you – trust me - that after your death all the souls that
visit your tomb will be saved, so long as they do not continue in
sin and thus abuse the great favour I give them because of you.
order that those who visit your tomb be saved, other graces needed,
but those graces will be given to them by you.
2006 an image of Alexandrina was placed next to her tomb. The
blessing had taken place on 13th October. Taking advantage of the
circumstance, the tomb was considerably remodelled, with an overall
positive effect. The image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is very
beautiful, original and with a stylised cross used to good effect,
and a crown of thorns at the height of the horizontal crosspiece.
This was done with a recommendation of Alexandrina’s in mind. The
back of the “book” that covers the sepulchre was raised so as to be
easier to read; the letters be of the book are those of the message
that hung on the back wall, they have been gilded to provide a more
the right side was placed a rich reliquary, which contains a small
bone of Alexandrina.
already spoken elsewhere about the attractive stained-glass of this
complete this reference to the Parochial Church of Balasar, it is
interesting to note some articles of artistic value that belong to
it, namely a processional cross, and the images of St Eulália, St
Antão, and St. Augustine, all dating from the 17th
century or perhaps even earlier.