Built initially as a church named “Espirito Santo” or “Corpo Santo”, the building is a reflection of the early renaissance period in the Algarve and has been witness to 600 years of history. It was in the 15th Century during the reign of Dom Manuel I, that the first pages of the chapter on Portuguese maritime discoveries were written and all the area around the Bensafrim River took on great importance.
Originally the Lagos Maritime Association, adjoining a church that held the Holy Brotherhood of the Fishermen of the City, the building had a majestic entrance portal with two beautifully carved medallions typical of the Renaissance Architectural Style. This portal can now be seen at the entrance to the Dr. José Formosinho Municipal Museum a few doors down from “Mar d’Estórias” where it has been exhibited since 1936.
It was used, not only as a church and the Lagos Maritime Association, but also as a warehouse for wines and cereals in 1916 and for 54 years it was the headquarters of the Lagos fire brigade from 1932. Since 2003 it has been unoccupied having been used only occasionally for events and exhibitions.
The fleeting and sporadic use of the building has not helped to provide it with a solid identity although it has undoubted historical and architectural importance. The removal of the portal stones, of the beautiful gilt work and of the main alter have all contributed to the loss of some of the buildings historical value.
The earthquake and tsunami of 1755 destroyed a significant part of the building, namely the old sacristy’s barrel vaulted ceiling but fortunately some parts resisted and are still visible today as a testimony to the era. Above the main entrance used to be the church choir which was supported by an arch now supporting the mezzanine, also visible are some of the vaulted ceilings.
It was important for us to grasp both the material and immaterial significance of the building, as that was central to the projects concept. In other words, the identity of “Mar d’Estórias” evolved as we began to understand the part this building had played in history.
The initial role of “Mar d’Estórias” was to restore the buildings dignity and return all its soul. We restored and repaired everything possible using the appropriate materials for this type of intervention. The wooden coffered ceiling, of what is now the event gallery, has been totally remade. An archaeological study of the buildings evolution over the years was made and the building has now been adapted for public use of commerce and Portuguese culture with all the comfort and modern commodities.
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