Saint Gonçalo: the matchmaker

By : November 19th, 2020 Personalities, Traditions 0 Comments

In Portugal, there are two matchmaking saints. One with its throne in Lisbon which is Santo António, and the other located to the north, S. Gonçalo de Amarante. In order to avoid unfair competition between the two, Santo António takes care of the younger women, while S. Gonçalo deals with the “old”. This is the popular belief, but it is not just for this reason that the church of São Gonçalo is a mandatory stop.

S. Gonçalo has the honor of Padroeiro de Amarante and his memory is celebrated on two occasions during the year: the 10th of January, the date of his death, and the first weekend of June, with the great festivities of the city.

Coming from the noble family of Pereira, Gonçalo was born in Paço de Arriconha, around 1187 and inherits from his parents nobility in blood and greatness in Faith.

He is educated in good Christian principles and, when he reaches his youth, he opts for ecclesiastical life, studying the first letters, it is believed, in the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Pombeiro de Ribavizela, that he continued his studies at the Paço Arcebispal de Braga, where he would become ordained priest. Not satisfied with his parish life and burning with the desire to visit the most holy places of Christianity, he decided to start a long pilgrimage to Rome, to be with the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and then on to Palestine.

After fourteen years, Gonçalo returns to his parish of S. Paio de Vizela, which, during his absence, was directed by a nephew who, not recognizing him, expelled him from home. Disillusioned by the opulent and lavish life of his replacement and faced with disrespect for Christian teachings and humility, he decides to abandon the parish life and opts for a more contemplative, hermitic and evangelizing modus vivendi. Take the habit of the Order of S. Domingos.

It was through this new way of life that it reached the Tâmega valley. Facing a ruined hermitage dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Assunção, located in a deserted place, next to the river and close to a vacant bridge, the old temple is installed and restored.

Bordering the villages of the Tâmega valley and Serra do Marão, Frei Gonçalo evangelizes and blesses marital unions, supports and protects the most disadvantaged and performs some wonders, which give him an aura of sanctity. In the course of these pastoral actions, he is faced with the difficulties and the danger that his faithful ran when venturing to cross the river, especially at times when it presented more flow and, in the absence of alternatives, he decides to undertake, himself, the restoration or rebuilding of the old Roman bridge, back in 1250.

For its reconstruction it will have had the participation of everyone, from the wealthiest who contributed some money and raw material and the poorest who, with their effort, carried out the work. The architect is said to have been the saint himself. The medieval bridge would last until February 10, 1763, when it succumbs to the turbulence of the waters of the Tâmega, during a flood, collapsing completely.

After the construction of the bridge and the restoration of traffic, the Dominican friar continued his life as a preacher until the day of his death, which occurred on January 10, 1259.

From then on, many were the ones who came to his tomb, installed in the same chapel where he lived to ask or thank his intercession, next to his remains.

In 1540, D. João III ordered to build, in the place of the old medieval hermitage, a convent that delivers to the friars preachers of S. Domingos, Order to which the Saint was linked.

On September 16, 1561, Gonçalo de Amarante was beatified by Pope Pius IV and, some time later, in the reign of D. Filipe I of Portugal (II of Spain), his canonization process began, which ended for having no effect.

Pope Clement X, in 1671, extends the service of his liturgical feast to the entire Dominican Order, which is celebrated on the day of his death, on 10 January.

Since then, his cult has never stopped spreading and spreading in Portugal and in the Portuguese-speaking countries, especially Brazil, where several localities have him as their patron.

So São Gonçalo is not a saint. For the Catholic Church, Blessed Gonçalo de Amarante is considered blessed. But for the population it is holy and devotion to it is not less, whatever the denomination used. His tomb, where his body is believed to be buried, can be visited in the main chapel of the monastery.

São Gonçalo is considered the “matchmaker of the old women”, which does not seem to please the younger ones who do not want to wait, and that is why the famous popular court of Amarante was born:

S. Gonçalo de Amarante,

Matchmaker of the old women,

Why don’t you marry the new ones?

What harm did they do to you?

In the church, there is still the statue of São Gonçalo, from the 16th century, in which there is the famous rope of São Gonçalo. The rope surrounds the statue’s waist and, according to popular belief, “the old women” should pull the rope three times to ask the saint for a wedding.

In conclusion, if you have passed the age to ask for help from Santo Antonio, here you have the wedding prayer for São Gonçalo:

“São Gonçalo do Amarante, Matchmaker you are, First couples to me; The other couples later.

São Gonçalo help me, On my knees I beg you, Make me marry soon, With the one I adore. 

A curiosity: ”São Gonçalo de Amarante is rooted in the culture of the city Princess of Tâmega, with peculiar sweets with phallic forms, with spicy courts that and a rich history of conquests and important heroic acts in the construction of the history of Portugal. According to popular legend, São Gonçalo is a matchmaker and it is for this reason that during feasts S. Gonçalo’s “phallic sweets” are sold and appreciated, of all sizes and shapes.


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