The first admiration is the cave area. It has several tens of meters, first in half-light, with a very high nave. Then it narrows slightly towards the natural clearing towards the sea.
Access is via an entrance with a short flight of stairs.
Shortly thereafter, the eye discovers a small wooden chapel in a dark corner. The first surprise.
The ceiling has various shades of the rocks, is decorated with stalactites and many natural cobweb-like traps. The bottom is sandy and, close to the sea, the limestone rocks take on irregular shapes.
The sound of the waves permanently echoes inside the cave and sets its rhythm. The clear water of the Sado estuary reflects the brightness of the sun and contrasts with the darker and brownish tones of the rock.
Joana went to show her boyfriend, Cláudio, the cave and points out that it is a “very beautiful and surprising space. The water is very clear, you can see Arrábida. It’s beautiful. You can come with family, friends … a date by the sea. We sit in the choirs and it’s a space for two “.
We enter the cave along a path to the foot of the southern slope of Arrábida. With an excellent view of the end of the Sado estuary and the cut of the mountain. In some places the sea has exploited the weakness of the limestone and created several caves. That of Lapa de Santa Margarida is more than 100,000 years old.
The space was occupied in the Paleolithic and the church is from the 18th century. Some of the original images were stolen. Without being sure, one will be kept in the Convent of Arrábida, that of the Senhora da Arrábida.
In the chapel there are many candles, religious images, photographs and the dark wooden ceiling accentuates the mystery.
There is a report by Alexandre Herculano that refers to access by boat, as the Cape fishermen did, “when they go to listen to mass or bring an offering to Santa da Lapa.“
Alexandre Herculano also describes “the silent cave, charged with an unalterable freshness and softness, buried in a religious silence that the touch of the waves does not seem to interrupt. Lapa’s concave is irregularly cut into whimsical stalactites.
In some places, the glass columns that naturalists call stalagmites rose from the ground, and grew so large that they could merge with the great masses of carbines hung at the vault. They embraced and made columns that three men will not be able to embrace with their arms ».
Because they are so large and sturdy, one has the illusion that it is the stalagmites that support the roof of the cave.
This space was also used by Manoel de Oliveira for one of the scenes in the film “O Convento” (1995), with Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich and Luís Miguel Cintra.
Despite all these references, the cave remains a secret of the mountains. Sometimes it is not easy to find out due to the lack of signage.
Access is neither complicated nor time-consuming. It requires some physical exertion due to the large number of stone steps along the path and some are high. But it is not difficult and we can make a stop. You will see that the effort is largely rewarding.
The best reference for discovering the access road is the Casa do Gaiato holiday home.
Lapa de Santa Margarida in the Arrábida mountain range: the charm of the cave “buried in a religious silence that the brushing of the waves does not seem to interrupt” is part of the Antena1 program I go there and I come and the broadcast of this episode can be heard here.