quarta-feira, 24 de novembro de 2010

Gresufes: the ancient parish

Gresufes, the hamlet where Blessed Alexandrina was born, is a part of the parish of Balasar (Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal), which for several centuries was the seat of parish too. The man who gave it the name, Gresulfo, must have lived about one thousand years before Alexandrina.
The parish had Jesus the Holy Saviour as its patron.

As we approach Gresufes, we see the traditional village but with more contemporary buildings.

Gresufes is surrounded by hills to the east, south and west. These hills are full of vegetation. It is only open to the north, towards Alem and the River Este.
It is certainly a peaceful area, excellent for relaxation and meditation.
The road actually finishes at Gresufes so what could have made this place a parish?
On one side there is abundant water, and where that exists you have to create a village.
But there may be another reason: On a hill close by there was a small religious center before our era. The parish of Gresufes is somehow the successor of this centre.
Today we can find half a dozen houses there: some recent, some old and very modest, but at least one impresses us with its character.

The House of the Vicentes

The Vicentes, ie the family of the mother of Alexandrina, was not the poorest. But then, owing perhaps to maladministration, the house had to be sold and that ruined the family.

Gresufes seen from the north. The House of Vicentes is in the center of the image, with a large garage door and a brown balcony above it.

A new house was recently built over the original: but the kitchen where, saw the birth of Alexandrina on 30 March 1904, was spared. It was cold and the mother gave birth to her daughter near the fireplace.

The fireplace and oven. It was in front these that Alexandrina was born.

Besides the fireplace, the kitchen also maintains the oven and the chimney: the oven was used to cook the family bread and chimney, of course, to allow the smoke to escape from the kitchen. It was under the hood, in front of the fireplace, where the family prayed and talked and spun during the long nights of winter.

Lintel of the old door of the Vicentes house. The inscription reads The Year of the Lord 1764.

Traditionally, the chimneys were showpieces.
In the wall was an area for stowing cleaning gear and such.
The wine cellar, it seems, was 18th century. At least that is the date on the lintel where the door was. One of the iron locks of this door was also salvaged.


It was customary to have a pair of these iron knockers on the doors of the farmhouses. This one, from the Vicentes home, dates from around 1870. It is similar to several others in the parish.

Memories of Gresufes

In her Autobiography, Alexandrina left us some interesting memories of her childhood in old Gresufes. Let’s look at one of the earliest, that of the falling bowl.
How quiet it was and, and my mother was relaxing and laying me down beside her. I did not want to sleep and, lifting myself up, got to the top of the bed to reach a bowl containing a hair unguent – a product of the land - and began to rub it into my hair as I had seen it used.
Because of this my mother reprimanded me and I took fright. I dropped the bowl to the ground, fell on top of it and cut my face.
I was taken immediately to the doctor who, seeing my condition, refused to treat me, saying that it was beyond his capabilities. My mother took me to Viatodos, where there was a renowned chemist, who attended to me, though with much cost because he had to sew my face three times, and the wound took some time to heal. The suffering was intense.

This accident left a visible mark on Alexandrina next to her mouth: which she was not to forget. The Viatodos chemist was Snr. Oliveira; the pharmacy was called Isabelinha.

The Viatodos chemist, Sr. Oliveira.

In this second episode Alexandrina might have been severely injured, but the game ended without problems:
One day I went with my sister and a cousin to graze the cattle, and in the field was a horse. At some point, the mare bolted to the side of the field where I was and threw me to the ground, butted me with his head, stood over me, and began to scrape my chest above the heart with his hoof, as if he were playing. Then he backed off, whinnied, and returned to repeat the game. He did this several sometimes, but I was not hurt.
My companions shouted and some people who knew the animal ran to help and I was able to escape from his games.