Our destination today has always been the Portuguese village of Soajo.
It lies within the Peneda Gerés National Park, and my interest in this particular village was sparked by a conversation with the owners of the Convivio Camping where we are staying.
I had been asking about Espigueiros. Um, I hear you say. ….
What exactly are Espigueiros?
Well, they are a very identifiable feature of the Portuguese landscape… they are grain stores.
No iron silos here, there they are more often made in stone, often whole slabs of the stuff, and where tiny, fine slits have been etched into the side walled slabs small enough that air can circulate but mice, birds and large insects can’t get in.
We’ve been told that because the supports are made of stone, because stone remains amazingly resistant to damp, and that the “mushroom” tops on the supports are a practical measure because mice and rats can not negotiate the overhang and the smooth surface of the bases of them to get at the grain above.
Some of these have horizontal “bars” on the bottom instead of the “mushroom” style arrangement, but the protrusion and smooth undersides serve the same purpose.
The crosses at the tops are for good luck and blessing of the crops.
The Espigueiros in Soajo are very well known, and little wonder, as there are a photogenic “crop” (pun intended) of them situated together on a small rocky outcrop that tops a small rise in the village.
They stand in ageless beauty, some are older and some are newer, but my eye can’t pick out the differences between them because all appear to be made to the same time honoured template.
I love the detail of how the corners have been carved out of the stones to form “L” shapes and how these fit so neatly into one another. The short horizontal sections of the stone rectangles dovetail with amazing exactness into the longer horizontal slabs.
We’ve been told that most of them used to hold grain, but today corn is a more widespread crop and so these stores are more often used for corn storage today.
Espigueiros… it might mean “grain store” in Portuguese, but it me it means “Artform”.