A ninety-seven-year-old artist in Portugal is making recycled religious artwork from material she salvages to help suffering Christians.

Maria Antónia Cabral creates traditional Portuguese devotional images of saints from materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill and is giving the money from selling her art to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Mrs Cabral, who is currently preparing an exhibition of her work at Benfica Town Hall, Lisbon, said: “There are so many desperate situations in the world, so I am eager to help in any way I can.”

The traditional devotional images she produces, known locally as “registos,” are an important part of traditional Portuguese piety.

First made in the 18th century, they are usually printed images of saints in decorated frames.

Mrs Cabral’s “registos” are made from salvaged materials. She uses old clothes, curtains or pillows as the basic material, and added: “IKEA boxes are brilliant, they are made of perfectly smooth cardboard”.

She told ACN that her interest in “registos” began in her teens.

She said: “When I was a teenager, I’d go to the market in Nazaré with my mother, and the fishmongers there had traditional handicraft images of saints in framed boxes on their stalls.

“They were so simple, but I loved them and later learned to make them myself.”

Mrs Cabral went on to become one of the first 10 women in Portugal to obtain a degree in architectural design.

The nonagenarian artist is moved to create her eco-conscious “registos” by the plight of suffering Christians around the world.

She said: “ACN came into my life several years ago… I read all the material ACN sends me, and that motivates me to do whatever I can.

Mrs Cabral added: “I had so many ‘registos’ that I decided to hold an exhibition, and all the money raised will be going to ACN.”

She told ACN that her artwork is sought after as original gifts for baptisms, First Holy Communions, birthdays, weddings and other special occasions.