The Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Sorrow

By : August 20th, 2020 Traditions 0 Comments

The pilgrimage of Nossa Senhora da Agonia, which takes place in Viana do Castelo, in Minho, is one of the best-known festivals in the country: it is grand in programming, in the number of visitors, in the strength of the tradition of the Viana costume, in the weight the gold that mordomas display on their breasts.

The history of the party joins the history of the Church of the Sorrow. In 1674, in honor of the patron saint of fishermen, a chapel in invocation to the Bom Jesus do Santo Sepulcro do Calvário was built and, a little above, a chapel devoted to Nossa Senhora da Conceição.

Today, the name is associated with the queen of pilgrimages, born in 1772 from the devotion of the sailors from Galicia and the entire Portuguese coast. Later, in 1783, the Sacred Congregation of Rites allowed a Solemn Mass to be celebrated in this chapel (now known as the Chapel of Our Lady of Agony) on August 20 each year.

In 1861 the Solemn Feast is overtaken by the Pilgrimage of Sorrow, and the latter takes on more importance and becomes so big that it ends up spilling out the religious feast. It becomes a festival full of singing with the sound of violas, dances, an extravagant festival.

In 1862, the pilgrimage assumed such popularity that it was estimated that the fireworks alone were already contemplated by more than fifty thousand people. Nine years later, the bullfighting was added to the program (which since 2009 is no longer part of the party).

In 1906, in this pilgrimage the Costume Festival was born and, two years later, in 1908, the first Agricultural Parade took place (nowadays it is the famous ethnographic procession).

From then on, the pilgrimage was no longer limited to Campo da Agonia and invaded the entire city of Viana do Castelo. During the pilgrimage days the program is complete. Every year there is a Craft Fair, a musical show with well-known artists, there are fireworks every day at 24:00 always in different locations in the city, meetings of Philharmonic Bands, a Mordomas Parade that takes place on one of the days of the pilgrimage at 10 am, the Ethnographic Parade that normally takes place on Saturday afternoon and a festival of Concertinas and Challenge with songs. On the 20th there is always a solemn Eucharistic celebration followed by a procession to the sea, and on the day before there is the making of “Flowers Carpets” in the streets of Ribeira. 

Mordomas: in Alto-Minho, they are the women in charge of collecting funds for the pilgrimage to the patron saint of their land. The mordomas’ costumes were usually black or dark blue. This costume would later serve as the bride’s dress (with the coat and veil) and still be buried with them. The scarf ‘carpet’ on the head in silk, vest, pouch, apron (with Royal coat of arms), black slippers and skirt at the waist.

The costumes have several characteristics and meaning:

Wedding dress: black. The bride exchanges the mordoma scarf (coloured and in silk), for a fine scarf (light fabric made in cotton or linen), crossed at the front. But also (and more usual) there is the embroidered lace veil or tulle. The votive candle, or Easter palm, is now exchanged for the bridal bouquet.

Farmer’s dress: colourful and owing their tones to the different regions of Alto-Minho. The blues are associated with lands facing the sea, the greens with mountainous and green lands, the red suit is ‘from Viana’ or  “Minho style”. It’s a party outfit. There are two handkerchiefs: one drawn on the chest and tightened at the back, at the height of the belt; another pierced over the back of the neck and tied at the top of the head.

Half-lady / morgata costume: the farmer who, although she may already be married (therefore her social and economic position has already evolved), has not yet achieved social recognition, and so she was a ‘half-lady’. She takes the mordoma / bride’s coat, the skirt with flower print, adorned with ruffles and ruffles, but it can also be a black farm skirt with a bead and a gallon embroidered, finishing off the slippers black. On her shoulders is a printed natural silk scarf (usually worn on her head while dying), as well as the “confectionery jacket” hanging from her hands to replace her pouch, or a shawl.


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