The solemnity known as Corpus Christi (in Portugal called the Body of God) or the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, only gained prominence in the Liturgy in 1246, when the Bishop of Liège (Belgium) instituted the feast in his diocese. . Pope Urban IV (formerly Bishop of Liège) extended the feast to the whole Church, as a solemnity of adoration of the Holy Eucharist.
The Corpus Christi ceremony was celebrated in Portugal in the 13th century, since the reign of King Afonso III. At the time, it was a worship party, not involving the procession through the streets.
The procession rite was instituted by Pope John XXII (1317). In the Church of the Martyrs, in Lisbon, the rite of the festival with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Procession, solemn Vespers and Sermon was maintained throughout the centuries.
The Procession became the most eye-catching and interesting of all, deserving the title “Procession of Processions”.
Constituted by civic and corporate procession, with floats, picturesque figures, dances, and scenes from sacramental acts, the procession took hours to walk, becoming both a religious and a social event.
The Chambers, determining royal instructions, published Regulations or Regulations of the Procession, indicating the uses and customs, the ways of dressing, the obligations of each Corporation, the dances (among them the Judenga, or dance of the Jews), the flags and banners , the choreographies (angels, sacred figures …) and the place of the Clergy. Rare were the municipal councils that had no Party Regulations, but the most expressive memories about the Procession were in Coimbra, Porto and Lisbon.
Celebrated in Lisbon, the Feast of the Body of God included the Procession, for the first time, in 1389. These were the times of consolidation of autonomy vis-à-vis Castile and of the good atmosphere created by the warlike victories of Nuno Álvares and the British cultural influence (to the point de S. Jorge – English devotion, winner of Mal, do Dragão – to be considered Patron of Portugal).
For this reason, the Corpus Christi ceremony was joined by the feast of S. Jorge. This combination resulted in the magnificence of the capital’s Procession. The party reached surprising grandeur in the time of D. João V, incorporating the Procession, it immediately included the socio-professional associations and also the delegations of the various Religious Orders of Lisbon (Augustinians, Benedictines, Dominicans, Franciscans, Order of Christ .. .) and military. In the procession, the figure of S. Jorge on horseback and the Serpe, or infernal dragon (of the Chinese type, moved by extras), against which S. Jorge fought, loomed.
There were stops to represent the fame or glory of S. Jorge; and also for a series of dances. The traditional “stations” of the Blessed Sacrament were also represented, as is still done today in the Seville procession.
At the end of the procession, came the canopy, whose rods took the highest dignitaries of the Court and the Chamber, always represented by the entire Council. Under the pallio, the Bishop of Lisbon moved, showing custody with the Blessed Sacrament. He was flanked by the King, or Head of State, or similar dignitary.
A curious fact to note is the temptation to carry out attacks against royal figures, during the “Corpus Christi” procession. One of them, against the person of D. João IV. Surviving the monarch to the act, his wife (D. Luísa de Gusmão) promoted the construction of the Convento dos Carmelitas, in Baixa Lisboeta. Built in the exact place of the failed crime, it was called the “Corpus Christi”. Another famous attack took place against D. Manuel II, near the Church of Vitória, when the procession passed on Rua do Ouro.
But the 1910 legislation, banning the Church’s holy days (except Christmas and January 1), interrupted public worship, although solemn masses continued to be held in churches. In 2003, the Corpus Christi Procession went back to the streets of Baixa, where it was once held. The solemnity, presided over by the Cardinal-Patriarch, began with the celebration of Mass in the Largo da Igreja de São Domingos. The procession ended at Rua Garrett, in front of the Martyrs’ Basilica, with the Blessing of the Blessed Sacrament. More than five thousand faithful attended the Mass and procession – among them civil and military authorities.
Nowadays the celebration begins in the Cathedral before continuing on the streets of Baixa.
Nossa Senhora da Nazaré is an image carved in wood, about 25 cm high, representing the Virgin Mary sitting on a low bench breastfeeding the Baby Jesus, with the faces and hands painted in a “dark” color. According to oral tradition, it was sculpted by St. Joseph when Jesus was still a baby, with faces and hands painted, decades later, by St. Luke. She is venerated at the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré, at Sítio da Nazaré, in Portugal.
The history of the image was published in 1609, for the first time, by Frei Bernardo de Brito, in the book Lusitanian Monarchy. This monk from Alcobaça, chronicler of Portugal, reports that he found a territorial donation from 1182 in his monastery registry, which included the history of the image, which was venerated in the early days of Christianity in Nazareth in Galilee, his hometown. From Maria. Hence the invocation of Nossa Senhora – da Nazaré. From Galilee, it was brought, in the fifth century, to a convent near Mérida, in Spain, and from there, in 711 to the Sítio (of Our Lady) of Nazaré, where it continues to be venerated.
The story of this image is inseparable from the miracle that saved D. Fuas Roupinho, in 1182, an episode that was conventionally called “the Legend of Nazaré”.
During the Middle Ages, hundreds of images of Black Virgins appeared throughout Europe, most of which, like this one, were carved in wood, of small dimensions and linked to a miraculous legend. Today, there are about four hundred of these images, ancient or their replicas, in churches across Europe, as well as some more recent ones in the rest of the world.
The true and sacred image of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré has not yet been subjected to a laboratory test to date it scientifically and in parallel to obtain confirmation of being in front of a bi-millenary image, or of a replica produced later.
Legend of Nazaré tells that at dawn on September 14, 1182, D. Fuas Roupinho, mayor of the castle of Porto de Mós, hunted along the coast, surrounded by a dense fog, close to his lands, when he saw a deer that immediately started chasing. The deer headed for the top of a cliff. D. Fuas, in the fog, isolated himself from his companions. When he realized that he was on the top of the cliff, on the edge of the cliff, in danger of death, he recognized the place. He was right next to a cave where an image of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus was venerated. He then pleaded, out loud: Our Lady, Help me! Immediately, the horse miraculously stopped, sticking its paws in the rocky boulder suspended over the void, the Beak of Miracle, thus saving the rider and his mount from certain death that would result from a fall of more than one hundred meters.
D. Fuas dismounted and went down to the cave to pray and thank the miracle. Then he sent his companions to call bricklayers to build a chapel over the grotto, in memory of the miracle, the Hermitage of Memory, to be exposed there to the miraculous image of the faithful. Before the cave was trapped, the masons undid the altar there and among the stones, unexpectedly, they found an ivory safe containing some relics and a parchment, in which the relics were identified as being from São Brás and São Bartolomeu and the story was told of the small image representing the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1377, King D. Fernando (1367-1383), due to the significant influx of pilgrims, ordered the construction of a church, near the chapel, to which the image of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré was transferred. of origin, the village of Nazaré in Galilee.
The popularity of this devotion at the time of the Discoveries was so great among the people of the sea, that both Vasco da Gama, before and after his first trip to India, and Pedro Álvares Cabral, came on a pilgrimage to Sítio da Nazaré. Among the many pilgrims of the Royal family, we highlight Queen D. Leonor of Austria, third wife of King D. Manuel I, sister of Emperor Charles V, future Queen of France, who stayed at the Site for a few days, in 1519, in an accommodation of wood built especially for this occasion. Also S. Francisco Xavier, Jesuit priest, the Apostle of the East, came on a pilgrimage to Nazaré before leaving for Goa. In fact, the Portuguese Jesuits were the main propagators of this cult on all continents.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the cult of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré was widely disseminated in Portugal and in the Portuguese Empire. Even today, some replicas of the true image are venerated and there are several churches and chapels dedicated to this invocation around the world. It is worth mentioning the image of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré, which is venerated in Belém do Pará, Brazil, whose annual party was named Círio de Nazaré and is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, reaching two million pilgrims in one day.
Today we are talking about one of the most disputed saints in history, a saint who for Italians is undoubtedly Saint Anthony of Padua. But be careful to say it here in Lisbon! Here is Saint Anthony of Lisbon. During my tours, I invite my tourists to do a little experiment: look for Santo Antonio on wikipedia. Try and you will see that, if in all languages it is Saint Anthony of Padua, in Portuguese it is Saint Anthony of Lisbon. But then, what is the truth?
He is one of the most loved saints in Christianity, yet Saint Anthony of Padua, as he is known today, has always carried with him this curious controversy linked to his name.
To be fair, it must be said that Antonio lived in Padua for just 3 years, the last of his adventurous life. Fernando Martins de Bulhões – this is his real name – was born into a wealthy family in 1195 in Lisbon; at the time the city had returned to Christianity from about 40 years, after Alfonso Henriques stole it from the Moors thus becoming the first king of Portugal. The father Martinho, a knight of the king, lived with his family in a house near the Lisbon Cathedral, where Fernando was baptized.
In 1210, at the age of just fifteen, he entered the Order of Augustinians at the Abbey of St. Vincent in Lisbon. After about 2 years he was transferred to the Convent of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, he remained there for about 8 years, during which he studied theology assiduously. In 1219 the beheaded bodies of 5 friars sent by Francis of Assisi to Morocco arrived at the convent with the task of converting Muslims. Fernando was so shocked by the incident that he decided to leave the Augustinians to join the Franciscan Order. He therefore chose to change his first name to Anthony, and to leave as a missionary himself.
Antonio embarked for Morocco in the autumn of 1220. However, upon arriving in Africa, he contracted a tropical fever that forced him to return to Europe. But on the return voyage towards the Iberian Peninsula, the ship encountered a fierce storm that diverted its course towards the Mediterranean.
The boat was wrecked in Sicily. Here, Antonio found refuge in the Franciscan convent of Messina, where he learned of the fact that in May of that year (1221) Francis had convened the elective and legislative assembly of the friars of the Order. After a long journey, Antonio arrived in Assisi where he personally met the future patron saint of Italy. Antonio received the order to preach and from there he left for a new conversion mission, this time to northern Italy, and at the end of 1224 he moved to southern France.
After spending 2 years in France, Antonio returned to Italy in 1226 when he learned of Francis’ death. His sermons began to be followed by fools of people, and they did not even stop when, he exhausted by the continuous travels and long fasts to which he underwent, he became ill enough to be forced to be carried in his arms to the pulpit. He died on June 13, 1231, at the age of 36.
Thanks to the fame he gained, from the day of the funeral his tomb became a pilgrimage destination for thousands of devotees who paraded in front of the sarcophagus day and night asking for graces and healings. So many miracles were attributed to his intercession that the Bishop of Padua “by popular acclaim” had to submit them to the judgment of Pope Gregory IX. In June 1232, exactly one year after his death, Antonio was named Saint with “53 approved miracles” and the denomination of Saint Anthony of Padua. That same year, construction work began on the Basilica intended to preserve the remains in the Venetian capital and which today receives millions of visitors every year.
And the Lisboets, your fellow citizens? They still have to be satisfied with a fragment of bone from the left arm, granted by the Paduan Franciscans and kept in the crypt of the humbler, but equally beautiful, Church of Santo António de Lisboa, which stands a few steps from the Cathedral in the exact place where, as the legend, there was the house of his parents.
On the other hand, the largest popular festival in the city is dedicated to the saint, the famous Night of St. Anthony which every year between 12 and 13 June (anniversary of his death) fills all the neighbourhoods with marches, songs, dances and the characteristic scent of sardines, grilled and eaten outdoors. But we will talk about this another time.
In the city of Lamego, in the district of Viseu, the oldest pilgrimage in the country takes place on September.
The traditional festivals in honor of the patron saint of the city of Lamego date back to the 14th century, more specifically to the year 1361, when the then Bishop of Lamego instituted the cult of Santo Estêvão. At the top of Monte dos Fragões, today Monte de Santo Estêvão, the name given to it exactly by the foundation of the chapel, a chapel was built by this Bishop in honor of this holy martyr. This location allowed the illustrious prelate to see it from his Episcopal palace, a building that is currently occupied by the Museum.
At that time, there were two processions a year to Sto. Estêvão: one in May, on the day of Santa Cruz and another on the 3rd of August, the day of St. Stephen. The pilgrimages continued like this until 1564, when a new chapel dedicated to the cult of Our Lady of Remedies was built, an image that the same Bishop will have ordered to come from Rome at his own expense.
The oldest reference on the Feasts in honor of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios is from 1711. It all started, precisely, with the novena, which still remains today from August 30 to September 7. Pilgrims with a lot of devotion arrive into the night from all parts of the city and go to the Mother´s house.
On September 6th, the Grand Luminous March takes place, which consists of a parade of floats through the main streets of the city, illuminating the night with the brightness and animation of this day. The next day, September 7, the Flower Battles takes place which, just like the previous day, floats parade through the city streets, but with a small difference: as it is done during the day, the lights are replaced by paper with all the colours, which gives the feeling that flowers are flying through the air. On this same day, the Great Night of the Pilgrimage takes place, where there are people on the streets with popular traditions, challenge with songs, drums and concertinas, this night is commonly known by the Lamecenses as “Noitada”, (Long Night) where they roam the streets until sunrise, living with the friends, enforcing the tradition.
But the highest moment of this celebration is the Majestic Procession of the Triumph, held on September 8, in which the walkers who cross the Church of Chagas until the Church of Santa Cruz, display sacred images transported by oxen, as tradition dictates . At this time, the streets are richly decorated, gaining a new dynamic, where the religious component acquires all its fullness.
A curiosity: The Procession of Triumph has a special authorisation from the Vatican, because it is the only one in the world where you can see an image of the Virgin carried by animals.
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.