Brotas… what a strange name! I look for its etymological origin and the answers are inconclusive. Has it something to do with the water that comes out (‘brotar’) of the spring that we find behind the shrine? Or with the daffodil (‘abrótea’), the plant that grew in this region? Or has it something to do with…? I do not know! What I know now and did not know before… is that, according to Father Agostinho de Santa Maria the “abrótea” (daffodil) is “a medicinal herb that has many and specific virtues.”
There is also some uncertainty as to the date of the appearance of Our Lady in Brotas. Some say that in 1424 there was already a small temple here, others point out 1453 as the right year, while Father Agostinho de Santa Maria says that “it was in 1470 and something”… Probably the best way to talk about it and not make a mistake is to say that it happened in the 15th century…
Because one thing is certain: the cult of Our Lady of Brotas existed already in the 15th century. The story of its origin is the following: there was a man that found his cow dead for having fallen into a ravine. He decided to skin it and started by cutting one of its hooves. On that moment Our Lady appeared to him and asked that a chapel be built there. Not believing what was happening, he ran to the neighbouring villages to tell people about it and when he came back he found his cow alive and calmly grazing as if nothing had happened. On top of a stone there was an image of Our Lady carved from a bone. A miracle!
The miracle became famous and soon pilgrims started to come mainly from the south, the Alentejo and the Setúbal peninsula. But the fame of Our Lady of Brotas did not remain circumscribed to that region; it spread throughout the world, a clear sign of the emigration of the people that lived nearby to other regions. The dissemination of the cult reached Évora, Barcelos, Chaves, the Madeira Island, India and Brazil. Even one of the sailing ships of the Indian routes was called “Nossa Senhora de Brotas”.
With the banishment of the religious orders in 1834, the pilgrimage gradually lost its importance and almost disappeared. But it did not lose its faithful nor its protective character. For instance, during the colonial war, the young men that left to fight overseas carried an image of Our Lady of Brotas inside their berets so that they returned safe and sound. The reappearance of the pilgrimage is relatively recent but the number of pilgrims that come here during the second week of August is not negligible. We wish that these itinerant lines of our magazine contribute to make more people go there on this date or any other time. The people of Brotas and Mora deserve it!