António, João, Fernando, Xavier, Luís, Armando, Tiago e Horácio are the eight litter bearers this year. For almost three hours they have the honour and the privilege of carrying the image of Nossa Senhora da Piedade all the way from the town square where the statue in honour to Duarte Pacheco stands to the Monte da Piedade where the little chapel is situated. It is a spring Sunday afternoon. The streets of Loulé are crowded. People shout: “Long live Our Sovereign Mother!”. Some dare say there were 25,000 people there. Perhaps. Most of them are from the Algarve but there are also people from other parts of the country. The procession begins to gather, scouts and firemen are ready. And here are the litter bearers! The stand holding the image is taken away and the 270 kilos now lie on the shoulders of these eight men. There is not the slightest quiver; after all, it seems it was a bird’s feather they have laid on their shoulders. On the Market staircase a boy recognizes one of his team among the litter bearers: “Look, it’s Luís… he plays rugby in the Loulé team! I’ve got it… he has been skipping training to prepare for this…” Luís Gomes is the youngest player of this team. He is feeling the weight of the litter on his shoulders for the first time. And for his friend, “he is holding on!”… There are tourists too, an Englishman is filming the procession. He can’t believe his eyes, he addresses the woman with him: “It’s amazing!”. Nearby a young university student in a bordeaux academic outfit shouts: ”Long live Our Sovereign Mother!”. The Englishman also dares cheer: “Long live Our Sovereign Mother!”. The procession stops in front of the City Hall. The Mayor joins the crowd. The Sovereign Mother pilgrimage is a feast for the people of Loulé above all, a moment of (re)union of all regardless of creed or political party. And the feast has some profane features: cheering the Sovereign Mother, clapping when she passes along the street, the gait of the litter bearers… throwing the leg forward, swinging the body to the right or to the left according to the foot that goes first, all this reminds us of processions in Andalusia. This way of walking as if dancing is called “picadinho”. They must go on. When the procession arrives at São Francisco Church there are people still going down Praça da República. It is a sea of people! It is time to rest a bit. An hour has gone by since they left. The weight begins to stick to their shoulders. It is time to set out. The last part of the pilgrimage is about to begin and that is the part that makes the crowd thrill most: the way up to the Chapel of Senhora da Piedade. It is a kilometer and a half away. People clap. “Long live Our Sovereign Mother !”. The Philharmonic Band Artistas de Minerva plays Triumphal March. It is a kind of sign for the delighted crowd – they stir and walk faster. Arm in arm they from cordons in rows of six… They begin the way up, three hundred and twenty metres rising steeply! They walk in a brisk pace. The litter does not seem to be heavy, it seems to be carried by those people’s faith. The “tochas”, the two men by the litter bearers, push and shove the people. The road must be clear. “Step aside!”. They cannot stop, they cannot slow down either! “Long live Our Sovereign Mother!”. The top of the hill, at long last! It is over! Nossa Senhora da Piedade is back home. It is a wonderful evening! The sun is almost gone. Now it is time to rest and enjoy the feeling of the fulfilled duty. Tomorrow they will have time to think about the next year. Till then… ”Long live Our Sovereign Mother!”.
Loulé: Long live Our Sovereign Mother!
I’m stunned at the beauty of Pico! It is the first time I’m here and I’m impressed! However many pictures I may have seen, however much I may have read, nothing can describe the feeling of being at the Pico mountain. It’s imposing! It’s really a tall mountain…
We have finally arrived! It is cold! During our 50 km travel on fairly decent roads from Viseu, the thermometer of the car dropped from 22oC to 13oC. And it is only lunch time; how will it be at night? The sky is grey; the prospect is not good…
I assure you: the Cristo Rei statue, located in the municipality of Almada, is the perfect place from where we can admire the beauty of Lisbon. And it is not difficult to get there. On foot, using public transportation or one’s car, it takes us ten to fifteen minutes to go from the centre of Almada to the Cristo Rei shrine with Lisbon at our feet. The cars on the bridge over the Tagus, the boats on the river, the bustle of a large city, all that can be enjoyed from a quiet and peaceful place overlooking it.
Let us start in the beginning. And in the beginning there is the legend. And as in all legends, this also begins with Once upon a time! Once upon a time… many, many years ago there was a Moorish king, a cruel tyrant that lived at the top of Mount Carrascal that forced the Christians to pay very high taxes and in order to humiliate them further, imposed the “damsels’ tax”: it was with the king that the damsels spent their wedding night.
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…?
Weddings and dowries were the beginning. In 1555 the Spanish noblewoman D. Isabela Manrique de Lara y Mendoza offers to her daughter Maria Manrique as a wedding present a small waxen statue 48cm tall representing God as a child.