The Local Area
Sitio de Nazaré
The north side of Nazaré beach is bordered by an impressive headland which rises 318 metres above sea level, a bare rock with sheer drops into the Atlantic Ocean.
On that cliff top sits the village of Sitio de Nazaré. A quiet residential village with traditional squares, large church and buildings that can be reached by car, or by the funicular carriage which takes passengers up the sharp slope for a small fee. A winding path also exists but this is definitely more appealing on the way down!
Once at the top there are wonderful views of the town of Nazaré, its fishing fleet nestled in bay of Nazaré, on the other side, that vast empty space of Praia do Norte.
The 3 shrines to Our Lady of Nazareth
Within the village there are 3 shrines to Our Lady of Nazareth, the black virgin. This was originally carved in wood and brought from the convent of Cauliniana, Merida to this place in 711 by Friar Romano.
- In a small grotto 110 meters above the beach where Friar Romano lived as a hermit and is buried there.
- The Chapel of Memory (Ermida de Memória), built by Dom Fuas Roupinho above that same grotto. The legend goes that one misty morning in 1182, this local nobleman, Dom Fuas,the warden of the Castle of Porto de Mós, was out hunting. He realised almost too late that he had in fact chased his deer to the very edge of the cliff. About to fall to his death, he cried out to Our Lady of Nazaré who appeared before him and stopped his horse. In honour of this life-saving miracle, Roupinho ordered a chapel to be built. Over the years it has attracted many pilgrims and today visitors can still see the tale depicted in hand painted azulejos and even the supposed footprint of Roupinho’s horse engraved in a stone found in the crypt below the chapel.
- In the Sanctuary of Our Lady Nazareth, founded by King Ferdinand I in 1377, rebuilt in the early 17th century until it acquired its present form, it’s medieval shape no longer recognisable. The large façade above the huge square, built to accommodate pilgrims is dominated by two bell towers, and flanked by two buildings, the hospital and the old royal palace where king and other dignitaries lodged. The church has many 18th century Dutch tiles as well as paintings of the Sacristy which depict the history of the miracle that saved Dom Fuas Roupinho. The image of Our Lady of Nazareth, which is believed to be an original, on the church alter annually attracts large numbers of pilgrims on September 8th.
The first fishermen in the area were the Phoenicians who settled in pre-Christian times, a lingering memory of this is seen in the wooden fishing boats still used today with their narrow and colourful curved prows.
At Casa Museu do Pescador you’ll find a small museum dedicated to the population of Nazaré. A traditional cottage lovingly restored to show the exterior and interior of the home of a typical fishing family for the early part of the 20th century.
A unique tradition of Nazaré, the fisher women still wear the short colourful skits, wooden clogs and black scarves. The skirts are said to represent the 7 days of the week, 7 colours of the rainbow, seven waves in a set along with other biblical, mythical and magical attributes to the number seven. Said to originally be worn by the fisher women waiting on the beach, in cold, wet, windy conditions for the safe return of their men… the multiple layers keeping them warm.
Along the beach front promenade, amongst the tourists, fish is still dried in the heat of the sun, by the fisher-ladies. During summer months on a Saturday afternoon you mights still catch “Arte Xàvega” – dragging of the nets.