Fátima, where Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children in 1917, is doubtless the most important place of worship. Since then, especially the 13th of every month, this place of faith and peace becomes the destination of several pilgrimages, with the climax reached in May and October, when crowds of pilgrims express their faith in a way that can leave nobody indifferent, whether believer or unbeliever.
In Portugal the worship for the Blessed Virgin Mary dates back to the establishment of the nation and gave origin to the construction of huge monuments. In the XII century, the Abbey of Alcobaça, built for the Order of Cistercians, a spiritual center of this area consecrated to Our Lady, was the result of the promise of our first king Afonso Henriques, who called for her help against the Moors in the conquest of Santarém. In the 14th century, thankful for having defeated the Castilian troops in the battle of Aljubarrota, King João I built the Monastery of Batalha and dedicated it to Holy Mary of Victory (Santa Maria da Vitória). Two beautiful thanksgiving monuments you can’t miss!
The Virgin Mary has several names depending on the moments in life and the specific concerns of those who ask for her help as they would ask their mother. For example, everywhere in the country you’ll find images and churches dedicated to Saint Mary of the Nativity, Saint Mary of the Sorrows, Our Lady of the Remedy, Our Lady of Agony or Our Lady of the Assumption, (Nossa Senhora da Natividade, das Dores, dos Remédios, da Agonia o da Assunção).
In 1646, King João IV proclaimed our Lady of Conception as the patroness of Portugal dedicating to her the crown of the Portuguese monarchy. Our Lady of Mercy (Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia) protects the most vulnerable people. In the XVI century, Queen Dona Leonor created charitable institutions that still help people in need.
Processions and pilgrimages are made in honor of the Virgin Mary which differ according to the activities of the town. In Lamego the image of Our Lady is carried on an ox cart, while in Constância or in Albufeira the boats sailing the sea are used to carry the images. The image of Our Lady of Cape Espichel (Nossa Senhora do Cabo Espichel ) itself becomes a pilgrim and is carried to different churches in the surroundings of Lisbon, approaching the believers who receive her with honour and devotion.
In Portugal, the Marian Routes, paths of faith and of discovery, lead you from one side of the country to the other to discover places, monuments and traditions that are indeed worth a visit!