Festival of Our Lady in Sorrow

Festival of Our Lady in Sorrow


Viana do Castelo´s worship of Our Lady in Sorrow dates from 1744, when fishermen first began to call upon her to make sure that the sea would not be rough. 20 August has become established as the day for the festival in her honour. In 1772, a royal order was issued authorising the holding of a free fair in the city. on 18, 19 and 20 August. Since then, the Romaria de Nossa Senhora da Agonia has become one of the most beautiful, colourful and grandiose popular festivals in Portugal.

The three days of festivities are enlivened by various processions, accompanied by a great deal of music, and people dress attractively in the most beautiful traditional costumes of the Minho region.
There is the parade of majordomos, accompanied by fireworks and musical bands, which greets the Festival Committee and the city´s highest dignitaries, ending in the Praça da República, where the "zabumbas" beat their big bass drums and the "gigantones" begin to parade.
The latter figures are carnival giants, strange enormous figures that first came from Santiago de Compostela more than a hundred years ago to enliven the festival. Then there is the ethnographic procession, with huge floats recalling the traditional working habits of the people of the Minho, both on land and at sea, offering us a genuine living museum of ethnography.
There is also the historical parade, which mixes legend and reality to tell some of the stories that have marked the development of Viana do Castelo.

The quite remarkable sea procession symbolises the profound links between the city and the element that has been responsible for much of its history and a large part of its very survival.

The image of Nossa Senhora da Agonia, dressed in her blue and purple cloak, is carried aboard a trawler, amidst fireworks and the ringing of bells, so that she can bless the sea and thereby make it calm and forever generous in the sustenance that it provides.
The boat carrying the image of Our Lady sails amidst a procession of hundreds of boats, their masts adorned with flags, and at the end of the day the image returns to the baroque chapel where it is normally housed, the doors remaining open for worship.

Thousands of people spend their time in bars and restaurants, where the traditional Portuguese cuisine, accompanied by the region´s famous vinho verde, seems to taste even more succulent, whilst others huddle around the bandstands to listen to the bands playing. On the last night of festivities, with the lights of the fishing boats reflecting in the river Lima, a brilliant display of fireworks on the hundred-year-old bridge announces the end of the festival of Our Lady in Sorrow.

Festival of Our Lady in Sorrow
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