The Mariano Cult in Portugal
It was the Conciliate of Ephesus, in 431, that provided official church recognition in proclaiming the Holy Virgin and the Mother of God.
It is this concept of divine maternity that patterned worship and Christian iconography.
It has become one of most frequently portrayed images.
The spread of the Mariana cult across the Iberian peninsula was due to the founding and expansion of religious orders. In particular, the Cistercian Order played a key role in repopulating Portugal after the Christian Reconquest.
The «Salve Regina» sermons are attributed to its founder, Saint Bernard, also known as «the knight of Mary». They present the Virgin as the advocate and protector of men.
This was later taken up by the Mendicant Orders. In the sixteenth century, Queen Leonor established the Misericórdias (religious-charitable organisations).
These proved essential in taking the divine word to the less-advantaged social groups. Through acts of charity, encouraged by both the throne and the court, the Virgin´s protective symbolism was further strengthened.
It should be noted there remains a Misericórdia in every Portuguese city to help those less fortunate.
The veneration of the Mother of God has taken various forms over the ages, symbolising the respective stages of life. From an extensive list, there is Our Lady of Conception, of Nativity, of Exile, of Boa Morte (Passing On), of Assumption, of Suffering and of Healing. She has been adopted as the patron saint of churches, monasteries, cathedrals and even of towns and cities.
In the XVII century, King João IV nominated Our Lady Queen of Portugal. Henceforth, Portuguese monarchs no longer used the royal crown that then became used in representing Our Lady of Conception. Santa Maria is still commonly to be found in Portuguese place names.
The various forms of veneration are differentiated according to the attributes. The cloak, the colour blue and the halo are found in the majority of depictions with the royal crown and the world at her feet usual for Our Lady of Conception, the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove for the Annunciation, the Boy with the cloak open in protection symbolising Charity, or the rosary, amongst others.
Particularly striking are some of the Middle Age carvings in rough granite, with the Virgin Mary positioned forwards, sat with the Baby Jesus on her left knee or held to her bosom.
There are also two representations peculiar to the Iberian Peninsula: the Black Virgins and the Pregnant Lady of O.
May is Mary´s month with bank holidays on the 15th August and 8th December dedicated to Our Lady of Assumption and Our Lady of Conception, the patron of Portugal. In October, there are festivals to commemorate Our Lady of the Rosary. These are but the most prominent with many other festivities and celebrations taking place nationwide.
Hence, this is open an invitation to come and search for other Portuguese forms of venerating Mary...