Panoramic view of Nazaré and its beach
|• President||Walter Chicharro (PS)|
|• Total||82.43 km2 (31.83 sq mi)|
|• Density||180/km2 (480/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC±00:00 (WET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+01:00 (WEST)|
|Local holiday||September 8|
It is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the Silver Coast (Costa de Prata). The population in 2011 was 15,158 in an area of 82.43 km². The present mayor is Walter Chicharro, a member of the Socialist Party. The municipal holiday is on 8 September, as part of the Our Lady of Nazaré Festival, a ten-day religious and secular celebration with processions, bullfights, fireworks, folk dancing and a fair.
The town consists of three neighbourhoods: Praia (along the beach), Sítio (an old village, on top of a cliff) and Pederneira (another old village, on a hilltop). Praia and Sítio are linked by the Nazaré Funicular, a funicular railway.
History and legend
The earliest settlements were in Pederneira and in Sítio, above the beach. They provided the inhabitants with refuge against raids by Viking and, later, French, English and Dutch pirates, that lasted until as late as the beginning of the 19th century. In fact, only in the 19th century, with the gradual end of maritime piracy, was possible for the people to start occupying the Praia which is today considered the town center.
According to the Legend of Nazaré, the town derives its name from a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, brought from Nazareth, Holy Land, to a monastery near the city of Mérida, Spain, by a monk in the 4th century. The statue was brought to its current location in 711 by another monk, Romano, accompanied by Roderic, the last Visigoth king of today's Portugal. After their arrival at the seaside they decided to become hermits. Romano lived and died in a small natural grotto, on top of a cliff above the sea. After his death and according to his wishes, the king buried him in the grotto. Roderic left the statue of the Black Madonna in the grotto on an altar.
The first church in Sítio was built over the grotto to commemorate a miraculous intervention in 1182 by the Virgin Mary, which saved the life of the 12th-century Portuguese knight Dom Fuas Roupinho (possibly a templar) while he was hunting deer one morning in a dense fog. The episode is usually referred to as the Legend of Nazaré. In memory of the miracle he had a chapel (Capela da Memória) built over the small grotto, where the miraculous statue had been placed by king King Roderic. Beside the chapel, on a rocky outcrop 110 meters above the Atlantic, one can still see the mark made in the rock by one of the hooves of Dom Fuas' horse. This Church of Nazareth, high on the rocky outcrop over Pederneira Bay, was noted as a landmark in sailors' manuals.
In 1377, King Fernando I of Portugal founded a new, more spacious church, which was totally transformed between the 16th and 19th centuries. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré is a rich baroque building, with splendid tiles on its interior. Behind and above the main altar, visitors can see and venerate the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Nazaré. The religious figures are crowned by 18th century diadems, presented to the church by King John VI. The sacred image is wrapped with a green cloak decorated with gold, gifted to the Virgin Mary by King John V. The main chapel is separated from the body of the church with an arcade made from pau-santo and a few pillars decorated with mosaics in 19th century Italian marble.
Nazaré has become a popular tourist attraction, advertising itself internationally as a picturesque seaside village.
Located on the Atlantic coast, it has long sandy beaches (considered by some to be among the best in Portugal), attracting many tourists in the summer. The town used to be known for the traditional costumes worn by the fishermen. Women traditionally wear a headscarf and embroidered apron over seven flannel skirts in different colours. The costumes are still worn occasionally.
It is quite visited due to the religious festivals dedicated to Our Lady of Nazaré, in which there are processions and also some profane celebrations.
Many of the tourists and Catholic pilgrims who visit Central Portugal, and especially the internationally famous Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima (located nearby in Cova da Iria), go to Nazaré for a visit or to watch the surfing championships.
Museums and cultural centers
- Doctor Joaquim Manso Folk and Archeological Museum
- Sacred Art Museum of Reitor Luís Nesi
- Fisherman House-Museum
- Nazaré Bullring
- Nazaré Cultural Centre
Nazaré is a very popular surfing destination because of the very high breaking waves that form due to the presence of the underwater Nazaré Canyon. The canyon increases and converges the incoming ocean swell which, in conjunction with the local water current, dramatically enlarges wave heights.
Due to the height of the waves, numerous surfing records have been set at Nazaré. In November 2011, surfer Garrett McNamara, who resided in Hawaii at that time, surfed a then record-breaking giant wave: 23.8 m (78 ft) from trough to crest, at Praia do Norte, Nazaré. On November 8, 2017, Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa broke the previous record by surfing a big wave of 24.4 m (80 ft); for this feat he won the Quiksilver XXL Biggest Wave prize and entered the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed.
There has been a marked increase in visitors to popular viewing points for surfing competitions, such as the lighthouse at the Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, which has seen numbers increase from 80,000 visitors in 2015 to 174,000 in 2017.
Nazaré is twinned with:
- Legend of Nazaré
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré
- Nazaré Canyon
- Nazaré Funicular
- Praia do Norte (Nazaré)
- Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo
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