NAZARE is a town and municipality in sub-region OESTE & LEIRIA District, in Portugal. It is one of the most popular seaside resorts in the Silver Coast / COSTA de PRATA, Portugal. The population in 2011 was 15,158, in an area of 82.43sq.km.
The earliest settlements were in PEDERNEIRA and in SITIO, above the beach. They provided the inhabitants with refuge against raids by Vikings, later the French, English and Dutch pirates, that lasted until as late as the beginning of the 19th century.
According to the LEGEND of NAZARE, the town derives its name from a small wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, a BLACK MADONNA, brought by a monk in the 4th century from Nazareth, Holy Land, to a monastery near the city of MERIDA, Spain. The statue was brought to its current place in 711 by another man, ROMANO, accompanied by RODERIC, the last VISGOTH KING of today’s Portugal. After their arrival at the seaside, they decided to become hermits. The monk lived and died in a small “natural grotto” , on top of a cliff above the sea. After his death and according to the monk’s wishes, the King buried him in the grotto. King Roderic left the statue of the Black Madonna in the grotto on an altar.
The first Church in SITIO 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 Template) while he was hunting deer one morning in a dense fog and was about to fall into an abyss. This episode is usually referred to as the LEGEND OF NAZARE. IN memory of the miracle, he had a chapel (CAPELA da MEMORIA) built over the small grotto, where the miraculous statue had been left by King Roderic after the monk’s death.
Beside the Chapel, on a rocky outcrop 110 metres 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 a rocky outcrop over PEDERNEIRA BAY, was noted as a landmark in sailors’ manuals.
In 1377, King Fernando – 1 of Portugal founded a new, more spacious, Church which was totally transformed between the 16th and the 19th centuries. The Church of NOSSA SENHORA da NAZARE is a rich Baroque building with 2 belfries and 18th century tiles depicting Biblical scenes. It also contains a revered image of Our Lady of Nazareth that is taken down to the sea in a traditional procession every September.
NAZARE has become a popular tourist attraction, advertising itself internationally as a “picturesque seaside village”. Here, there are long sandy beaches (considered by some to be among the best beaches in Portugal) with lots of tourists in the summer. Until not long ago, fishermen were still seen using oxen to pull their brightly-painted boats from the ocean and, even today, many locals wear their characteristic traditional costumes ——- fishermen have their check shirts and trousers and their wives wear the traditional headscarf and embroidered aprons over 7 flannel skirts in different colours. These dresses can still occasionally be seen. –
Facing the NOSSA SENHORA da NAZARE is the CAPELA da MEMORIA, a 12th century Chapel built to commemorate the saving of DOM FUAS. Outside is a pillar with an inscription commemorating Vasco da Gama’s visit here after his voyage to India, giving thanks for his safe return. 13km south of the town is SAO MARTINHO DO PORTO, a sandy beach popular with families for its calm shallow waters. 5km farther south, is the VISGOTH Church of SAO GIAO NAZARE is the most picturesque fishing village.