Albufeira Lagoon ao Cape Espichel, Sesimbra, Portugal

Pilgrimage to a Cape of Worship

The great Lagoon of Albufeira
Disseminated Mussels
The swimmers of the Lagoon
Meander da Foz
The Sanctuary over Cape Espichel
The Cape Sanctuary
Hermitage of Memory
Mrs Maria do Carmo
the ship
The headlight
Lighthouse Keeper Baptista Pinto
The Cape Church
Cape Espichel houses
Graffitied Ruins
Night over the Sanctuary
dry boat
Advertising frame
Praia do Moinho de Baixo
From the top of its 134 meters high, Cabo Espichel reveals an Atlantic coast as dramatic as it is stunning. Departing from Lagoa de Albufeira to the north, golden coast below, we venture through more than 600 years of mystery, mysticism and veneration of its aparecida Nossa Senhora do Cabo.

On an afternoon like so many others that herald and anticipate the summer, the sequence of the tides added its contribution.

It granted a few lucky bathers the privilege of immaculate delight.

Most of it was concentrated on a community harvesting of bivalves, scattered along the muddy shores that the low tide had almost left uncovered.

Overlooking the mussel ponds that floated upstream, over deep water, close to fifteen meters that make Albufeira the deepest lagoon in Portugal.

The Delicious Meanders of Foz da Lagoa de Albufeira

A few were mainly interested in the amphibious leisure with which, in its ephemeral peculiarity, the mouth held them.

The tide went out. With it, the water of the lagoon flowed, at a reasonable speed, through the meanders that separated it from the ocean, furrowed in a vastness of alluvial sand.

A couple was enjoying watching their pet dog examine and test the stream, eager to see them again on the other side.

Another, let himself be carried away by the current, in a delicious float to the sea. Bands of children roamed and crossed the mouth over and over again, dedicated to jobs and missions that childishness promoted to epics without equal.

As the lagoon drained, the waves of the Atlantic, emerald in color, dissolved, some against the point of contact of the two bodies of water, others against the base of the dune cord that makes the beach high.

At a faster pace than the tides, planes were flying over us approaching the mouth of the Tagus and Lisbon airport.

As we explored the golden coast of the Setúbal Peninsula, we continued to follow them with our eyes. We unlocked secrets of their routes.

From Lagoa de Albufeira to Aldeia do Meco

We passed by Aldeia do Meco. Still under a faint vestige of breeze, we found its beaches with an almost shallow swell, as we had never witnessed there.

On a spring weekday, visitors could be counted on the fingers of one hand, taking in marches along the seaside, above and below the dunes of Praia do Moinho de Baixo.

There was a lack of bathers in bathing suits and nudists who, upon reaching the Estio, fill it and enjoy the Naturist Beaches of Rio da Prata, Bicas, Foz and Rebenta Bois.

From the latter, towards the south, the cliffs take over the remaining coastline, up to the headland where the Other Band plunges into the Atlantic.

And then, on the way to Cabo Espichel

This, the lonely Cabo Espichel, was the fate that awaited us.

The long ave. of the Armed Forces leaves behind the heart of Aldeia do Meco and its streets lined with restaurants and snack bars. Gradually, it ascends to the highest lands of the peninsula.

Somewhere between Pinheirinhos and Aldeia Nova, it joins Av. 25th of April aimed at Azoia. Soon, we enter the domain of the Arrábida Natural Park.

A snake zigzags more than the road. Ahead, a mother partridge is struggling to lead a brood of hesitant chicks.

Finally, in what was left of the distance, we glimpse the lighthouse that illuminates the cape. And then, the uneven U-shaped avenue, flanked by the Inns of the Sanctuary of Nª Srª do Cabo.

 The Guardian of Long ago Dª Maria do Carmo

The cruise at the entrance leaves little doubt as to the sphere of the divine that welcomes us. When we enter the church that closes the U, we quickly understand how much of a human being that divine was in charge of.

Due to the persistent pandemic, Dª Maria do Carmo remained seated at her post, protected by an acrylic that safeguarded her view.

“Look, you can't take pictures!” he recalled, with redoubled emphasis, each time visitors pretended they hadn't noticed the ban on the door.

“This is it, every day, do you believe? collapsed, with us, when he realized that, despite having cameras, we respect the rules and wait for a special authorization already requested from the Diocese.

“See, there are even some who come here and, when they realize they can't take pictures, they immediately sulk. After all, what do you come here for?”

Despite the frequent arrivals and departures of believers and visitors, it gives us the feeling that Dª Maria do Carmo would be better off with a stable and conversational company.

Our unexpected interest in church affairs, the credentials with which we arrived from the City Hall of Sesimbra, generate confidence in her.

They urge her to engage in a good-natured and almost unceremonious conversation.

“This here has always been complicated.”, explains the guardian, as an introduction to a cascade of complications and misadventures, some of which she was the protagonist. Others that she saw happen and others that she didn't even see.

“After the 25th of April, it was a complete mess.” the lady, from the north of the country, tells us, referring to the long period in which opportunist people in the area took the sanctuary from the Church and refused to vacate it.

“I think it was only towards the end of the 80s or even the beginning of the 90s that things calmed down and the government sent the GNR here to run with these people.”

Some time later, IPPAR was in charge of recovering and maintaining the sanctuary, but this is so isolated here. It has not been easy."

The isolation and lack of protection of the sanctuary of Nª Srª do Cabo made it possible, for example, to steal one of the church bells.

And, as if that weren't enough, when a plague of theft of sacred art spread through Portugal, the loss of a recently restored Saint Anthony.

Discovering the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Cabo

It was one of two saints nestled on either side of the altar and the gilded statue of the Virgin Mary, one level below Christ on the cross and the coat of arms of Quinas that interposes between Mother and Son.

More than half a millennium ago, Maria justified the monumental homage that we dedicated ourselves to exploring. According to Dª Maria do Carmo, a believer in Mary and in miracles, assures us, the Virgin did not allow, for more than one occasion, that an image of her was stolen.

“Once, the car in which they were going to transport her broke down right here on the way out. They decided to bring her back. In another, when the thieves were getting ready to take her away, Santa turned her back on them. In the haste and distress in which they committed the crime, they could not recognize where she was and gave up.”

Legend has it that the Saint appeared in 1410.

On that date, an image of him was found on the cliffs of Pedra da Mua.

Pedra da Mua, later also celebrated for the almost miraculous preservation of sauropod dinosaur footprints that, it is estimated, more than 145 million years ago, passed by to bathe in the ocean off the coast.

The actual recognition of the apparition made official the importance of the image found and the Pedra da Mua.

Still in the XNUMXth century, a chapel was built with the function of guarding the image, allowing the believers to praise it.

in the current zone Sesimbra, in and around Lisbon and to the west of the capital, the number of faithful and pilgrims increased significantly. The saloia zone founded its own believing community, the Círio Saloio.

At first, several houses were built around the chapel, intended to accommodate them.

From 1715 to 1757, these improvised houses replaced the Casas dos Círios, a set of guesthouses on the north side, built to accommodate the butlers who arrived in charge of ensuring the bodo, complemented by townhouses and establishments that traded in more convenient trades.

At a certain point, the Church and the Crown considered that the chapel, now known as Ermida da Memória, in itself, was below the religious grandeur of the Apparition.

The Extension of the Sanctuary from the small Ermida

Accordingly, between 1701 and 1707, during the reign of D. Pedro II, they dictated the construction of the Church of Nossa Senhora do Cabo that Dª Maria do Carmo is responsible for guarding.

Over time, they enriched and supplied the sanctuary, the Opera House (now in ruins), the Mãe d'Água and the Cabo Espichel Aqueduct.

Despite centuries-old logistical difficulties, the Cult of Our Lady of the Cape remains alive and in good health.

Apart from the faith it arouses, there are several historians and authors who dedicate extensive studies, explanatory publications and others, romanticized to it.

In these parts, not only the Sanctuary of Nª Srª do Cabo Espichel illuminates Humanity.

The Providencial Lighthouse of Cabo Espichel

Arriving at three o'clock in the afternoon, the lighthouse keeper Baptista Pinto welcomes us at the entrance of the lighthouse where he lives, dressed in a uniform in shades of blue.

We accompany him on a tour of the base of the lighthouse, keeping an eye on curious machinery, including an old marble refrigerator that weighed tons.

We climbed 135 stone steps and 15 iron steps to the top of the 32-meter tower.

There, lighthouse keeper Pinto shows us the ingenious but simple operation of the lighting system, which is regularly maintained but not very problematic.Cape Espichel, Lighthouse keeper Baptista Pinto, Sesimbra,

He explains to us how the lighthouse was providential for vessels sailing offshore, but not only. Until the last years of the century. In the XNUMXth century, the Portuguese coast was so lacking in lighthouses that foreign ships called it “black coast”.

From then on, the Marquis of Pombal dictated the construction of a national network that includes the Cabo Espichel lighthouse, completed in 1790, one of the oldest in Portugal.

As we explore the surrounding promontory, we once again become aware of the passage of planes and how, it was right there above, that they curved towards the Tagus basin and made their way to Lisbon airport. We discussed this fact with Baptista Pinto.

Enthusiastic by our interest, the lighthouse keeper confirms that the light from the lighthouse spread not only over the Atlantic Ocean but into the sky.

It helped pilots to follow the safest routes to old Portela and to other destinations.

Just as the Sanctuary of Cabo Espichel for centuries has led believers to follow the paths of the Divine.



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