There are statues and monuments all over Portugal. Most of them memorialize people and events from Portugal’s history. The statue in Nazaré, on the road to the Fortaleza, is probably one of the strangest monuments in Portugal.
The statue, named Veado and created by Portuguese sculptor Adália Alberto, was placed in 2016 and honors the legend of Nazaré as well as the town’s legendary status as the home to some of the best surfing and biggest waves in the world.
First, the legend. In the fifth century, a monk named Ciriaco returned from Nazareth to the monastery of Cauliniana with a small wooden statue of Mary with the Infant Jesus which, by oral tradition, is said to have been carved by Mary’s husband, Joseph, the carpenter. The icon remained at the monastery until 711, when invading Moorish armies defeated Christian forces.
Roderic, the defeated king, fled to the coast, accompanied by a monk, Romano, who carried the icon with him when the men fled. When the two men reached the Atlantic, they separated, with Frei Romano living out his days, still in possession of the statue, in a cliff-side cave overlooking what is now Nazaré.
Fast forward a few hundred years, to an early morning when a knight, Dom Fuas Roupinho, was hunting on the cliff overlooking the ocean. The knight was in pursuit of a deer when a heavy fog suddenly descended. The deer, blinded by the fog, ran over the edge of the cliff. Dom Roupinho, realizing that he was very close to the grotto where the icon still remained, prayed to Our Lady to save him from certain death. His horse, though blinded by the fog, miraculously stopped at the edge of the cliff, saving the knight from death.
So that’s the legend of Nazaré, and where the deer head comes from. Now for the surfing. Nazaré’s North Beach is legendary for the giant waves that come out of the Atlantic and provide some of the best big wave surfiing in the world. In 2011, American Garrett McNamara set the world record by surfing a 78-foot wave at North Beach. Two years later he shattered his own record by surfing a giant 100-foot wave at the same beach.
So now you know the two legends that inspired Veado, the statue overlooking Praia do Norte, in Nazaré.