Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, Nazaré

The Fortress of Saint Michael the Archangel serves as the dividing line between the two personalities of Nazaré, Portugal.  To the south, where this photo was taken from, sits Nazaré.  It’s a bustling town with a beautiful beach, and a popular destination for vacationers.  During the summer the beach is crowded with sun worshipers.

To the north of the fort is Praia do Norte, a beach with a remote, wild feel and home to some of the world’s biggest waves.  The reason for the difference between Nazaré beach and North beach is a huge underwater canyon just north of the promontory where the fort stands guard.  The canyon acts as a funnel for the currents and focuses their energy to create waves that approach 100 feet in height.

The fort was built in the sixteenth century as defense against the pirates who preyed on the coastal villages.  It has been rebuilt and renovated several times over the centuries and a lighthouse was added in 1903.  Today the fort houses a surfing museum and is a great place to watch the world class surfing happening on Praia do Norte.

Fortaleza and Waves

Gulls, Nazaré, Portugal

There’s art of all sizes and styles in Portugal.  These little sculptures are on the wall at the fortaleza.  They’re simple and colorful and a bit whimsical and perfect for a view of the beach from the fort.

Fortaleza Gull Art

Surf Monument, Nazaré, Portugal

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.

Veado

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.

Fishing Boat, Nazaré, Portugal

Nazaré, a small beach town in Portugal, was once known as a fishing village.  These days it’s known more for its beaches and its big wave surfing.  There are still signs of the old fishing village, but these days they’re mostly for the tourists.

There are several old fishing boats on the praia, or beach.  They’re quite colorful; each boat has a different color and size.  I took several photos of the boats but I like this one best because the cliff-side fortaleza can be seen under the boat’s paddle.

Red Boat

Portuguese Pavement, March 2018

I love the calçadas Portuguesa, or Portuguese pavement that is so common throughout the country.  The tradition goes back to Roman times when the Romans used stone laid in patterns to pave roads, plazas and even floors.  The Roman mosaic style of pavement can be seen in Conimbriga and on the ancient road turned walking trail located at Alqueidão da Serra.

The years of Moorish occupation had an influence on the pavement as well.  Many of the calçadas Portuguesa feature geometric patterns and designs that show the Arabic influence.

Several earthquakes in the 16th century and then again with the 1755 earthquake that destroyed much of Lisbon, were great drivers for the use of Portuguese pavement.  Many of the streets were paved this way after the 1755 earthquake.  General Eusébio Furtado used Portuguese pavement to transform the grounds of São Jorge Castle into walking places using the mosaic pavement.  He was also responsible for “Mar Largo” at Praça do Rossio, as well as Camões Square, Principe Square and Town Hall Square, all in Lisbon.

Rossio Square
Mar Largo, or Open Sea at Praça do Rossio, Lisbon

The stone is predominantly limestone quarried from the Aire and Candeeiros mountains of Portugal.  Black, white, grey and occasionally red stones are commonly used.  While geometric patterns are most common there are examples of the stones being used to display floral patterns, symbols and even portraits.  Most of what we saw was geometric patterns.

Praca Sousa Oliveira
Praca Sousa Oliveira, Nazaré

Much like Portugal’s azelejos, the stonework has become a part of the cultural identity. Unfortunately, the future of the art form is at risk.  It takes years to learn to cut and lay the stones and there are less expensive forms of pavement available.  I hope that the cultural value of the Portuguese pavement outweighs the economic cost and the tradition continues.

Coimbra Sidewalk
Rua Ferreira Borges in Coimbra