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Óbidos

Travelling the network

Óbidos

BACKGROUND

Óbidos is a Portuguese town in the district of Leiria. It belongs to the historic province of Estremadura. It is believed to have been founded by the Celts around 308 BC. There was a rule attempt by the Phoenician people, but it was finally conquered by the Romans. The Romans encountered great resistance in the fortification and they besieged it by sea, embarking from a port located in the North (currently Barra de S. Martinho) and sailing near the walls of the village through the estuary of Foz do Arelho. According to different authors, this is where the name Óbidos comes from: the head of the Roman army informed Julius Caesar of their victory indicating that the conquest was only possible through the estuary using the expression “Ob id os” (through this mouth). Although it is also argued that the name may be an evolution of the word “Oppidum”, which means fortified town. With the decline of the Roman Empire, several peoples – such as the Alans, the Suebi, and the Goths – took over the province of Lusitania (Portugal).

These were followed by the Arabs, who remained in this land between 711 and 1148. Led by Gonçalo Mendes da Maia, “O Lidador”, a group of knights charged through the eastern part of the town during the night, while the rest of the soldiers distracted the Arabs at the Castle gate to the west at what is currently known as “Porta da Vila”.

The governor, upon seeing that the eastern part of the Castle was being invaded and surprised that the Portuguese had reached that area, thought that he might have been betrayed by one of his own and shouted the words “betrayal! Betrayal!”, as an alarm signal. Thus, this castle gate, which is located at the base of the D. Diniz Tower, became known as the ‘Gate of Betrayal’.

After the conquest, a commemorative monument dedicated to Jesus Crucified and the Virgin of Mercy, called “Cross of Remembrance”, was founded in the Castle. A small chapel was also built in the Porta da Vila, where the image of Our Lady of Mercy was placed. In 2007, Óbidos Castle was declared one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, and is the second of the seven most relevant monuments of Portuguese architectural heritage.

WHAT TO SEE

The town of Óbidos, with its vestiges of medieval origin, is one of the most important historical and cultural heritage sites in Portugal. The imposing Castle and the narrow, labyrinthine streets (honoring its past) are symbols of the importance of this city, along with other elements of religious and civil architecture.

The Church of Santa María stands out as part of its religious cultural heritage. It is located in the Plaza de Santa María and it is the town’s most important temple. Although tradition traces its foundation back to the Visigoth era and it was transformed into a mosque in Muslim times, it was reconsecrated by Don Afonso Henriques shortly after the conquest of the city.

The medieval Church of São Pedro, on the other hand, preserves traces from the original old Gothic entrance on the façade. It was renovated in the second half of the 16th century, like other churches in town. Greatly damaged by the earthquake of 1755, the magnificent baroque altarpiece with gilded carvings from the Johannine period stands out inside. Right in front of it, we find the Capela de São Martinho family funeral chapel.

In Óbidos we also find the Igreja da Misericórdia, which was formerly the Chapel of the Holy Spirit. Today it stands as the Holy House of Mercy of Óbidos and was founded by Queen Leonor in 1498. Attached to this church is the old Misericordia Hospital, which includes a meeting room with rich baroque decoration.

Other places of interest are the Hermitage of Nossa Senhora de Monserrate (Ordem Terceira) located in the suburbs, and the Santuário do Senhor Jesus da Pedro, on the outskirts of the town.

Óbidos has a network of museums and galleries where a wide variety of cultural activities and programs are organized, such as the Parish Museum of Óbidos, the Municipal Museum, the Abilio Museum, Nova Ogiva Galery, Casa do Arco and the Interior Design Center.

Among its natural features stands out the Lagoa de Óbidos lagoon and wetlands, a fascinating natural system composed of several complex ecological niches. With an area of ​​2,600 hectares, 5 km long and 1 km wide, it is located between Carvoeiro Cape and São Martinho do Porto. Like any other coastal lagoon, it is an environmental system of great value and in permanent evolution.

Added to the cultural and natural importance of the municipality is an extensive program of events that provides additional interest, among the organized activities we could highlight the Medieval Market, the International Chocolate Festival, Easter, Óbidos Vila Gaming, the Opera Festival, the Óbidos FOLIO International Literary Festival, Latitudes – Literature and Travelers – and Óbidos Christmas Village. All of them contribute, each in their own way, to create a special atmosphere in the historic center.

In addition to intense cultural activity and tourist attractions, it has a wide range of hotels in the urban center, as well as luxury accommodation in the coastal area or golf courses that attract thousands of visitors each year.

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER

Veneration of the cross has a long tradition on Hvar and the „Za Križen“ processions are linked to the Hvar Uprising and the miraculous event which took place back in 1510. The Hvar Uprising was a people’s rebellion led by one Matij Ivanić against the nobility in an attempt to give ordinary people a share in the power of the Hvar Commune. The rebellion spread across the whole island and lasted for four years. In the 16th century the commoners and the socially and politically priviliged nobility were the two main social classes on the island.

The ‘Za križen’ procession tradition on Hvar has been taking place annually for more than 500 years. This invaluable tradition has been included in the Representative List of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity since 2009. From as far back as the Middle Ages the church confraternities took care of the people’s religious devotions, and they have continued to play a key part in organizing the ‘Za križen’ Procession up to the present day. The tradition is linked into Holy Week as part of the Passion. On good Friday evening after liturgical rituals inside the parish churches, the holy Eucharist is carried in ceremonial procession under a baldaquin around the parishes across the wole of Hvar Island.

Jelsa is a predominantly Catholic town, and Holy Week and Easter are important religious holidays that are celebrated with great reverence and tradition. The week leading up to Easter Sunday, known as Holy Week, is a time of reflection and prayer, with various religious services and processions taking place throughout the town. On Palm Sunday, Jelsa’s faithful gather in the town square to receive blessed palm leaves, which are then taken to the local church for a special blessing. On Holy Thursday, a solemn Mass is held to commemorate the Last Supper and the washing of the feet by Jesus Christ. After the Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is taken in a procession through the town, with the faithful following behind in prayer and reflection. Good Friday is a day of fasting and penance, with a procession taking place in the evening to commemorate the Passion of Christ. The procession begins at the church and winds its way through the town, with participants carrying crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ. Easter Sunday is the culmination of Holy Week, and is celebrated with great joy and festivity. The day begins with a sunrise Mass at the church, followed by a festive Easter breakfast with family and friends. Traditionally, Easter eggs are boiled and dyed in bright colors, and are exchanged as gifts between loved ones. Throughout the day, families gather for a traditional Easter lunch, which typically includes traditionally prepared codfish, roasted meat and other festive delicacies. In addition to the religious celebrations, Jelsa also hosts several cultural events during Holy Week and Easter. These include concerts, art exhibits, and traditional folk dances, which showcase the town’s rich cultural heritage.

The all-night ‘Za križen’ Procession is a unique tradition which takes place every year during the night from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday, linking the settlements of Jelsa, Pitve, Vrisnik, Svirče, Vrbanj and Vrboska on Hvar Island In the course of its extended history the Procession has defied wars, illnesses and pestilence, preserved by the faith and strength of the people of Hvar. The continuity of this tradition is testament to the bond between  this island’s inhabitants with their family, cultural and religious inheritance, as well as to their deep hopes for the times to come. The ‘Za križen’ Procession is highly picturesque, with the lay brothers of the confraternities in their robes carrying lanterns and torches under the moonlight as they make their way along the winding paths from village to village to each parish stop.

The ‘Za Križen’ is like a ‘living film’, in which six island settlements form an unbroken chain of prayer, piety and vows through the all-night pilgrimage. When it takes place, a special energy permeates the whole island. The Cross-Bearer from each parish is the central figure: each one of the six will have made a personal vow before taking up and carrying the holy cross, just as his forebears did before him over the centuries. All the six crosses go round the central area of Hvar Island in a heart-shaped route, spreading love, peace and blessings over each settlement and the island itself

The Holy Sacrament is accompanied by the members of the local confraternity in their robes with their Cross-Bearer. This is a rich symbolic tradion representing the Passion, enhanced by the sonorous Passion chants, especially the haunting „Puče moj“ („Oh my people“).

The processions are visually impressive, and the haunting singing which accompanies them completes a profound spiritual experience for participants and obsververs who join in having prepared themselves in a pious frame of mind. Each settlement has its own version of the chants which are sung during their „Za križen“ processions. Prayers are usually sung by the people following the cross along the route, while the leaders around each Ceoss-Bearer sing supplications in ancient harmonies. In the all-night Procession, for each stop there are different chants when approaching and leaving the churches. Inside the churches the central focus is the singing of the „Gospin Plač“. („Our Lady’s Lament). This is divided into three parts, the first and last sung by two lead tenors, with the response in between by three or four. The tradition of „Our Lady’s Lament“, in the original Latin the „Stabat Mater“, is said to date back to the end of the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries, based  on a poetic text by Jacopone da Todi ( 1233-1306). In the Hvar veraion only a few words  at  a time are sung in each part of the lament: they are drawn out into a prolonged stream, with a pause for breath between the lines. The singers coordinate to create an almost palpable vibration during the chant, which gives the effect of a female wailing over the top of their deep male voices. The correct breathing technique is essential to producing the phenomenom. Traditionally, sons of the singers learn the technique from puberty, as soon as their voices break, so that later on they can be chosen for the honour of singing this essential part of the procession rituals. All the most important chants during the Holly week events are sung by males producing sonorous and resonant harmonies. In the Theophoric processions, a key part is the singing of „Puče moj“ („Oh my people“). The „Muke Gospodina“ („Passion of Christ“) is sung several times during the week: in the churches members of the choir take on the parts of the various people involved in the unfolding of the events. Everyone is of course welcome to take part in any of the processions, to share in the profound spiritual experience.

Although the all-night procession has been popularized because of its uniqueness, it is not to be treated as a tourist spectacle. Visitors can choose which processing to join, of all those on the island. Those wanting to take part in the all-night central Procession need to decide which od the six settlements to start from: you can walk the whole way, or just part. Another option is to remain in one of the churches to see the successive visiting processions and appreciate the variations in their music.

GALLERY

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