The story – and stories – behind one of the most emblematic chapels in Portugal. The chapel of Nossa Senhora da Conceição – Praia de Mira, Coimbra.
Episode 5 – The Lady who calms the Sea
|Created and produced by Marco António
|Translated and narrated by de Lucy Pepper
|Official theme music: “Fado do Sonho“ – Pensão Flor
|Additional music: Lee Rosevere | Orquestra Popular de Paio Pires
|The Portuguese version of this episode can be found at “Histórias de Portugal”
(narrated by Marco António)
The Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception, at Praia de Mira has already lived more than one life and more than one patron saint. It was built in the 19th Century by a man from Gândara who wanted to donate his statue of the Lady of Grace from his home to Praia de Mira. Then later, in 1884, after a storm almost destroyed the chapel, the population asked for it to rebuilt and the patron saint changed to the Lady of the Conception, who is still there today.
João Nogueira, Mª Lurdes Custódio, Mestre Alcino, Mestre Gabriel, Maria Domingos and João Custódio helped us to tell the story… and stories (amongst them one about the belief that the Lady of the Conception can calm the sea) – of this emblematic chapel, made in the image of the traditional “palheiros” (wooden houses) of the fishermen, a chapel particularly adored by the fishermen.
In February 2017, the chapel could have disappeared forever, due to a fire.
Total catastrophe was averted. The chapel was saved (and rapidly renovated) to the happiness of the people of Praia de Mira, which maintains a very high regard for the Lady of the Conception and for the chapel. The inhabitants have only one complaint – that the chapel is used as a mortuary chapel, bringing to it an idea of sadness and death instead of joy and prayer – and they hope that this practice will end, with the construction of a specially built mortuary chapel.
* * *
If you speak Portuguese, there is another (tragic) story worth a listen, told by Mestre Gabriel, which you will understand why we didn’t include in this episode. You can find it on this episode’s page on Histórias de Portugal.
And it was Mestre Gabriel who closed our episode, with this poem which I have translated for you… (sorry, it doesn’t scan in English!!)
Some centuries ago
a chapel was born, built by the sea
for a famous queen to live in
it was our ancestors who built it there
they made it their way, made it all in wood
and the a sua maneira toda feita de madeira
and the name they gave to it
it was such a lovely name
Our Lady of the Conception
the patron saint of fishermen
where pain is lamented
but there is also prayer
painted in sky blue
the beautiful colour of hope
for when the fisherman leaves for the sea
at her feet he comes to pray
and he always finds hope
there is a statue inside
beloved from the heart
she is the queen of the fishermen
and she calms their pain
in the troublesome times
in this temple, I go to pray
taking the statue out by the sea,
she can calm the furious waves for a while
it is an old house, well loved
it is the house of the patron saint,
blessed in all the land
a Nossa Senhora de Conceição
This is Mestre Alcino, already a celebrity in these parts. He took Part in Portugal’s Got Talent on RTP and was a sensation.