The Black Madonna, Big Waves and the Cliffs of Nazare

When people in Nazare talk about big water, they mean BIG water. 

I can't imagine surfing on a 100 foot wave, but that's exactly what happened in January when a huge storm blew through this Portuguese town on the Atlantic Ocean. 

It felled trees all over this region but was a big boon for one surfer named Garrett McNamara, who was crazy enough to venture out into the Atlantic Ocean, catch a 100 foot wave and survive. This photo was taken by a photographer during McNamara's historic ride down the wall of water just after the storm. 

Same lighthouse and ocean on a 'calm' day.

McNamara may have had the help of Our Lady of Nazare. Legend has it that in the 7th century, two fisherman brought back a small statue of a Black Madonna from Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus (hence the name Nazare). The statue was hidden for 500 years during Muslim Moorish rule and was rediscovered by Christians in the 12th century. A church was erected on top of the imposing cliff above Nazare to house the Madonna. 

The church depicts a mural of a nobleman named Dom Fuas, who - so absorbed in a deer hunt - didn't notice he was about the go over the edge. The Virgin appeared to him warning of the danger - Dom Fuas stopped just in time before heading over the cliff (but the deer wasn't so lucky.)

Miracles are not unusual for this region. Fatima, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in 1917, is not far away.

The cliffs are no less dangerous today

but locals still fish off them

A funicular connects the neighborhood at the top of the cliff, Sitio, with Nazare below.

Today fishermen's wives still wear the traditional costume of multiple petticoats. Waiting for their husbands to return from the sea, they would wrap themselves in the layered skirts to keep warm. 

Women also still sell dried fish on the beach

and kids play on the fishing boats

while the goddesses of Nazare wait for their husbands to sail back through the dangerous waters of the Atlantic. 


  1. Dear Amanda, visiting your blog is always like reading about some ancient adventures.;) The images of the ocean are stunning, they appeal to me in more way than one.
    I love the ocean or the sea, I find incredible beauty in calm waters or a stormy surge.
    The sentiments about the women waiting for their husbands to return from fishing trips resonates with me, as very similar scenes played out here (and still do, but fishing these days is much less dramatic and not so dangerous). The west coast of my peninsula is facing the Atlantic and harbours a very religious part of Denmark. Every day the wives said farewell to their husbands, not knowing whether they would ever see them again. I still stand in awe each time I see the massive beauty of the crushing ocean front...
    Beautiful post in words and images.;)
    Always want to thank you for your very substantial comment at my place dear friend, have a lovely week ahead.<3

  2. the place of contrasts - on one hand it looks like the time stopped there like 30 or more years ago, on the other scary pictures from the storm

    anyway - a good place for a visit!
    Blog about life and travelling
    Blog about cooking

  3. I immediately looked at their shawls, what stories must be in those patterns and projects. The wool must be tough and the patterns always evolving - i would love to know the story of knitting in this area.

    that wave is amazing!!!!

  4. My word, Sis, you can smell this post with your spirit. There have been a number of your posts that I have fallen in love with over the years but something about this one was like a pristine tuning fork.

    I am using the image of McNamara as my desktop wallpaper. I can't tell you what seeing that did to me. I'm literally speechless.

    Thank you for this exquisite composition on tides, waiting, miracles and new life. You are an *amazing* photographer.

  5. What an enchanting glimpse into daily life at Nazare. It seems we view the world with similar eyes when we travel Amanda. I am always trying to discover the essence of a place. You have certainly managed to do so in this post.

    That huge wave is amazing. I cannot imagine surfing it. I would not dare go anywhere near the water with waves that high.

  6. i love everything about this. i cannot imagine a wave this size. i can imagine even less standing on the edge of that cliff. the little protective stone bench made me smile.

    safe wild travels, amanda. go forth and tell about it!!


  7. What a wonderfully diverse report. Those were all great pictures, especially the huge wave.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

  8. The Black Madonna of Nazare reminds me of the black Saint Sarah in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and I'm going to see her next month! :)

  9. So many gorgeous shots! Love those cliffs ... the water ... that flower shot!
    Beautiful post!

  10. How fabulous. Apparently McNamara was a recipient of the Black Madonna's miracle!

    The fishermen's wives are sweet, and I do like those little shawls. Practical and cute.

    Gorgeous photos!


Post a Comment

Thank you for visiting♡