This beautiful convent is located in the village of Varatojo, in the municipality of Torres Vedras. It was built in 1474 and this was the only building ordered by King D. Afonso V.
But let's go to his history in this convent…
Inside, there is a small entrance with a staircase with beautifuul tiles that at the time of the Implementation of the Portuguese Republic (in 1910) the crowd try to stung the tiles when they wanted to enter inside the convent by force. But without any success because they were stopped by a large iron gates that protected everything and everyone inside.
Currently, we can enter here, but we have to ask for it… there is a rope with a bell that alerts the friar who is standing at the door. The bell makes Blem… blem… blom…And there comes the friar, dressed in his brown cloak, to welcome visitors.
Inside are cloisters with a garden in the middle, a small stream that winds the entire garden with golden fish… During the feast of Saint Antonio in June, there is usually a carpet made of flowers. In fact, throughout the convent - and, just during these festivities, there are countless rugs made of flowers. It is the people living there (in Varatojo) who do it. They walk from garden to garden, across fields, and hills picking flowers to make unique carpets there.
The chapel is covered with tiles that portrays the episodes in the life of Santo António. The gold of the altars contrasts with the blue of the tiles.
Hundreds of weddings, baptisms have been held there…Happy parties and celebrations… Realizations of love…No one would say…No one would say that it was there that King D. Afonso V took refuge…
King D. Afonso V who became known as the African due to his advances in North Africa, but also the unhappy, given his sad life story. He went through several vicissitudes throughout his life, loses his father at the age of 6 and ascends to the throne, but it is the mother who rule the country, later the mother is poisoned and it is Uncle D. Pedro who assumes the throne until this time. reaching 14 years old…He gets married, he widow...loses the battles in North Africa, asks King Louis XI of France for help and is deceived...
I have to say that I admire the nazarene women. They have always been women who worked hard but also, suffered a lot. They suffered from the cold while waiting for the boats on the beach, they suffered when there were shipwrecks, they suffered when their loved ones lost their lives at sea, when they were in great need at the time that wasn’t allowed to fish. Those were hard times… I had several fishermen in my family and, although I don't have origins in Nazaré, I understand everything that happened.
These women are known for their 7 skirts. And why 7 skirts? There are many theories. They say they are the 7 virtues, the 7 days of the week, the 7 colors of the rainbow. They say they are linked to the number of waves also called "set". They also say that the women had 7 skirts and that it helped count the waves of the sea, because they knew that when they finished counting them, the sea calmed down and the boat could dock and unload on the beach. They also say that the skirts had different lengths, some shorter, others longer, and these were to protect themselves from the cold when waiting for boats on the beach. They covered their heads and arms with the largest skirt, protecting themselves from the cold and the salt air
It is said that the ladies of the court when they visited the Sítio and went to the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré, they transmitted an idea of beauty that at the time was: round hip and thin waist, hence the number of skirts to taper the silhouette, the arms were covered with white lace. However, its important to say that not every day, is a day to wear 7 skirts. Everyday they wear 3 to 5 skirts, but on special days… it's great… they use 7!
It’s on festivity days that the richness of this tradition is seen. On party days they leave the house with their 7 skirts. They are: 2 white skirts, 3 colored skirts with lace, 1 pleated or blue chintz skirt with a black velvet bar and, finally, a satin apron embroidered with colors. They wear black varnish slippers, a cardigan with white lace sleeves, a black cape and a scarf on their heads, also called a “cachené”. The nazarena, it has to be big, so gold: threads, rings, bracelets, earrings, its a must have.
When I go to Sítio, curiously, I always like to eat some dried fruits, and… my dried fruit dealer is a cool Nazarene! She wears her fantastic 7 skirts every day… and she’s professional in taking pictures with those who visit that place!
Places with soul...