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History of Senhor Santo Cristo Feast from Azores

 

 

Sto. Christo of the Miracles, 

A popular Devotion in the Azores

 The Faith of the people of the Azores will for ever be attached in a very significant way to the Mystery of the Ecce Homo  which, in a very dramatic form, is reflected in a Renaissance image kept for centuries at Convento da Esperança in Ponta Delgada, principal urban centre in the island of São Miguel.

The beginning of this devotion started in the early years of the XVI century, when two Clarisse nuns were sent to Rome to request a Papal Bull and special blessings to found their first convent in the Azores. Pope Clement VII, granted them that wish in an official Curia document and presented the two nuns with a special gift, the image of the

Ecce Homo, an artistic torso of Jesus carved in polychromatic wood, which will be popularly known in the Azores as Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. The custody of this religious symbol has been in the hands of the Clarisse Sisters since 1541, starting at Mosteiro de Caloura in Vale de Cabaços, Lagoa, near Vila Franca do Campo, the first capital of the island.

São Miguel was frequentely attacked by pirates who prowled the Azorian coasts to intercept Portuguese ships, retuning from the route to India, loaded with Oriental spices, precious metals and gems. Trying to protect the congregation of Caloura from these attacks, the count of Vila Franca made a pledge to build for them a convent in the new capital of Ponta Delgada. Dedicated to the Mother of God, the Monastery was named Convento de Nossa Senhora da Esperança and when the nuns of St. Claire moved from Vale de Cabaços to the new place, Mother Ines brought there the image of Senhor Santo Cristo, setting it in a place of honour at the retable of the convent's Ermida de Nossa Senhora da Paz.

Strong eruptions and seismic activity left Vila Franca buried in volcanic ash and lava and most of the population had to move to Ponta Delgada, which at that time, from a small fishing hamlet, became the second capital of São Miguel.

The devotion toSenhor Santo Cristo became more popular around 1683, when it was promoted by Madre Teresa d'Anunciada, an Azorian nun who dedicated her monastic life to the Ecce Homo sufferings. She inspired the veneration of the Santo Cristo's image in the people, organizing the first procession through the streets of Ponta Delgada in 1698. Madre Teresa d'Anunciada played an very important role inspiring the veneration and devotion that the people of the Azores has always dedicated to this religious symbol.

Once again, in April 11 of 1713, the island was hit by strong and persisitent eruptions, accompanied by the most severe seismic activity. Very much concerned with the destruction the telluric tragedy was causing everywhere, the Brotherhood of Misericordia and some noblemen of the city followed barefooted after the image of Senhor Santo Cristo in a Procession through Ponta Delgada that stopped at all the city churches. During the event, a strong earthquake caused the image to fall down from the bier, producing a great panic among the pious people. But, amazingly, no damage was done to Christ's image and all of a sudden, the seism stopped when the statue touched the ground. This was considered a miracle and from that moment on, the image of the Ecce Homo started to be called Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres. Since this first miracle, many other were attributed to
Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres and through centuries, lots of thankfull and devoted people helped to build up with generous donations a Treasure of incalculabel value. The most important pieces in the lot for their artistic merit are the Splendour, a solid gold jewel that forms the halo shining over the head of Christ, but the Crown of Thorns is its most delicate piece with precious stones inserted in the plaited jewel. The Reliquary, the oval piece always set over the image's chest, holds inside a small piece of the True Cross on which our Redeemer was crucified on the hill of Calvary, outside the city walls of Jerusalem. A Sceptre and the Ropes with which they tied up His divine hands, complete the whole set, together with a collection of velvet Purple Robes, embroidered in fine gold thread and exposed to the admiration of the public at Convento da Esperança.

Five Sundays after Easter, the Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo dos Milagres almost doubles the core population of Ponta Delgada with the magnificent Procession following its traditional route through streets covered and decorated with a mixture of greens and flower forming very artistic geometric patterns. Thousands of Azorians, immigrants from the seven seas, come back to their Motherland to give a testimony of their Christian faith and veneration of an image that so intensively describes the sufferings and chalenges of Christ Passion.


Antonio Seara, London, ON


History of Crownings during Easter Season

History of Crownings during the Easter Season


From the Second Sunday of Easter to the end
of summer each parish with a Portuguese community
celebrates what is called the “Festa do Divino Espírito Santo.”

It was the Azorean Portuguese who brought this beautiful tradition to our community. In fact, in most places the “Festa” was already being celebrated before the parishes were established.

The custom of honoring the Divine Holy Spirit was instituted by the good Queen,
St. Elizabeth of Portugal ( Isabel in Portuguese ). Her title is “The
Peacemaker” or in Portuguese “Pacificadora.”

Once in her early years as queen, when she was sneaking an armful of bread out
of the palace to share with the hungry, her husband the king caught her. He
grabbed her cape and swung it back. But just as he did this, the bread
miraculously turned into roses and thus she was spared from the king’s wrath.
This is why she is usually depicted with a cape full of roses.

Although she was originally from the Kingdom of Aragon, St. Isabel became Queen
of Portugal when she married King Diniz of Portugal. Born in 1271, she and
Diniz had two children, Afonso and Constancia. When Afonso was 32, he rebelled
against his father, King Diniz.

St. Isabel was always trying to keep peace in the family. But soon, King Diniz falsely
felt that she was favoring the son, so he banished her to the city of Alenquer.

St. Isabel received this disgrace with patience and spent many hours in prayer
and fasting each day. She fervently asked the Holy Spirit to reconcile her
family and bring peace to her country.

One day, she received word that her son’s forces were gathering to attack her
husband’s army on a plain near Alenquer. She courageously rode her horse into
the King’s camp and convinced him to cease hostilities against their son. She
then went to the son’s camp and convinced him to submit to his father.

Through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit in answer to her prayers, a
permanent reconciliation was made. The king restored his queen and needless to
say, her joy knew no bounds.

In gratitude to the Holy Spirit, she decided to build a church on the site
where the reconciliation took place. This was the first church in Christendom
to be dedicated to the Holy Spirit. Portuguese tradition tells of many miracles
attributed to St. Isabel. Before construction of the church began, she went to
the site, knelt on the ground and prayed. When she arose, the foundation of the
church had been miraculously laid.

So quickly was the church built that it was said that the men worked during the
daylight hours and construction sounds could be heard as the angels worked
through the night.

The new church was dedicated on Pentecost Sunday. St. Isabel felt that her
banishment had temporarily removed the crown of the kingdom from her head, and
through the grace of the Holy Spirit, she felt that her restoration had
restored her crown.

Therefore, her crown was placed on the altar during the Solemn Mass of
Dedication. Crowns may still be placed on the altar as it is a “centenary
custom” (one which is over 100 years old) which Canon Law allows to continue.
This crown and all the replicas of it are considered sacramentals of the Holy
Spirit. One can be blessed with the crown of the Holy Spirit, just as one can
be blessed with a crucifix or a relic.

Restoration, however, was not enough for the good queen. She wanted to do more,
so she did something that had never been done before. She invited the common
people to take part in the feast as well. Because of her great concern for the
poor, she wanted to include them in everything. She even sold a large portion
of her jewels and royal holdings in order to buy food for her people.

She did something else that was unthinkable. She extended her crown to her
subjects, so that both royalty and common people could be united as one
Christian family by the grace of the Holy Spirit. She was a classic example of
Christ the King extending His Royal Crown to all of us, and we as Catholics are
called to do the same.

The good queen requested that a festa be held on each Pentecost thereafter, and
that a representative from the community be blessed with the crown annually.
This is what the “Festa” in honor of the Divino Espírito Santo is all about.

From the mainland of continental Portugal, this beautiful Catholic tradition in
honor of the Holy Spirit was taken to the Azores Islands. Discovered in 1432
and settled by Flemish and Portuguese is today a part of the Portuguese
Republic. From the Azores the devotion to
places of Portuguese immigration. Sad to say, this devotion for the most part
died out on the continent at the beginning of the 17th century. The custom has
even died out from time to time in the Azores but was quickly restored in times
of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and famines.

St. Isabel is considered the patroness of Peacemakers, and one with an
extremely deep love for the poor, the needy and all who suffer. She is also the
patroness of those who are falsely accused.

When her husband King Diniz died in 1325, she became a Third Order Franciscan
and dedicated the rest of her life to caring for the sick and those in need.

She died at the age of 65 on July 4, 1336 at Estremoz and to this day her
incorrupt body lies in a casket above the altar at the Poor Clares Convent in
Coimbra.

Let us admire this great queen who averted a civil war in her country who kept
peace in her family and who instituted our profound devotion to the Holy
Spirit. The Portuguese of our Dioceseshould be very proud of this
devotion which, like our Catholic Faith, is inseparable from our heritage.

When difficulties come our way, let us, like St. Isabel, turn to the Holy
Spirit. May we also bear in mind that as Christians we are called to be
Peacemakers. Let us recall the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are
the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God!