„This weekend we’re going to Serreta, do you want to go with us?” – my friend asked me a few days ago. I wanted to.
I put on comfortable shoes, sunglasses, packed my backpack with food, water, sweatshirt and raincoat – and off you go.
Serreta is a Terceiran Częstochowa
(Quick explanation: Częstochowa is a Polish cult place where pilgrims go from all around the country every year).
Every year, pilgrimages to Serreta take place. The inhabitants of Terceira wander to the sanctuary in Serreta from every part of the island. Some people even go around the island, making about 80 km on foot. Some people go to ask for something. Others to show gratitude for the past year. Others to meet friends, drink beer and eat bifana. (Bifana is the often mentioned bun with a cutlet, available in almost every tasca, i.e. a foodtruck). And to see the tourada à corda and pull for capinhas.
This year, for obvious reasons, no great festival was organized. Usually there are tascas, music and fireworks. This year – only pilgrims wandering the streets of Terceira throughout the week. And a man with hand sanitizer at the entrance to the church.
Nossa Senhora dos Milagres – Our Lady of Miracles
In the Azores and in Portugal, Nossa Senhora dos Milagres, or Our Lady of Miracles, is highly revered. There is a sanctuary named after her in Serreta. There is a painting under the same invocation. It is said that this painting saved a priest who was running away from danger in the 17th century. As a thank you for that care, the priest built a chapel in which he placed the painting. It was in the area of today’s Serreta. After the priest’s death, the painting was transferred to a church in the nearby village of Doze Ribeiras.
This image served the Terceiran people, as did the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa (PL: Matka Boska Częstochowska) for Poles. In the 17th century, Portugal was involved in the war between France and Spain, and Great Britain. Terceira, a small island, was virtually defenseless in this war. Residents turned to Our Lady of Miracles with a request for protection. They promised that if the island did not suffer any attack from the enemy, they would organize an annual festival in honor of Our Lady of Miracles. What they did.
Festivals in honor of Our Lady of Miracles
The first festival of the Festas da Nossa Senhora dos Milagres was held on September 11, 1764. In 1842, the church in Serreta was built, the miraculous painting was brought back to it – and since then, the festivals are held regularly. And since 2006, when the church was elevated to the rank of a sanctuary, the holidays have been even more sublime. These are religious and secular holidays that blend in with the image of the island.
On the day of my planned pilgrimage, a friend asked me why I was not staying on the beach any longer. After all, the weather is beautiful and you could „get cooked” at home. I replied, „Because I’m going to Serreta.” And it was all clear. Serreta is local code, everyone knows what’s going on.
Serreta connecting people
Serreta Weekend is one of the biggest events during the summer of Terceira. It connects old and young, believers and non-believers, fun-oriented and calm ones. The phenomenon of Terceira is that you can really feel the equality of all people here. Festivals in Serreta are one of the occasions to experience this unity. There are no better or worse, they are all equally important and the equally warmly welcomed. Isn’t it the social bond that we want?