With its mild climate, 3000 hours of sunshine per year and 850 kms of splendid beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is the perfect holiday destination all year round.
This is a country that has the oldest borders in Europe, with an exceptional range of different landscapes just a short distance away, lots of leisure activities and a unique cultural heritage, where tradition and modernity blend together in perfect harmony. Its superb cuisine, fine wines and hospitable people make this a tourist paradise of the highest quality.
Situated in the extreme south-west of Europe, just a few hours from any of the other European capitals, Portugal attracts visitors from all over the world.
Come and discover the charms of this country too.
Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of 2,355 km2 and consist of nine islands - São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group. It takes about two hours to get from the Azores to mainland Portugal by plane.
The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km2 and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European continent (1½ hours flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves.
The climate in Portugal varies considerably from one region to another and is influenced by the relief, latitude and proximity to the sea, which offers mild winters, especially in the Algarve.
In the Porto e Norte area and Beiras region, particularly inland, nearer Spain, the winters are colder, although the temperatures are still mild when compared to the rest of Europe. There is some snowfall. It occurs most in the Serra da Estrela mountains, where we find the highest point in mainland Portugal (1,991 m) and where it is sometimes possible to ski.
The summers are hot and dry, especially in the inland areas (Trás-os-Montes in north-eastern Portugal and Alentejo). Temperatures are slightly lower in the coastal areas, because of the influence of the sea.
There are often warm, sunny days in autumn. Nice weather at the beginning of November is often called "St. Martin’s Summer" as this saint’s day is on 11 November.
The climate in the Azores is influenced by the islands’ latitude and by the Gulf Stream, and temperatures are mild there all year round. The same factors also influence the sea temperature, which is very pleasant both in winter and summer and ideal for nautical sports all year round.
The subtropical characteristics of the weather in the Madeira Archipelago can be explained by its geographical position and mountainous relief. The climate in Madeira is exceptionally mild, with average temperatures varying between 24 ºC in summer and 19 ºC in winter.
The sea temperature is also very pleasant all year round, thanks to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream. It varies between 18 ºC in winter and 22 ºC in summer.
Portugal has a population of about 10 million.
The population density is at its greatest in Lisbon, the capital and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north.
Generally speaking, there are more people living in the country’s coastal regions than in the inland areas.
The majority of Portuguese are Catholics, but the Portuguese Constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are a number of different religions in Portugal.
From a Latin root, Portuguese is spoken by about 250 million people in every continent, and is the 5th most spoken language in the world and the 3rd, if we only consider the European languages.
The Portuguese-speaking countries are scattered all over the world. Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé e Príncipe), in South America (Brazil) and in Asia, (East Timor, the youngest nation in the world), and it is also the official language in Macao Special Administrative Region of China.
In Portugal there are lots of people who are able to communicate in English, French and Spanish.
Lisbon is Portugal's capital and the hub of a multifaceted area that appeals to different tastes and senses.
In a city that has been influenced by many different far-off cultures over time, there is still a village feel in each historic neighbourhood. Stroll through the Pombaline grid of streets in the Baixa district that opens on to the Tagus in Praça do Comércio, then follow the river to discover some of the city’s most beautiful parts: the monumental area of Belém with its World Heritage monuments, the mediaeval quarters and the latest contemporary leisure spaces, such as the Parque das Nações.
Information via www.visitportugal.com
List of Catholic sites in Portugal:
Braga, Portugal: Shrine of Our Lady of Sameiro & Bom Jesus
The city of Braga is one of the oldest Christian cities in Europe. It is here in the Cathedral that Portugal’s first king, Afonso, is buried. There is an old image of the Blessed Virgin Mary hanging in the Chapel of the Madonna.
About Our Lady of Sameiro:
This the second-most visited shrine in Portugal after Fatima and is located about 5 miles from the city of Braga. Located in the center of town, the Cathedral is architecturally stunning. Four statues of saints greet you as you enter: St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Anthony of Lisbon, and Saint Alphonsus Liguori. All four had a great dedication to Our Lady, and a statue of her is on the main altar. Millions visit the shrine each year and it was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1982. About Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mountain). Near the shrine of Our Lady of Sameiro, at the top of a hill, is the chapel of Bom Jesus do Monte Some pilgrims did–and still do–climb up the stairways one their knees, meditating on the Passion of the Christ at various stations along the way.
Coimbra: Santa Teresa Convent & Memorial to Sister Lucy
Portugal’s most important city for over 200 years, Coimbra remains second only to Lisbon culturally and historically. Known as the medieval capital of Portugal for over 100 years and located approximately 95 miles north of Fatima is the city of Coimbra, Portugal. This lovely region of Portugal is dotted with steep hills, narrow lanes, lush parks and convents. Santa Cruz church in Coimbra is also the burial place for the first two kings of Portugal. Located halfway between Lisbon and Oporto and set on the east bank of the Rio Mondego, this enchanting city is also known for its historic significance and universities.
Coimbra remains closest to the hearts of many, as the home of the Convent of Santa Clara, where Sr. Lucia dos Santos of Fatima lived a hidden life as a cloistered nun for the last 57 years of her life. Sr. Lucy, who with her two cousins Jacinta and Francisco, were the three young visionaries from Fatima, Portugal.
You can also visit the Museum’s Sister Lucia, next the Convent:
About Santa Teresa Convent:
As a Discalced Carmelite Convent, this is similar to many other Carmelite convents; however, there has been one notable occupant of the convent: Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries of Fatima. The Fatima apparitions took place in 1917, and Sister Lucy moved to Porto in 1921. In 1925, she entered the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy as a postulant in the convent in Tui, Spain, just across the northern Portuguese border. She returned to Portugal in 1946 (where she visited Fátima incognito). In 1948 she entered the Carmelite convent here in Coimbra and took her vows on May 31, 1949, taking the religious name Sister Maria Lúcia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart. As a cloistered nun, she had little contact with the outside world (perhaps her most famous visitor was Pope John Paul II). She lived here until her death in 2005.
Memorial & Museum of Sister Lucy:
Attached to the Convent is a small museum. You can follow an itinerary that covers the time starting with the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fátima, up to Sister Lúcia’s death, on February 13, 2005, in her cell at the Carmelite Convent.
Memorial to Sr Lucy in Coimbra. The visitor is invited to go through the steps of Sister Lucia’s life chronologically, by seeing the display of objects, pictures, and brief explanations, many of those handwritten by herself. At the beginning, one can see objects used by Sister Lucia in the time of the Apparitions, like her first rosary, her scarf and the rope she used around the waist, like her cousins Francisco and Jacinta. The museum has a replica of her cell, some objects given to her by Pope John Paul II and other Popes, and personal items belonging to her, including items she made, objects used by here at the time of the apparitions as well as a multimedia room of photographs of Sister Lúcia.
Fatima, Portugal: Our Lady of Fatima Shrine
About the apparitions at Fatima:
Perhaps the most significant Marian apparition of the 20th century, Fatima has meaning for today as well. Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared on the 13th of each month to three shepherd children— 10 year old Lucia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto-in the fields of Aljustrel, just outside of Fatima, Portugal.
The message, and the events to follow, were to have major consequences and lead many people to Jesus Christ.
The Blessed Mother asked that the children pray the rosary daily, and said that through the rosary wars could be prevented. At that time many men from Portugal were involved in World War I.
About the Shrine at Fatima:
Among the sites you can see is the Cova da Iria where the apparitions occurred and the chapel built here at Our Lady’s request. The Basilica that now houses the tombs of Francisco and Jacinta (both died early, as prophesied by Our Lady—she had told them they would be taken to Heaven early). Sr. Lucia was to help spread the word and lived a cloistered life in Coimbra, Portugal until February 2005, very close to the time of the death of Pope John Paul II. In 2006 her body was transferred to Fatima to be placed near her cousins in the Basilica. A new church was constructed in 2007: The Church of the Holy Trinity. The church contains five chapels, 16 confessionals and a cafeteria. It will help to accommodate the millions of people who visit here each year. In addition to Masses held throughout the day there are Stations of the Cross, daily processions, adoration and much more at what is considered by many to be the most important Marian shrine of the 20th Century. You will also find a portion of the Berlin Wall, a testament to the fall of Communism and the triumph of Our Lady.
Lisbon, Portugal: Church of St. Anthony of Padua
About Saint Anthony of Padua:
We know him as Saint Anthony of Padua, Italy; however, Anthony was originally from Lisbon, Portugal.
Here in the quaint old city of Lisbon with its steep hills overlooking the Tagus River as it flows out to the Atlantic Ocean you can find the church dedicated to him.
About the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua in Lisbon:
The Church is located in the Alfama region of the city where Saint Anthony grew up. An earthquake in 1755 leveled a great portion of the city, but spared the Alfama region due to its Granite base. This is where the wealthy lived and as a result there are many old magnificent buildings in this district. Needless to say many in Portugal consider him one of their great Saints and the Church of Saint Anthony stands on the site of his birth. It is a tradition for newly married couples to visit here and leave flowers, asking Saint Anthony to bless their marriage. You will find a plaque honoring the visit of Pope John Paul II on May 12, 1982. He stopped to pray here before continuing on to Fatima on May 13 to give thanks to Our Lady whom he credited with saving him from being killed when he was shot exactly one year earlier.
Santarem, Portugal: Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem
The tale of the Miracle involves a woman and her unfaithful husband. In a desperate attempt to save her marriage, the woman went to see a sorceress for help. The sorceress said she would grant the woman’s wish of renewing the husband’s fidelity: in exchange for the woman bringing her a consecrated Host. Reluctantly the woman decided to commit the sacrilege and steal a host. The woman went to Mass at the Church of St. Stephen, she received the Holy Eucharist in her mouth, then took the Sacred Host out of her mouth and wrapped it in her veil, and headed quickly out of the church.
Before she had taken more than a few steps, the Host began to bleed. It bled so much that it appeared as if she had cut her hand. Several concerned parishioners went to help her, but as they reached her, she ran out of the church.
Upon returning home, she threw the bloody Host into the bottom of an old trunk in her bedroom. As was his custom, her husband returned late that night. During the middle of the night, a mysterious light emanated from the trunk. When the couple awoke, the woman confessed to her husband what she had done. They then both knelt in adoration and repentance before the Miracle.
The next morning they told the parish priest what had happened. The Host was then placed in a wax container and solemnly returned to the Church of St. Stephen. Of course, upon hearing the news, the villagers hurried to the church to see and venerate the Miracle.
When the priest opened the tabernacle another miracle had taken place! The wax container holding the Sacred Host was found shattered in many pieces, and the Host was now enclosed in a crystal pyx. After an exhaustive investigation by ecclesiastical authorities, the Miracle was approved. It is believed that St. Francis Xavier visited the Church of the Holy Miracle before setting off for missionary work in India.
It is an article of our faith that the wine and bread literally become the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ during the Consecration, and to actually see it physically manifested is a wonderful experience.
The Miracle Church in Santarem:
The miracle is preserved here in a reliquary atop a tabernacle for all to see. Other notable interior features of the church are four paintings that depict the miracle, and some impressive 16th century tiles.