The island of São Miguel and the Azores in general currently have some images that immediately identify it. Culturally, the famous representation of “Ecce Homo” known as “Senhor Santo Cristo Dos Milagres”, originated in the 16th century and whose veneration, today truly remarkable, began to intensify in the 18th century through the Friar Teresa de Jesus, who since that time has been considered venerable and on the way to being formally recognized as a Saint.
In the monastery of Our Lady of Hope, in Ponta Delgada, there is a wooden figure (a bust) that represents Jesus Christ during the Passion of Christ. This image, in a first phase, impresses people by its facial expression and in a second phase, it is possible to highlight the perfection and magnificence of all its props, built with immense precious stones, pearls, diamonds and gold.
This image was carved at the beginning of the 16th century and soon after it was offered by Pope Paul III to two nuns who had gone to Rome to impetrate the Bull of the foundation of the first feminine cenobium of this island of São Miguel. It is believed to have been washed ashore after the shipwreck on which it was following.
This bust has a legend around it. A long time ago, the nuns of the Convent of Caloura felt very sad because the people of the town of Água de Pau were becoming very distant from the faith and fear of God. These sisters spent a lot of time praying with great fervour and hoped that if they had a new image in their convent they would be able to attract the parishioners back to the ways of faith.
They decided to write a letter to the Pope in Rome to ask him to offer them a new image for the convent since they had no money to buy it for their own means. But when they received the answer, they found that their request could not be granted. However, the sisters of Caloura Convent did not despair and, despite the adversities, continued with the faith that one day they would have a new image.
Legend has it that these events occurred at a time when there were many pirates and corsairs roaming the seas of the Azores. A ship that was passing off the island of São Miguel was attacked by pirate ships and many of its wrecks ended up on the coast over several days.
On one of these days, after finishing their duties in the convent’s gardens, the nuns were resting by the sea when they saw in the water, floating by the rocks, a box from which light seemed to emanate. Curious, they went down to the coast, pulled the crate to the beach and when they opened it they saw that it contained a beautiful bust of Christ. The image had a lively look and a humble and serene expression.
The religious immediately thought that they had received a miracle because the Holy Christ had chosen to land on the island of São Miguel, an island whose people were known to be very believers. When the inhabitants of Água de Pau heard about it they were very happy and their faith grew. The fame of the image quickly spread from the village to other places on the island, along with the fame of the miracles done by the Santo Cristo. Since that time, Santo Cristo has become the hope and a form of support for all the inhabitants of the island of São Miguel.
For many years this image of Santo Cristo was venerated at the Convento da Caloura. However, due to its proximity to the sea and due to the constant attacks by pirates, the nuns had to retreat to Ponta Delgada, to the Convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperança, where they took the image of Santo Cristo.
Until the end of the 17th century, this bust did not occupy any prominent place in the chapels of this monastery of Poor Clares. The great responsibility for its valorization was the nun of Ribeira Grande. She considered that an image of God himself could not be careless and that devotion to Christ should be encouraged so as to become a widespread practice of all her believers and, moved by her own will, had a proper chapel built within the convent, but visible and accessible to the lay faithful. This has always been very opposed by other religious, but she has obtained some alms to beautify the image. Mother Teresa spoke with God through this image and became a valuable intercessor for the believers. Her fame of holiness began while she was still alive and is still today.
The devotion to the Holy Christ of Miracles was born when the people of St. Michael went out in procession during the great earthquake that happened on April 11, 1700. According to history, during a great earthquake on the island of São Miguel, a group went out in procession with an image of Senhor Santo Cristo. This procession that went through the entire city, passing through all the convents in Ponta Delgada, was joined by confraternities, religious communities as well as all the nobility and an innumerable crowd.
They passed through rubble and corpses until a stronger tremor caused the image of Senhor Santo Cristo to fall from the wall to the ground, which remained upright without breaking or getting dirty. It is said that at that moment the earth stopped shaking, the sea thawed and the sky was discovered, thus the great devotion to the Holy Christ of Miracles was born.
The invocation, the worship and the Party are appropriated by the Azoreans as factors of identity, as marks of belonging to a community, to society, to the Autonomous Region of the Azores.
All these devotions of Mother Teresa da Anunciada have made this cult the second-largest religious event in Portugal, and also the happiest time of year for Azorean tourism. Every year they bring thousands of pilgrims from all over the world to the island of São Miguel, coming from the islands, the continent and the emigrant communities, namely the United States of America and Canada.
This type of tourist travel is called religious tourism and is characterized by travel (pilgrimage) motivated by religious elements using and visiting religious resources. It also tries to associate religious tourism with cultural tourism – latu sensu.
The importance of these festivals for the Region is to be highlighted, as they have a very strong impact in attracting people to the island of São Miguel in the phase of the year in which they occur.