Application process for the São Miguel Pilgrimages to UNESCO begins

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In January, the São Miguel Pilgrims Movement, in the Azores, sent the process to the Directorate-General for Heritage to start the application for this secular religious tradition to become a UNESCO Intangible Heritage Site, it was revealed today.

“I’m very happy to say this. On January 31st, the document was sent to the Directorate-General for Heritage for consideration. Registration with the Directorate-General for Heritage is mandatory for the application to progress,” said the president of the Movement’s coordinating group, João Carlos Leite, in statements to the Lusa news agency.

João Carlos Leite explained that after registration as national cultural and intangible heritage on the respective platform, the procedure for applying to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be drawn up.

In his opinion, making the pilgrimages UNESCO Intangible Heritage is fair and a recognition of this “singular and unique manifestation of our faith and identity”.

The candidacy was decided at the Movement’s general assembly at the end of 2018.

“I think we have all the conditions for recognition as UNESCO Intangible Heritage. We’re talking about such a strong manifestation of our culture and faith,” said João Carlos Leite.

The São Miguel Pilgrims Movement is now waiting for the document, with audiovisual support and written text, to be examined.

The traditional Lenten pilgrimages, which will once again take to the roads of São Miguel starting this Saturday, originated in the aftermath of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the island in the 16th century, which devastated Vila Franca do Campo and caused great destruction in Ribeira Grande, according to tradition.

Wearing a shawl, scarf, staff and rosary, the pilgrims of São Miguel make a journey of prayer, faith and reflection, singing songs and praying, always with the sea on their left, passing by as many churches and chapels of São Miguel as possible.

The former leave the weekend after Ash Wednesday and the latter return to their hometowns on Holy Thursday.

During the week they are on the road, the pilgrims sleep in private homes or parish halls, and must start their walk before dawn and enter the towns just after sunset.

The importance of this tradition leads the regional government to excuse from duty every year, “without prejudice to any rights and benefits”, the regional public administration workers who take part in the pilgrimages.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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