Sanctuary of Cape Espichel

Sanctuary of Cape Espichel

Sanctuary, Church and Lighthouse

Cabo Espichel
2970 Sesimbra

The worship in honour of Our Lady of the Cape in the 14th-century chapel “Ermida da Memoria” led to the construction of a sanctuary, ordered in the 18th century by King Pedro II and King José. The sanctuary was fully active until late 19th and early 20th centuries, when it went into decline.

The sanctuary presides over a complex which includes the Church, an unpretentious temple built between 1701 and 1707, two boarding houses built after 1715 and enlarged between 1745 and 1760, a “water house” equipped with an aqueduct, dating back to 1770, and the opera house, built in the late 19th century.

It was classified as a Monument of Public Interest by Decree no.37.728, dated 5th Januth ary 1950, and Special Protected Area by a decree issued on 29th November 1963.

Cabo Espichel is situated on the eastern coast of Portugal, along an extension of approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) that occupies a region called the Bacia Lusitânica (BL), that occurred during the opening of the north Atlantic during Triassic.

In tectonic terms, the BL is delimited by the Porto-Tomar fault and the Arrife-Vale fault in the eastern/lower Tagus and in the west by the Berlengas horst, corresponding to a ridge of intense tectonic subsistence along the north-northeast to south-southwest.

The southern limit is located at an elevation south of Arrábida (at the Arrábida fault) and the southern limit corresponds to the watershed transition situated more to the north. In addition to these faults, there are also faults with variable directions between east-west and northeast-southwest, that divide the basin into different tectonic-sedimentary areas, that could have influenced sediment deposition during Mesozoic.The BL is filled with sediments between the late Triassic and late Cretaceous, including alternating layers of marine carbonates, clastic carbonate coastal sediments, fluvial and estuarine siliciclastic deposits, among others.

Also famous, are the several dinosaur fossil trackways exposed in some of the now tilted Jurassic strata which form the cape's cliffs. It is said that local superstition interpreted the trackways as the path taken by the Holy Virgin ("Nossa Senhora") when riding a giant mule from the ocean and up the cliffs, which led to the eventual construction of the convent at that location.