Living Figueira 12 months a year

Who is the Patron of Figueirenses? Saint John, Saint Julian or Saint Anthony?


Igreja_Sao_Juliao_FigueiradaFoz_2023 (2)

São Julião has been the patron saint of Figueira da Foz since the foundation of its Mother Church in the late 11th century. But on May 4, 1776, the City Council elected Saint Anthony as the patron saint of Figueira, and on June 14, 1921, it decided that the municipal holiday would be on August 24, and finally, on June 12, 1929, it changed the holiday to St. John’s Day. In short, this was the evolution of the three patrons who have protected the people of Figueiredo, as we will now demonstrate.

The proof of the great affection that the people of Figueiredo had for St. Julian is well explained in the Parish Information of Father Melchior dos Reys, of May 23, 1721, where he states that January 7 was a Holy Day of Guard because St. Julian was the patron saint of the parish: “…and to come…to the said Church the Cameras, and more peoples, of Tavarede, and Buarcos hûa on the day of S. Julliam, Oratory of the d.ª Church that he is the 7th of January, keeping the such day as Saint of Goarda….”.

Nevertheless, on May 4, 1776, the Chamber of Figueira decided that St. Anthony would be the patron of Figueirenses, lawyer and protector of the village “because in the hearts of the residents of this villa was known greater fervor of devotion to the Gloriozo Santo Antonio “:

“Tro. by which Gloriozo S. was taken as attorney.Anº in the frª stated below: On the fourth of May of one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six years in this town of Figueira da Foz and addresses of the Doctor Judge of Fora Bento José da Silva in an act of Chamber and being there present the dictto Menistro and Councilors Manuel Joze Soares Carvalho da Cunha, António Osório de Pinna e Mello, Joze Joaquim dos Santos Pinheiro and the Attorney Manoel Francisco da Maya it was proposed and uniformly agreed by all that since in all the notable villages and cities of this Kingdom the holy and praiseworthy custom of having as Patron and Advocate some Saint of their most particular devotion who prays before God for the felecities of the Respective Peoples, It was not fair that this town, at the beginning of its creation, should fail to follow such a good example, and because in the hearts of the inhabitants of this town there was greater fervor of devotion to the Glorious Saint Anthony and there would be more grateful affection for the said Saint, for their Advocate they invoked him by this solemn act as Protector of this town and they made a vow to attend in the Chamber with all the Nobility the Vespers and Festivide of the same Saint that every year is usually celebrated in his Convent of this town and for the record at all times, and to have its due execution now and as long as this town succeeds in prosperity, they will order the aforementioned to take this seat which they will sign. I, Francisco Joze Marques, clerk of the Chamber, have written it. Silva-Cunha-Osorio-Pinheiro-Maya.” (Book No. 1 of the Minutes, folio 32 verso, and in the Book of Judgments of the Chamber, 1786, folio 14 and verso).

Why St. Anthony if the people of Figueiredo have been venerating St. Julian since the end of the 11th century?

The current Church of S. Julião comes from the 7th century, when an Abbey was built at the mouth of the Mondego, the Abbey of São Julião, which was destroyed in 717 by the Serracenes and remained so until 1080 when Count Sesnando had it rebuilt through Abbot Pedro.

In 1716, major reconstruction work was begun on the Church of St. Julian, at the cost of a new tax, the “real de água”, charged for each bushel of salt shipped by boat through the Mondego or the bar, for twelve years. The works, which began in 1716, were only completed in 1782, the same year that the Pelourinho in Praça Velha was inaugurated.

In 1839 the second tower of the church was built, the one on the west side, and in 1877, 1887 and 1896 new works were carried out on the Church of S. Julião, with all traces of the old architecture disappearing.
At the time of the town council’s decision in 1776, the Church of S. Julião was undergoing renovations and the Church of Santo António was of great importance. Built in 1536, it underwent successive alterations, extensions and restorations, especially in 1725.

It was this growing importance of the Church of Saint Anthony, to the detriment of the Church of Saint Julian, that led to the municipal decision of May 4, 1776, establishing Saint Anthony as the patron saint of the people of Figueiredo. Times change, the protagonists change, the patron saints change, as João Coelho explained in the Album Figueirense of 1936:

(…)”A great lapse of time elapses without anyone giving us any information about the devotion of the people of Figueira to Saint Anthony, until five years after our land rose to the dignity of village, in a solemn session of May 4, 1776, the City Council declares that because it knows in the people greater fervor and devotion to the glorious Saint Anthony, it decided to elect him as their advocate before God! (…) The fact is that Figueira already had its patron – St. Julian – to whom its mother church was dedicated, according to the will of Abbot Pedro and whose saint never ceased to be the patron saint of the parish. (…) Either we do not understand well, or by the resolution of the Chamber of 1776 Figueira was left with two patron saints (…)”.

We would even say three saints, because the City Council decided on June 12, 1929 that St. John’s Day would be the municipal holiday. This decision was taken by the Administrative Commission of the Chamber chaired by Melo Cabral, in the middle of the “national dictatorship”, based on a petition signed by some figueirenses who argued that the municipal holiday should coincide with the egregious festivities of June 24.

And before June 12, 1929 what was the municipal holiday?

It was August 24, which remained from June 14, 1911 to June 12, 1929, commemorating the outbreak of the liberal revolution in Porto on August 24, 1820, in which the illustrious Figueirense Manuel Fernandes Tomás had played a decisive role.

Therefore, the petitioners who requested the change of the municipal holiday from August 24 to June 24 took care to record it in their petition: “We do not want with this to diminish the great figure of patriot that was Manoel Fernandes Tomaz, but we understand that honoring this illustrious figueirense, there is no need to go against the tradition of the people and the interests of the city”.

Thus, each figueirense today has three saints in his protection, St. Julian, St. Anthony and St. John.

St. John the Baptist has his “home” in the Church of St. Julian, leaving every year in the great procession of the Blessing of the Sea, on June 24.

S. Julian, commemorated on January 9, was imprisoned at the age of 18 for being a Christian and then subjected to torments trying to dissuade him from his faith, then led through towns and villages in the region of Cilicia so that the pagans would mock him. As nothing could deter him from his fidelity to Jesus Christ, he was thrown into the sea in a sandbag with poisonous snakes and scorpions. (Father Melchior dos Reis indicated January 7 as the day of St. Julian, and it is not likely that he was mistaken about the day, because he was a native of Figueira and knew the local traditions well).

Saint Anthony, commemorated on June 13, the day of his death. The “matchmaker saint” to whom young people should turn for help in finding a girlfriend and/or getting married. Also known as the saint of the poor and the saint of things and lost causes. (He was born in Lisbon on August 15, 1195, where his popularity is so great that many think he is its patron saint, but in fact the patron saint of Lisbon is St. Vincent).

S. João, S. João Batista, celebrated on June 24, the day of the birth of the saint who baptized Jesus Christ in the waters of the Jordan River, protector of the married and the sick, the most celebrated popular saint in Figueira da Foz.



Nuno Camarneiro

Figueira da Foz Is Me The exercise is more difficult than I anticipated – How do I feel about Figueira da Foz? I said yes,

Read More "

Figueira da Foz, an Ocean View

My viewpoint of doom in Figueira da Foz is not usually found in the lists of the “Best Viewpoints in Figueira da Foz”. It’s not official and it’s not on the roadmap, but I’ve been looking there for at least fifty years. Not exactly in the same place, because my viewpoint has grown and is now further away – which only makes it more beautiful.

Read More "


Fernando Curado