The last place on this wonderful trip to Madeira is right next from where it all started. Right behind Funchal there is a large hill, and as go you deeper into the city you’ll see that Funchal’s interior is built on altitude. The top of the hill is called Monte. And is one of the most important places in all of Madeira.
The journey started near the Funchal docks, where you can take a cable car up the hill to Monte. The trip is good to take pictures and witness the scale of the city (warning: the cable car closes kind of early, but there are buses that will take back down).
Monte itself isn’t a very big place but in here many great things happen, like the Festas da Nossa Senhora do Monte, a deeply rooted tradition on the island where huge number of people go up the hill to celebrate the patroness saint and her myth, near the church named after her. I was unfortunate not to be there in time for the celebrations but I did get to see the beginning of their decor.
There is also Monte Palace, an extraordinarily beautiful exotic garden of which I will show more in the next article. And one other great Madeira tradition you can find here is the Carros de Cesto, aka Basket Cars, a fun yet terrifying way of going down the hill, where two “drivers” push you down the smooth paved streets in what is basically a big basket!
The Nossa Senhora do Monte Church has a lot of history and mythology in Madeira. The legend says a small shepherd girl told her family that she had met a nice lady in the woods who fed her. The father shepherd, after hearing this story a couple of times and not believing a lonesome woman would be alone in such a remote place, followed his daughter and saw she was talking to a lost image of saint Mary, painted in wood. The image was placed on a small chapel near where it was found, and is now the patroness of the whole island. But in 2010 the huge floods that destroyed part of Funchal, almost completely collapsed Monte, and the chapel that contained the image disappeared completely, taken by the water, leaving no trace of it behind, except when down in the streets of the city, the image was found floating and intact. Since then it is being preserved and a new chapel has been raised in place of the other one with a copy of the picture.
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