The Festival of St. James the Lesser is a local celebration held in Funchal in honour of the patron saint of the island’s capital. Also known as São Tiago Menor, St. James’ true identity is shrouded in mystery with some believing he could be the brother of Jesus. This religious festival is one which is strictly observed in Madeira. The old quarter of the city is the location for a large procession with hundreds of residents dressed in their finest clothes to parade down the cobbled Funchal streets carrying a statue of St. James high above them. The procession ends with a mass and thanks are given for the Saint’s protection.
The Festival of St. James the Lesser takes place on 1st May in Funchal. The procession is the main event and this runs through the streets of the old town including the Largo do Corpo Santo and Rua de Santa Maria and ends at Socorro church where a mass is held. If you’d like to attend this religious festival which has been happening since the 16th century, fly into Madeira International Airport and take the Aerobus to Funchal.
Little is known about the elusive St. James the Lesser, the patron saint of Funchal. The ‘Lesser’ part of his title suggests that he was younger or shorter than one of his peers who was also named James. Funchal claimed him in 1538 when the entire city was being ravaged by the plague for the second time. It was believed that St. James helped to end the city’s bad fortune and became the protector of Funchal. You may notice that many of the participants in the parade are wearing a chain of yellow flowers around the neck - named ‘Maios’, these flowers chains are a Madeiran tradition and are worn around the island on 1st May.
Get the most out of your trip to this important festival by staying in the very best rental accommodation for you. Book with Eventful Stays and you can choose to stay in bed and breakfasts, townhouses, studios, apartments, spare rooms or flats, all close to Funchal Old Town on foot or via public transport. Check out our accommodation in Madeira.
While you’re planning your trip to Madeira, you’ll find that there’s plenty to see and do on this historic island, including: Levada Caldeiraio Verde, Monte Palace Tropical Garden and Ponta de Sao Lourenco. Make sure you taste some of the famous Madeira Wine at the local vineyards during your stay.
If you’re looking for more information about this historic festival, please contact the Funchal Local Council where you’ll be able to find out the best places to view the procession and learn more about the history of the unique event.
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