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Abstract

In Portugal, the Estremadura Círios (Candles pilgrimages) constitute one of the strongest surviving traditions of popular religiosity that are still present in the traditional and religious calendar of some Portuguese regions. Deriving from the tradition of religious devotion to Mary during the Middle Ages, sites such as the Shrine of Our Lady of Cabo Espichel, and prior to that the Shrine of Our Lady of Nazaré (Nazareth), generated a particular level of devotion by the 17th century, based on miracles which the Virgin of Nazaré granted to a local inhabitant. Since the 18th century, and the establishment of the Brotherhood of the Virgin of Nazareth of Pederneira, the Great Silver Candle Pilgrimage (Portuguese Círio da Prata Grande hereafter) has annually brought together 17 parishes of various municipalities to worship the Virgin of Nazaré under a form of pilgrimage, a Círio, which generally occurs in September of each year. Itineraries based on religious heritage have not been the object of development within a tourism perspective in this region. This study aims at establishing itineraries, based on the rich history of the religious spaces, sites and manifestations in order to attract more domestic and inbound tourists to the region. The research methods include theoretical observations based on a literature review, document analysis and historiographical research, on the fields of history, heritage, culture, religion and itinerary design, and field studies undertaken over a number of years, including photographic surveying. We believe the itineraries present an opportunity for tourism development in this region, focusing on cultural and religious experiences.

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