, Gloucester, MA

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May 17, 2008

Gloucester: Portuguese crownings carry on tradition

The Portuguese community in Gloucester carries on a centuries-old tradition this month with special Crowning ceremonies at Our Lady of Good Voyage Church.

Last Sunday, the first of two Crownings took place at the church, giving thanks to God. A special crown was carried in at the beginning of the Mass and placed at the front of the church. When Mass ended, dozens of parishioners lined up to have their turn at the altar, where the Rev. Eugene Alves held the crown over their heads as they prayed for the blessing of the Holy Spirit.

The history of the Crownings dates back to the 14th century, when Queen Isabella of Portugal — a devout Catholic who had great compassion for the poor — instituted the annual practice of crowning one of her subjects as imperator, or king for a day. Last Sunday, Michael Carter of the Holy Name Society held that post. This week Manuel A. Nunes of the DES Portuguese American Club, which is named in honor of the Holy Spirit, will hold that title for the third year in a row.

Each Crowning includes prayers and recitations of the rosary, as well as a Sunday Mass, culminating in a festive meal, featuring a special Portuguese sweet bread as well as fellowship among those who cherish the traditions held closely here by Azorean immigrants.

Nunes and his wife, Alexandrina, both come from the island of Pico, part of the rugged Azorean archipelago.

"This was a tradition from my city," said Alexandrina Nunes. "Pico is a volcanic island and one time there were big earthquakes and houses went down. The people asked the Holy Spirit to stop the earthquakes. So every year in my town, and in towns all over the island, the people hold these celebrations."

Tomorrow, the day will begin with a parade at 9 a.m. at the DES Portuguese American Club on Prospect Street where children will be dressed in white, with many carrying red carnations. The adults will walk with banners and music through the neighborhood of Portuguese Hill to Our Lady of Good Voyage for the 10 a.m. Mass, followed by the Crowning and feasting.

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