Saint Maria Adelaide, the Portugal’s most popular (uncanonised) saint.3 min read
Maria Adelaide was born in Porto in 1835, grew up in a local boarding school and then in a convent in Vila Nova de Gaia, a not far city. Here, in an unhealthy humid place, she contracted tuberculosis, and when her condition became so serious, her doctors advised her to leave the convent for back to Porto. She did so, but her condition worsened yet again, and this time, the doctors recommended a move to a seaside area with lot of pines and eucalyptuses. According to the story, the launderer of the convent, took it upon herself to spread the news around, and at the end she found a lot of potential hosts for Maria Adelaide. So, in May 1876, she moved to Arcozelo, accompanied by a doctor and a few of friends. There, thanks to the good climate, and to the kindness she gave and received from the locals, Maria Adelaide’s health was much improved, and she was able to do her usual activities, like baking and embroidering. Usually she used those two talents to raise money for anyone who needed it, and she loved also stay with children, to whom she often read the catechism. In 1885 a sudden cold aggravated her health condition, and Maria Adelaide was buried in the local cemetery, in Arcozelo, where she and her story rest undisturbed for the next thirty years.
In 1916 the plot where she’d been buried was sold to a new owner but the removal of the coffin revealed, with the gravedigger’s surprise, an incorrupt body, with clothes intact, and the exhaling a strong scent of roses. They determined that the body should be washed in chemicals and buried in a common grave, but this story wasn’t kept secret, and what followed was a series of small conflicts between the authorities and the locals which culminated in the invasion of the cemetery by the population during the Sunday mass, when the coffin was brought back to the surface in a few minutes. Of course with the body inside it, still intact. The Maria Adelaide’s body was washed by a group of women, dressed with new clothes, and deposited in an urn, so the population could visit it. They believed that Maria Adelaide to be a saint for her kindness in life, and her intact body in death, and a first chapel was completed in 1921, then replaced by a bigger one in 1924.
She stayed there not as undisturbed, because there was a violent explosion in 1924, two attempted robberies in 1930 and 1931, an actual robbery in 1981 and an attack in 1983 by a man who tried to destroy the body with a club hammer. Nevertheless, she carries on her cult, although unsupported by the Catholic Church, which has refused her canonisation, but despite this she’s been visited lot of times, people offered her many small presents, and now she has her own museum.
There, there are around six hundred baptism, communion, and wedding dresses (it is said that in the complete collection there are over six thousand, but there’s simply no way to expose it), money from over twenty-five countries, all types of pottery, jewelry, candles, watches, sports shirts, prosthetics and cut strands of hair, and obviously also thousands of photographs and thank-you notes.