Main photo: Tadeu Nascimento

 

Four minutes of pure emotion, ascending 147 meters, lead to the top of Monte Serrat by funicular railway, where visitors can find the old casino and the Sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Monte Serrat (Nossa Senhora Monte Serrat), patron saint of Santos, built more than 400 years ago. Or, 402 steps with 14 niches reproducing scenes from the Via Dolorosa, inaugurated between 1939 and 1941, lead to a breathtaking 360-degree panoramic view of the city, and a partial view of the municipalities of  São Vicente, Cubatão and Guarujá.

 

Monte Serrat is an important part of the history of Santos, since it used to serve as a refuge for the population when the then village was invaded by pirates. During one of these attacks, in 1614, the invaders were finally buried by an avalanche of earth and stones, and this miracle, attributed to Our Lady, made her the city’s patron saint in 1955.


 

 

The Funicular Railway

Going up the slopes by funicular railway to reach the top of Monte Serrat is an attraction in itself, and a unique experience in Brazil. A German project, the system operates with two carriages in synchronized movement, with two lanes in the center. Each vehicle can hold up to 45 passengers for the 4-minute route of 147 meters. A steel cable, one and a half inches in diameter, supports the carriages, and can withstand up to 90 tons.

 

Photo: Francisco Arrais

Origin

Originally the idea of Spanish immigrants, the funicular railway system began construction in 1910, but the First World War hindered importations and the project was only completed in June, 1927. At this time, the carriages had curtains, to conceal the identity of Santos bohemians, who ended the night on Monte Serrat watching shows by renowned artists, such as Carmen Miranda, Francisco Alves and Silvio Caldas. With such sumptuous materials as Carrera marble, Belgian stained glass windows, French carpets and curtains, European silverware and crystal, the nightclub was known even abroad and was a reference point for tourists.

  

Three months after the inauguration of the funicular railway and the nightclub, the Monte Serrat complex gained a casino, in September 1927, which functioned until 1946, when the government banned this type of gambling in the country.  Renovated in 1998, the old casino is now a space for social and cultural events, with café, lookout point and two curious mirrors.

 

Photo: Raimundo Rosa

The Chapel

The chapel of Our Lady of Mount Serrat (Nossa Senhora do Monte Serrat), officially opened in 1599, was built by order of the governor Dom Francisco de Souza, a Spaniard who was devoted to Our Lady, the patron saint of Barcelona. History records that in 1614, when the Dutch corsair Joris van Spilbergen invaded the village, part of the population fled to the hill. The pursuing pirates were buried by earth and stones falling from the slopes. The people attributed this fact to a miracle performed by Our Lady of Mount Serrat (Nossa Senhora do Monte Serrat), who then became the city’s patron saint. Under the responsibility of Benedictine monks from 1652, the chapel suffered changes throughout the centuries, erasing its original character. The work that finished in 2011 (165 years after the previous restorations), preserved the 18th-century chapel configuration.

 

Photo: Francisco Arrais

Faith

Our Lady of Mount Serrat (Nossa Senhora do Monte Serrat), whose statue was said to have been produced by Saint Luke and taken to Montserrat (Spain) by Saint Peter in the year 50 AD, is also the protector of navigators. Another great miracle in Santos is attributed to her: she saved the Brazilian vessel Araguary from certain shipwreck in 1926. When the crew could no longer control the situation, they decided to kneel on one of the decks, pray and invoke the Virgin Mary, promising to celebrate a thanksgiving mass if the vessel managed to reach port. In the next instant, the storm abated and the sea became calm.  

 

Photo: Francisco Arrais