Matoshinhos city, Portugal


One of the most moving groups of sculpture that I’ve ever seen (on a beach) in Portugal, ‘Tragedy at sea’. By Jose Joao Brito. Also known as ‘The wailing women’.

Inspired by the ‘Sea Tragedy’ of Master Augusto Gomes, the monument is about three metres high with five figures and depicts widows and orphans expressing the loss of loved ones.

This sculpture is found at the northern end of Matosinhos beach. An area bordered with Porto and part of the Porto subregion.

The figures look out to sea with such pain, grief and almost non-comprehending rage and are so evocative. The raw emotion that comes from the women’s faces is palpable, with arms raised as if shouting ‘why’ and as if beating the air with their screams.

‘Tragedia do Mar’, is in memory of the shipwreck of 1947, four trawlers (‘Manuel’, ‘Rosa Faustino’, ’San Salvador’ and ‘Maria Miguel’), where the fishing boats were lost in a storm killing 152 crew. The tragedy left 72 widows and over 200 orphans.

The monument was opened in 2005, by the Mayor, with a few dozen relatives of the deceased fishermen present. Including, Maria Emilia Figueiredo, one of the widows of the wreck and Luis Mendonca, 93, who manage to survive the tragedy. Given that many Matoshinhenses are descendants of the tragedy, the Mayor wanted the town and monument to show solidarity with the families of the victims and in remembrance to the fishermen.

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