Cuevas de la Mare de Deu

Cova de la Mare de Deu de Portals Vells

Useful Information

Location: South of Punta de s'Estacia, near Portals Vells. 5 min walk from the beach.
Open: No restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: bring torch
Guided tours:  
Address: Cuevas de la Mare de Deu, Tel: +34-
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1863 cave chapel erected.


The Cuevas de la Mare de Deu was named after a sculpture of Virgin Mary, the imagen de la Mare de Déu de Portals, the picture of the Virgin Mary of the Portals. According to legend this sculpture was placed in the cave around 1450 by Genoese sailors, after they survived a massive storm.

In the 15th century a sailboat was struck by a hurricane, the sails were torn and the force of the waves broke the frame and mast. Faced with the threat of sinking the captain and crew promised in front of a sculpture of the Virgin Mary which was part of the freight, that they would build a chapel in her honor at the landing place if they could get safely to the coast. The storm subsided and the wind drew the boat to the natural port of Portals Vells and they took refuge in one of the caves. The crew placed the sculpture of the Virgin in this cave and carved an altar and inscriptions on the ground and wall.

The figure became a popular place of worship, especially among fishermen and sailors. At the end of the 15th century an altar was added to the cave. The Renaissance altar was created by local artisans and is actually of a rather naive style. It bears the coat of arms of the Rocafull family, which was the family of the island governor at this time. Later a small chapel was erected in the left part of the cave and the figure placed in the chapel. In 1863 the sculpture was relocated to the church of Portals Nous.

The cave is actually artificial. According to legend it was dug by Moorish slaves immediately after the Reconquista to quarry limestone rocks for the cathedral. Archaeological research revealed that the caves were most likely Phoenician graves, a Phoenician ship from 600 BC was discovered right in front of the caves.