Coimbra, Enduring love and political intrigue: the story of Pedro and Inês, History

Enduring love and political intrigue: the story of Pedro and Inês


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Sculpture of Pedro and Inês, Santa Clara-a-Velha convent museum, Coimbra

The most famous love story in Portuguese history takes us to Coimbra and Alcobaça to learn more about the intense passion between Prince Pedro, the heir to the Portuguese throne, and his mistress, Inês de Castro, and Pedro’s enduring love for her after her death. The story is often described as the Portuguese Romeo and Juliet, but there are also elements of obsessive love and political intrigue reminiscent of Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn. The story begins in 1340 when Pedro married Constança Manuel of Villena and she brought her cousin, Inês de Castro, to Portugal with her as her lady-in-waiting. Inês was illegitimately connected to the Castilian royal family and had spent her childhood in Albuquerque Castle in Estremadura in Spain, during which time Afonso Sanches, the illegitimate half-brother of King Afonso IV of Portugal (Pedro’s father), was taking refuge in the castle to escape his brother’s death threats. This connection with Afonso Sanches became a problem when Pedro fell madly in love with Inês and they began a passionate affair. When Pedro’s father found out about their relationship he expelled Inês from Portugal. She returned to Albuquerque Castle where she stayed until Constança’s death in 1345, when she came back to Portugal and resumed her affair with Pedro. Pedro declared that she was his one true love, but King Afonso IV refused to let them marry. The King was distrustful of this relationship partly due to Inês connection to Castile and the possibility that Portugal would become involved in the civil war that was taking place there in which the insurrection against the King of Spain was being led by the son of King Afonso’s arch enemy, the aforementioned Afonso Sanches, further complicated by Pedro declaring himself pretender to the Castile throne in 1354; and partly because if Pedro and Inês were to marry their children would have a legitimate right to the throne which the King wanted to avoid. Despite this opposition, Pedro lived with Inês in Coimbra and they had three children together. However, on a January day in 1355 Inês was arrested and taken to Santa Clara-a-Velha convent where she was beheaded by three assassins acting under the King’s orders.

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Santa Clara-a-Velha convent, Coimbra

After her murder Pedro’s immediate reaction was to declare a rebellion against his father, which he ultimately did not go through with and they were reconciled by the time of the King’s death in 1357. However, the story does not end there, for once Pedro was crowned King Pedro I he confessed that he and Inês had got married in secret, allegedly at the Igreja de São Vicente in Bragança. But the marriage could not be proven and the Pope refused to recognize it, thus preventing their children from having a legitimate right to the throne.

Not surprisingly various legends have developed around the story of Pedro and Inês over the centuries and while they may not be true they have given it a mythic quality. One legend is that King Pedro I had Inês’ decomposed corpse exhumed and then crowned her Queen of Portugal, insisting that everyone in his court kiss her hand. Another legend is that when Pedro had her assassins arrested he then tore out their hearts and ate them. The myth has been perpetuated through the centuries in art, literature, music and film. There is an Inês de Castro Foundation dedicated to historical research, art and cultural events related to her and Alcobaça has a Pedro and Inês route around the city with ceramics made by local factories depicting episodes from the Luís Vaz de Camões version of the story from Os Lusíadas (The Lusiads, 1572).

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Sculpture of ‘Thrones of Pedro and Inês’ by Thierry Ferreira and Renato Silva, Jardim do Amor, Alcobaça

Canto III, verses 118-136 of Os Lusíadas tells the story of Pedro and Inês, with some artistic licence on the part of Camões, and verse 135, which describes the legend of the Fonte das Lágrimas (Spring of Tears) in the Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra, is carved on a plaque at the place where Inês is reputedly said to have been murdered and where, after her death, a spring created by her tears as she was dying allegedly rose.

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Verse from Os Lusíadas, Fonte das Lágrimas, Quinta das Lágrimas, Coimbra

‘As filhas do Mondego a morte escura
Longo tempo chorando memoraram,
As lágrimas choradas transformaram.
O nome lhe puseram, que inda dura,
Dos amores de Inês, que ali passaram.
Vede que fresco fonte rega as flores,
Que lágrimas são a água e o nome Amores.’

(‘The nymphs of Mondego long mourned the memory of that dark death, And, in eternal memory, the tears were transformed into a clear spring. The name they gave it, that still endures, came from the love of Inês who spent time there. See the cool spring watering the flowers, whose tears are the water and whose name is Love.’)

A further legend says that her blood still remains on the stones of the channel that is fed by the spring.

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Fonte das Lágrimas, Quinta das Lágrimas, Coimbra

Nearby is the fourteenth-century Fonte dos Amores (Spring of Love), where Pedro and Inês carried out their love affair. This is a peaceful place in the grounds of the Quinta das Lágrimas, which is entered through a nineteenth-century gothic arch.

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Gothic arch, Fonte dos Amores, Quinta das Lágrimas, Coimbra
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Fonte dos Amores, Quinta das Lágrimas, Coimbra

Before walking through the arch there is a wooded area with ribbons hanging from the trees. It has become a tradition to write the name of a loved one on the ribbon and attach it to a tree.

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Ribbons of love, Quinta das Lágrimas, Coimbra

Pedro’s love for Inês did not fade and after ascending the throne in 1357 Pedro ordered tombs for him and Inês to be built at the Santa Maria de Alcobaça Monastery.

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Santa Maria de Alcobaça Monastery, Alcobaça

Inês’ body was moved from Coimbra to her tomb in Alcobaça and after his death in 1367 Pedro was interred in his tomb. The tombs are in the transepts of the church and are made of white marble in an elaborate gothic style. They are unusually placed facing each other rather than side-by-side and both are carved with the phrase ‘Até ao Fim do Mundo’ (‘Until the End of the World’), which is believed to refer to Judgement Day when the first sight they will have will be of each other. Recumbent statues of Pedro and Inês lie on top of their respective tombs and both are supported by angels. Pedro has a dog at his feet to represent fidelity and on the side of his tomb is the Portuguese coat of arms and scenes from the life of his patron saint, Saint Bartholomew. On the end is a wheel of life showing scenes from Pedro’s life and depicting his love for Inês. The tomb stands on lions.

The scenes on Inês’ tomb are more unsettling, with episodes analogous to her violent death, including the crucifixion of Christ and the Last Judgement, where the innocents are shown going to Heaven, the guilty going to Hell and Pedro and Inês reunited in Paradise. Her tomb is supported by figures that are half-men and half-beast, representing the men who murdered her.

Despite damage over the centuries, particularly in the early-nineteenth century when French troops pillaged the church, the tombs are beautiful and both Pedro and Inês look as if they are peacefully sleeping and waiting until the end of the world when they will be together again.

Fado Museum, Lisbon, Lisbon, Portuguese music

Fado Museum, Lisbon

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‘Carlos Paredes’ by Pedro Guimarães, Fado Museum, Lisbon

Fado is the music of Lisbon. In effect it is the Lisbon equivalent of the blues, but with a uniquely Portuguese quality summed up in the term saudade, a word that doesn’t easily translate as it conveys a notion of yearning and nostalgia for what is lost, whether it be a place, a person or a way of life, and for what will never be attained and is particularly felt by Portuguese émigrés, who feel something more powerful than homesickness for Portugal. In fado music the singer is the conveyor of the message, both through the lyrics and more importantly through the emotion they express in their dramatic performance, often looking wistfully into the distance as Camané does or even bursting into tears mid-song as Mariza has done. The singer is accompanied by two seated musicians, one playing the viola (a six-string Spanish guitar), which acts as the rhythmic accompaniment and one playing the guitarra (Portuguese guitar), a 12-string pear-shaped guitar (based on the citra, which was introduced into Portugal in the eighteenth century, just before the birth of fado) and, with its steel strings, has a resonant melancholy tone.

The Museu do Fado (Fado Museum) is located in the Alfama district in the Edifício do Recinto da Praia, a former water pumping station.

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Fado Museum, Lisbon

It opened as a museum in 1998 to document the history of fado from its beginnings to the present day through photographs, posters, periodicals, paintings, music scores and lyrics, archive film, audio recordings, instruments and even a scale model of a brothel! The museum has an auditorium where a film of the leading fadistas (fado singers) talking about what fado means to them is shown and a listening room where you can listen to a variety of fado songs. If you like what you hear you can buy a CD in the gift shop!

The origins of fado (which means ‘fate’) are a little vague, but some theories say it originated from African or Brazilian dance forms, which evolved into song, while others say it came from North Africa or even from the sailors’ sea shanties. The truth is probably a mixture of all of them.

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The origins of fado, Fado Museum, Lisbon

It developed in the working-class districts of Alfama and Mouraria, and was mainly performed in insalubrious brothels and bars. The songs told stories of the lives of people on the edge of society and from 1860 some of the songs took on a political theme. The most famous fado painting in the museum’s temporary exhibition, ‘O Fado’ by José Malhoa (1910, on loan from the Museu da Cidade), captures the underbelly of these districts perfectly, as it depicts a poor and dirty prostitute listening with rapture to a man playing the guitarra. In order to get authenticity Malhoa used real people as models, a petty criminal called Amâncio and a prostitute called Adelaide da Facada (named after a scar she had on her left cheek).

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‘O Fado’ by José Malhoa, Fado Museum, Lisbon

In contrast to the seedy setting of this painting, a model of a brothel deceptively made in the style of a doll’s house depicts a rather genteel version of this profession (these types of discrete brothels were tolerated by the Salazar regime until 1962). It was made by the fadista Alfredo Marceneiro (a former cabinet maker) and is named Casa da Mariquinhas(‘Mariquinhas’ House’) after a song he recorded in 1961.

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‘Casa da Mariquinhas’, Fado Museum, Lisbon

The first fadista to gain fame and notoriety was the gypsy singer Maria Severa (1810-36), who led a short but intense life. She was a prostitute who was famous for a love affair she had with a nobleman and who died at the very young age of 26. Not surprisingly, a film of her life was made in 1931 (based on a 1901 play by Júlio Dantes) and she lives on in the memory of female fadistas, many of whom wear a black shawl as homage to her. By the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries fado had started to become popular in mainstream society with theatres hosting fado performances and periodicals dedicated to it, and in the mid-twentieth century it became widely popular due to radio and TV broadcasts and films featuring fado. The spread of its popularity was largely due to the singer and film star Amália Rodrigues (1920-1999), nicknamed ‘The Queen of Fado’, who performed in concerts in Portugal and in many countries abroad and introduced fado to an international audience.

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Archive film of Amália Rodrigues, Fado Museum, Lisbon

Despite its bohemian origins, fado had so become popular with the masses by the 1920s that the Salazar regime encouraged it, believing that fado, football and Fátima (religion) would keep the working classes quiet. Not surprisingly, from 1927 fado was regulated by the government meaning that lyrics were censored and fado was only allowed to be performed in licensed venues, which included the setting up of fado houses, which still exist today.

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Censored material, Fado Museum, Lisbon

After the 1974 revolution fado, and Amália Rodrigues, fell out of favour in the new democracy, as they were associated with the dictatorship. Nevertheless, when Amália died in 1999 there were three days of national mourning and her body is now interred in the National Pantheon in Lisbon. Fado reinvented itself in the 1990s, with a new generation of fado singers, including Mariza, Ana Moura, Carminho, Camané and Hélder Moutinho, many of whom mix traditional fado with other genres and bring in other instruments in addition to the guitarra and viola. Mariza, possibly the most internationally famous fadista, who introduced modern fado to an international audience when she appeared at the WOMAD festival in 2002, acknowledges the influence of Amália Rodrigues and has included songs made famous by Amália on her albums, such as ‘Barco Negro’ (‘Black Boat’), which was recorded by Amália in 1955 and by Mariza on her debut album Fado em Mim in 2002. The song tells the story of a woman on a beach watching as her lover leaves on a boat. The old women on the beach are telling her that he won’t return, but she refuses to believe them. The lyrics were written by the poet David Mourão-Ferreira, who along with other renowned poets, wrote many fado lyrics in the twentieth-century:

‘São loucas! São loucas! Eu sei, meu amor,/Que nem chegaste a partir,/Pois tudo em meu redor,/Me diz qu’estás sempre comigo.’ (‘They’re crazy! They’re crazy! I know, my love,/That you haven’t really left,/For everything around me,/Tells me that you are always with me.’)

In 2011 fado got full international recognition when UNESCO named it an Intangible Cultural Heritage worth protecting, largely helped by the fadista Carlos do Carmo, who acts as an ambassador of fado.

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Archive film of Carlos do Carmo, Fado Museum, Lisbon

In addition to the permanent exhibits the museum also hosts regular temporary exhibitions associated with fado and we were lucky enough to visit the museum during an exhibition of fado in art, which included the aforementioned ‘O Fado’ by José Malhoa. Other works on display included ‘O Marinheiro’ (‘The Sailor’) by Constantino Fernandes (1913, on lean from the Museu do Chiado – Museu Nacional de Arte Contemporânea), a triptych which evokes the spirit of saudade through the depiction of a sailor preparing for a voyage, saying goodbye to his family and then, once at sea, listening wistfully to a fellow sailor playing the guitarra.

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‘O Marinheiro’ by Constantino Fernandes, Fado Museum, Lisbon

Família’ (‘Family’) by Arnaldo Louro de Almeida (1947) is in the censored material section of the permanent exhibition as it was seized by the PIDE (Salazar’s secret police) presumably for not showing the working class family in the positive way he would have liked (or it may have been the woman breast-feeding a baby that was so offensive).

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‘Família’ by Arnaldo Louro de Almeida, Fado Museum, Lisbon

Lisboeta’ (‘Lisboan’) by the surrealist Cândido da Costa Pinto (1952, on loan from the Museu da Cidade) shows Lisbon and fado as inextricably linked through the depiction of a female figure with a tragedy mask for her face and a guitarra for her body.

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‘Lisboeta’ by Cândido da Costa Pinto, Fado Museum, Lisbon

However, it is the portraits of the fado stars that dominate, from the intimate portraits by Júlio Pomar to the large-scale works by contemporary artist Pedro Guimarães, alongside photographs of the stars of fado, one of which includes all the classic fado musicians (with labels to identify them).

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‘Carlos Paredes’ by Júlio Pomar, Fado Museum, Lisbon
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Fado stars, Fado Museum, Lisbon

Amália Rodrigues is quoted as saying ‘O fado é um mistério. Nunca ninguém vai conseguir explicá-lo!’ (‘Fado is a mystery. No one will ever be able to explain it!’), and like anything intangible this is true up to a point, but the fado museum goes some way to demystifying it.


Museu do Fado, Largo do Chafariz de Dentro Entrance: €5 (free on Sundays and public holidays) Opening hours: 10am-6pm Tuesday to Sunday (closed 1 January, 1 May, 25 December) The museum runs courses in guitarra and viola playing and fado singing. The museum’s restaurant, A Travessa do Fado, has live fado on some evenings.

Buses: 728, 735, 759, 794; Metro: Santa Apolónia

Entrance tickets, Fado Museum, Lisbon


Aveiro: where bawdy boats meet Art Nouveau, Centro region

Aveiro: where bawdy boats meet Art Nouveau


Central Canal, Aveiro

Aveiro is a small university city located between Porto and Lisbon and when we saw the uninspiring industrial outskirts (including a rather smelly paper factory) as we approached Aveiro by train, we were glad we had decided to make our stopover in the city a short one. However, as we walked out of the very modern railway station we encountered the first of many buildings which made us wish we were staying longer, the original railway station; a pretty whitewashed building with azulejo panels on the exterior depicting scenes of Aveiro.

Former railway station, Aveiro

After dropping our bags off at the Veneza Hotel, a beautiful 1930’s house, with a photogenic staircase,

located near the station, we made our way down Avenida Dr Lourenço Peixinho to the historic centre and Aveiro’s most famous attractions, the moliceiros on the Central Canal. Moliceiros are flat-bottomed boats with a high curved prow and each one is uniquely decorated with colourful, often witty or bawdy, images. They were originally used to collect seaweed (moliço), which was used as a fertilizer. It is this image of Aveiro which has given it the nickname ‘Venice of Portugal’ and like Venice the canal was bustling with boats filled with tourists, but this is where the similarity ends. Aveiro has its own distinct personality.

Mural depicting the collecting of seaweed, Aveiro

It had become a very wealthy seaport by the sixteenth century as a result of the salt industry and the cod-fishing industry. The locally harvested salt was used to preserve the cod caught in Newfoundland as it was transported to Portugal. In the late-sixteenth century the mouth of the River Vouga silted up and the former seaport became stagnant, disease-ridden marshes and the wealth disappeared, until the early-nineteenth century, when the marshes were drained, leaving a shallow lagoon in their place, and a canal was built linking Aveiro to the sea. The wealth that returned to the city is reflected in the Art Nouveau buildings that line the Rua João de Mendonça along the Central Canal and the Praça Humberto Delgado, and elsewhere in the city.

Many of these former mansions now have pastelarias (cake and pastry shops/cafés) on the ground floor selling the other tourist attraction that Aveiro is famous for, the ovos moles (meaning soft eggs and comprising a mixture of egg yolk and sugar coated with a soft wafer). The shops are full of pretty barrels and baskets displaying them.

The historic centre of Aveiro is small and had we arrived earlier in the morning we would have been able to easily cover it in a day, but due to a lengthy lunch and a lack of itinerary we ran out of time to visit the Museu de Aveiro, which closes at 6pm. The museum building, which we could enjoy from the outside at least, was a former convent dating from the fifteenth century at which Princess Joana (the daughter of King Afonso V and Queen Isabella) lived from 1475 to her death in 1490. She was later beatified and the museum is largely dedicated to her. There is a large statue of Princesa Santa Joana (as she became known) on the traffic island in front of the museum.

Museu de Aveiro

There were plenty of other things in Aveiro to enjoy and as we wandered aimlessly we discovered the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Apresentação (Church of Our Lady of the Presentation) in Largo da Apresentação, a lovely church with a statue of a former Bishop of Aveiro in front of it and two azulejo panels depicting scenes of Christ as a child by Fernando Pereira and Lucínio Pinto dating from 1935 on the facade.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Apresentação, Aveiro

From here we wandered to another charming square, the Praça da República, with jacaranda trees in full bloom and two wonderful buildings, the Igreja da Misericórida (Church of Mercy) and the Paços do Concelho (City Hall), and in the centre of the square, appearing to conduct everything, is a statue of José Estevão Coelho de Magalhães (1809-1862), an Aveiro-born nineteenth-century politician.

Statue of José Estevão Coelho de Magalhães, Praça da República, Aveiro

The Igreja da Misericórdia dates from the seventeenth century and has Mannerist features on the facade, comprising two levels of columns with niches containing statues, including one of Our Lady of the Conception above the main door, and along the top decorations of Manueline crosses and armillary spheres. In contrast, the rest of the facade is unadorned except for a covering of blue and white patterned azulejos dating from the nineteenth century.

The Paços do Concelho dates from 1797 and is an elegant building divided into five symmetrical sections with a turret used as a bell tower in the middle.

From here we made our way to São Domingos Church, the cathedral of Aveiro. The building is on the site of a former fifteenth-century convent, but very little of that remains after being largely destroyed by fires in the nineteenth century. The church is part of the original convent and the Baroque main entrance, with figures of Faith, Hope and Charity above the door, was added in the early-eighteenth century, and the bell tower added in the mid-nineteenth century using the original bell. The interior of the cathedral, which has sections dating from different periods, was rebuilt in the twentieth century in an attempt to unify the parts, including the beautiful eighteenth-century main altar depicting St Francis of Assisi and St Domingos de Gusmão either side of Our Lady of the Conception; in a small chapel, a powerful life-like statue dating from 1900 of Christ falling in agony as he carries the cross on his back watched over by a grieving Virgin Mary, by Carlos Leituga from a design by the sculptor António Teixeira Lopes; and a new organ which was inaugurated in 2013. As a result of the rebuild there is a simple harmony to the cathedral. In front of the cathedral is a late-fifteenth-century gothic cross, the Cruzeiro de Nossa Senhora da Glória (Cross of Our Lady of Glory).

The aforementioned Museu de Aveiro is very close to the cathedral, but as we were unable to visit it on this occasion we had some unexpected free time, so we walked over to the very modern Forum Aveiro shopping centre, which was unremarkable except for the canal and pretty bridges which ran alongside it.

Canal by Forum Aveiro shopping centre, Aveiro

We followed the canal back to the bridge on the Praça Humberto Delgado roundabout, which pays homage to the former workers of the salt industry, with a statue of a worker at either end: O Marnoto, a salt harvester with his traditional tools and A Salineira, a salt worker carrying a basket of salt. They have been beautifully sculpted by António Quintas (1994) and take pride of place above the Central Canal.

Next to the bridge is the stately Hotel Aveiro Palace with arcades running along its lower level and a small square with patterned cobbles, Praça Joaquim de Melo Freitas, beside it. In the middle of the square is the Obelisco da Liberdade (Obelisk of Freedom) a memorial erected in 1909 to the people of Aveiro who fought for freedom, particularly those who died in the Liberal rebellion of 1828.

Praça Joaquim de Melo Freitas, Aveiro

Our final meanderings before we went to dinner were around the fishing quarter with its small but charming tiled and brightly painted houses on the narrow street along an arm of the canal. This area is where many of the restaurants are located and most offer fresh fish from the nearby fish market.

We opted to eat at O Arco da Velha in Largo da Praça do Peixe and really enjoyed well-cooked and hearty portions of barbeque chicken and pork with rice and black beans. Afterwards we headed for the canal-side gardens of Largo do Rossio for a nightcap where large TV screens and tiered seating had been set up to show a football match featuring the Portuguese team. The atmosphere when Portugal scored the winning goal in extra time was electric and made a memorable end to an unforgettable day.

Largo do Rossio, Aveiro





Lisbon, Under the shade of a giant cypress tree

Under the shade of a giant cypress tree

Photo 00153In the Praça do Príncipe Real, right in the heart of the Bairro Alto in Lisbon, is a giant Mexican cypress tree (Cupressus Lusitanica). Its trunk has a circumference of 4 metres and its branches span 26 metres in diameter, requiring a large iron trellis to support them. Despite suffering a major fire and acts of vandalism the tree has survived for nearly 150 years and offers Lisboetas a lovely shady spot under which to sit.

April Captains (2000), Portuguese cinema

April Captains (2000)

Films that depict famous historical events often walk a fine line between historical accuracy and commercial success. April Captains (Capitães de Abril), directed and co-written by Maria de Medeiros (with Eve Deboise) is one such film. It tells the story of one of the most significant events in recent Portuguese history, the ‘Carnation Revolution’ of 1974, depicting, through the actions of both real and fictional characters, the main events of the night of 24th April and those of 25th April, when a group of disillusioned captains of the armed forces led a revolt to overthrow the right-wing dictatorship.

A powerful image of the rotting bodies of Africans at the beginning of the film tells us all we need to know about the horrors of the colonial wars in Africa, which the captains had witnessed first-hand, having been sent there to fight in a war they no longer believed in. The focus of the film then moves to Lisbon and shows a young couple, Daniel (Duarte Guimarães) and Rosa (Rita Durão), kissing goodnight as they discuss his probable deployment to Africa. Through these two minor characters, the fictional and factual become intertwined, as Daniel is a soldier in Captain Maia’s troop. Maia, portrayed as a handsome charismatic leader by Italian actor Stefano Accorsi (dubbed by João Reis), was one of the real-life heroes of the revolution and the film follows the key events of his attempt to take control of the government headquarters in the centre of Lisbon, starting with his initial taking control of the Santarém barracks, where he was stationed, on the night of 24th April to the surrender of the Prime Minister, Marcelo Caetano (Ricardo Pais), on the evening of 25th April. Interspersed with these real events is a subplot which centres on a left-wing intellectual, Antónia (Maria de Medeiros), who happens to be Rosa’s employer. Antónia is married to an army captain, Manuel (Frédéric Pierrot, dubbed by Vitor Rocha), who she believes to be pro-government. Our first view of them is through the eyes of their very young daughter, Amélia (Raquel Mariano), as she lies in bed listening to them arguing. Antónia is the nucleus around whom left-wing activists gather, including her friends Gabriel (Manuel Maquiña, dubbed by Sérgio Godinho) and Virgílio (José Eduardo) and her student Emílio (Pedro Hestnes), who has been arrested by the DGS (the secret police) for his political beliefs. Antónia is also the sister of a government minister, Felipe (Joaquim Leitão), and is therefore able to get into places that other political opponents of the government can’t. On the night of 24th April she goes to a formal party which is attended by many top-ranking people, including Salieri, the head of the DGS, played menacingly by Canto e Castro. A scene where Salieri confronts Antónia in the bathroom at the party shows the intimidating nature of the regime that the Portuguese were living under and this is magnified later in the film when we hear Emílio’s off-screen screams as he is being tortured.

While Maia is concentrating his troops on the overthrow of the government there is a secondary story focusing on a group of soldiers, led by Manuel, who take control of a radio station. The scenes with this group add a welcome comic element to the film, particularly in a memorable scene when the four men are getting changed in a very small car and are accosted by a couple of homosexuals who misunderstand the situation and only disappear when the song ‘Grândola, Vila Morena’ starts playing over the radio, giving the soldiers their signal. Antónia isn’t aware of Manuel’s involvement in the revolution until Maia informs her the next day, and in a scene where she goes to the radio station and she and Manuel sit down and talk, there is a tenderness between them that we feel hasn’t been there for a long time.

Despite the film being two hours in length, it can only cover the main events of the revolution and in order to add the human interest story, de Medeiros has made some of the situations, such as Antónia having a brother in the government, being friends with Maia and even knowing one of the four people (Virgílio) who die during the revolution, a bit tenuous. But despite this, the film is very watchable. It is true enough to the events of the 25th April 1974 and captures the atmosphere in the city as the people take to the streets to celebrate and are handed carnations by the city’s flower sellers to appeal to a Portuguese viewer, but it is also accessible to anyone who doesn’t know anything about this remarkable revolution. De Medeiros, who was a child growing up in Lisbon in 1974 with left-wing intellectual parents, adds a personal touch to the events of 25th April and it did make me wonder what kind of film it would have been if it had been directed by someone else. It does play on the emotions, with a score by António Victorino d’Almeida and the hauntingly beautiful song ‘As Brumas do Futuro’ by Madredeus playing over the closing credits, and with scenes that bring a smile to the face and a tear to the eye, such as when the pro-government soldiers ignore Brigadier Pais’ (Luís Miguel Cintra) instructions to fire on Maia and then go over to Maia’s side and when the political prisoners are released. However, it does manage to successfully walk the line between historical accuracy and commercial success.

Food and drink, Sangria - the sweet taste of summer in a glass

Sangria – the sweet taste of summer in a glass


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In recent years sangria has gained a bit of a negative image through its association with the ‘sun, sea and sangria’ package holidays in Spain and Portugal. But the origins of sangria go back to Roman times when water was often unclean and people added alcohol to it to make it safe to drink.  In the wine-growing regions of the Iberian peninsula red wine was also added to the mixture to improve the flavour. The drink evolved over the centuries, with the addition of orange juice, lemonade and fruit, in part to make some of the unpalatable wines drinkable. The resulting drink was the colour of blood and so became known as sangria (from the Spanish and Portuguese word for ‘bleeding’). Since 1991 a European Union law has decreed that sangria can only be produced in Spain and Portugal and must be within the boundaries set out in the law, which says that sangria should be wine to which the extract or essence of citrus fruits is added and, optionally, citrus-fruit juice, pulp and/or peel, spices and a carbonated drink, but with no artificial colouring, and that the volume of alcohol must be between 4.5% and 12%. Outside of this decree anything goes and in Portugal there are many varieties of sangria, including white wine sangria, sparkling wine sangria, sangria with ginjinha, and sangria with tropical fruits or red berries and currants. However, here is one of the classic recipes:
1 bottle of red wine (750ml)
500ml orange juice
500ml fizzy lemonade, orangeade or soda water
330ml lager
50ml of a spirit, such as rum or brandy
1 orange, sliced or chopped
1 lemon, sliced or chopped
1 apple, sliced or chopped
150g sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
ice cubes
a sprig of mint

It is so refreshing on a hot day that it is easy to forgot that it is alcoholic, but for me it will always be the taste of a Portuguese summer.


History, Lisbon, The Marquês de Pombal – the liberal despot who rebuilt Lisbon

The Marquês de Pombal – the liberal despot who rebuilt Lisbon

picture 00001 (0403)If you stand on the viewing platform at the top of the Elevador de Santa Justa in Lisbon there is a wonderful view of the Baixa district below with its grid-like streets and spacious squares, and it is hard to image that it wasn’t always like this. But before 1755 the district was made up of narrow winding streets situated behind the large Ribeira Palace (the former royal palace in what is now the Praça do Comércio, which can be seen in the famous panorama of Lisbon c.1700 in the Azulejo Museum).

picture 00001 (559)-Rua de Santa Justa, Castle and Graca Church
Rua de Santa Justa, Graça church and St George’s Castle from Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon
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Ribeira Palace and the Baixa district c.1700 (from a panel in the Azulejo Museum, Lisbon)

In 1755 an earthquake that is said to have reached up to 9 on the Richter scale hit Lisbon on the morning of 1st November, followed by a tidal wave. Then fires brokes out all over the city, believed to have been started by candles in the churches lit for All Saints’ Day. Much of the city was completely destroyed, particularly the Baixa district and the Ribeira Palace. Although it is unknown how many people died, it is estimated to be between 30,000 and 90,000; many as a result of the famine that ensued.

At the time, the country was ruled by King José I, who was not interested in governing and was happy to let his Prime Minister, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (1699-1782), better known as the Marquês de Pombal (which he became in 1770), run the country. The Marquês de Pombal is a controversial figure in Portuguese history, as he was a liberal who brought about many reforms, but dealt harshly with anyone who opposed him. He had a no-nonsense response to the situation after the earthquake, summed up in a quotation attributed to him, saying that they needed to ‘bury the dead and take care of the living’. He immediately ordered the precarious buildings in the Baixa to be demolished and, with architects Eugénio dos Santos and Manuel da Maia, set about designing and rebuilding the area in a grid pattern, with low-rise functional buildings, wide streets and large squares, all designed to withstand future earthquakes. He also introduced a sewerage system and wells for clean water to prevent disease spreading. He is even responsible for introducing the calçada (cobbled pavement) to Lisbon. He wanted the Baixa to be the commercial area of the city, with the shops grouped together according to their trade. Today streets in the Baixa still retain the names of these trades, such as Rua do Ouro (Gold Street), Rua da Prata (Silver Street) and Rua dos Sapateiros (Shoemakers Street). The squares of Praça Dom Pedro IV (also known as Rossio), Praça da Figueira and Praça do Comércio were built during this period. The redesign also included retaining the ruins of the Carmo Church as a memorial to the earthquake. The naked gothic arches against the skyline are still one of the most dramatic and sobering images in Lisbon.picture 00001 (0552)

His style of town planning and architecture brought a new adjective, ‘Pombaline’, into the language and with this style he is said to have modernised Lisbon.

As a liberal he wanted to give more power to the middle classes and increase the number of bankers and merchants, in part to finance the rebuilding of the Baixa, but mainly to diminish the power of the aristocracy and the church, in particular the Jesuits. His liberal reforms included abolishing slavery, reforming education, the law, agriculture, industry and trade and giving equal rights to New Christians (former Jews who had converted to Christianity). However, his liberalism didn’t extend as far as people who opposed him; in that respect he ruled like a dictator. He was ruthless in eliminating his enemies, to the extent of implicating some of his opponents in an attempt on the King’s life and having them killed for treason. Political and religious dissenters were imprisoned, he introduced censorship and he was merciless in his suppression of the Jesuits, expelling them from Portugal in 1759 and even having 10 Jesuit priests burnt in one of the final auto-da-fés in Portugal. His period of governance came to an abrupt end in 1777 when King José I died and his daughter, Maria, became queen. He was sacked (not surprisingly, as he had schemed to remove Maria from the line of succession) and then charged with serious offences committed during his 27 years in government. He managed to avoid going to prison due to his advanced years. Despite Queen Maria I’s dislike of him, his legacy of reform mainly survived, except for his religious reforms, which she repealed.

The statue on the Praça do Marquês de Pombal roundabout, built between 1917 and 1934 by the architects Arnaldo Redondo, Adães Bermudes and António do Couto, along with sculptors Francisco dos Santos and (after his death) José Simões de Almeida and Leopoldo Neves de Almeida, is a fitting tribute to the man and his reforms (although it overlooks his darker deeds!). Positioned at the end of the Avenida da Liberdade near the Parque Eduardo VII, the bronze statue of the Marquês de Pombal standing alongside a lion looks down the avenue towards the Baixa area that he created.

At the top of the 40-metre pedestal on which he stands are medallions of men who worked with him: Machado de Castro, Luís da Cunha, Eugénio dos Santos and Manuel da Maia and below them are a list of his reforms.picture 00001 (0393) Lower down the monument are sculptures depicting his main areas of reform, dominated by two large sculptures: on one side an ox pulling a plough alongside agricultural workers, one of whom is carrying a basket of grapes, to represent the agricultural industry; and on the other a horse and a group of manual workers pulling a boat loaded with port barrels and draped with a fishing net to represent the port and fishing industries. The scale and attention to detail is breathtaking.picture 00001 (0043) 0001picture 00001 (0394) 0001 At the back of the monument in front of the mausoleum is a bronze figure of the Roman goddess Minerva symbolizing education. At the front is the prow of a ship with the Lisbon coat of arms and on either side of it are two powerful images of a collapsing building and a tidal wave depicting the earthquake.

Above the prow of the ship is a semi-nude female figure representing the new Pombaline Lisbon. picture 00001 (0396)The fact that the statue was inaugurated in the early years of Salazar’s Estado Novo (New State) can’t be ignored and it played to the nationalist values of the dictatorship. Comparisons can be drawn between the two men, particularly in their fierce intolerance of anyone who opposed them. However, while Salazar’s policies had left Portugal as a backward country at the time of the 1974 revolution, the Marquês de Pombal will always be remembered as the man who rebuilt Lisbon and through his liberal reforms brought Portugal into the modern era.