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Oh no! I just noticed that I published an incomplete version of the special Halloween post about “Spoon River” I mow cannot find the full post so, I guess, don’t read that post until I go back and rewrite it (at some time in the future! Right now I am too weak to wrestle any more with the larger themes of that dark cross sectional diagram of American society). Speaking of dark views of society, our Halloween-theme weeks invariably feature a post about Gothic aesthetics. It would be unconscionable not to have a post about Gothic tombs–but there are so many contenders! Where do I even start?

The answer is…Portugal? Above is the exquisite sarcophagus of Pedro I of Portugal who ruled the Iberian nation from 1357 until his death in 1367. The magnificent royal coffin is located in the Royal Monastery of Alcobaça right next to the equally splendid matching sarcophagus of Inês de Castro, a Gallician noblewoman whose life and death was the central story of Pedro’s life and career. The full horrible story of their cursed love has been told in numerous operas and was universally known in Portugal in the 14th century, however since there are few 14th century Portuguese gossip mongers still around, we will have to outline the story here. This is bad news since not only is the story a full-on “Game of Thrones style” disaster, but many of the parties involved shared similar names (which I guess were common to all Iberian princes and princesses).

Pedro I was the son of Afonso IV of Portugal (1291 –1357) an important king who kicked off the age of exploration (and made Portugal a world power), but Afonso IV struggled mightily against his powerful neighbors, the Kings of Castile. In 1325 Alfonso XI of Castile entered a child-marriage with Constanza Manuel of Castile, the daughter of Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena (and great granddaughter of Ferdinand I of Castile) . Two years later, Alfonzo XI of Castile annulled this marriage to Constanza Manuel in order to marry Afonso IV of Portugal’s daughter Maria of Portugal (Pedro’s sister). Unfortunately (but perhaps unsurprisingly) Alfonzo XI of Castile mistreated Maria of Portugal (who would have expected such behavior from a man who threw his child bride to the curb to grasp for more power?)

Anyway, Afonso IV of Portugal reached out to the equally aggrieved Juan Manuel (the powerful father of Constanza Manuel) and Constanza Manuel was married to Prince Pedro (later to become King Pedro I, whose sarcophagus we are writing about). Alas, Constanza Manuel brought the noblewoman Inês de Castro with her to Portugal as a lady-in-waiting. Pedro married Constanza Manuel, but he began a love affair with Inês de Castro which scandalized the nation. In 1345, Constanza Manuel bore Peter a son, Ferdinand, and then died. Afonso IV banished Inês de Castro to a convent, but Pedro kept seeing her (and she kept bearing him children). Fearing Castilian influence (and worried that Pedro’s sickly legitimate son would fall prey to the multitudinous illegitimate ones), Afonso IV sent three courtly assassins to deal with Inês de Castro. In 1355, the king’s goons beheaded her in the convent in front of her children. Afonso IV believed this would solve the problem, but, for some reason, it instead sent Pedro into a towering rage. Prince Pedro rebelled against his father and begin to ravage the heartlands of Portugal. Afonso IV martialed his army and defeated Pedro in battle, but as soon as he was victorious, he died and Prince Pedro became Pedro I, King of Portugal.

“The Death of Inês de Castro”, Karl Pavlovic Brjullov

Two of the assassins who had executed Inês de Castro fled to Castile, but King Pedro I offered Alfonzo XI various hostages in exchange for the fugitives. Once he had the killers back in Portugal he tried them for murder and when they were convicted, he personally, physically, literally ripped their hearts out (although the third killer, Diogo Lopes Pacheco, got away and after many adventures returned to die as an elderly prosperous Portuguese nobleman with his heart in its proper place).

A historical re-enactment

According to legend, Pedro I had a magnificent throne made for the mummified body of Inês de Castro and would force courtiers to kiss her leathery hand. Actual primary sources from 14th century Portugal do not corroborate this detail (although they also don’t explicitly say that Pedro I didn’t build a throne for his mummified posthumous wife). However what is certain is that he arranged for exquisite matching coffins so that she would be the first person he saw after resurrecting (excepting Jesus or super angels or whatever).

The Coffin of Inês de Castro, Portugal’s posthumous queen

It is a terrible story…but they really are beautiful fancy coffins. I don’t know, though, something about this story makes me wonder if it is actually worth it to be King of Portugal. Maybe supremely high social status is not the panacea we imagine it to be. I guess we can ask King Pedro I.

Sometimes you have to rip out a few hearts


Map_Mozambique-1456121148A few weeks ago, we wrote about the flag of Madagascar. Madagascar is a microcontinent off the coast of Africa which is famous for its unique ecosystem and for being inhabited by successive waves of human migration from around the Indian Ocean. The closest large country to Madagascar is Mozambique which lies across the um, Mozambique Channel (the narrowest portion of the channel is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) across). Since I wrote about Madagascar’s flag, it seems appropriate to also write about the flag of Mozambique—a flag which is uniquely garish and outlandish even among the often gaudy panoply of the 200-plus flags of the world’s nations.

Flag of Mozambique

Flag of Mozambique

Mozambique’s flag features three horizontal layers of teal, black, and gold. A red triangle is inset into the fields at the left of the flag. On the triangle is the golden star of Marxism with a book of dogma lying open upon it. A farmer’s hoe and an AK-47 machine-gun with a bayonet are crossed on top of the book.

"This represents our lofty ideals perfectly."

“This represents our lofty ideals perfectly.”

If you think that this flag looks like a design travesty from the 1980s you are completely right. The Mozambique flag became official in 1983. It is busy and colorful because it was adapted from the flag of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) a Marxist liberation movement which formed in 1962 to free Mozambique from Portuguese colonialism. The flag’s elements are symbolic. The Soviet made AK-47 stands for rebellion and coercion. The hoe stands for poor agrarian workers. The book is for reeducation and the star is the international star of Marxism. The three colors—green, black, and yellow respectively represent agriculture, Africa, and mineral wealth. Naturally, the red is for blood.

Flag of Mozambique (1975-1983)

Flag of Mozambique (1975-1983)

Mozambique actually gained independence from Portugal in 1975 due to a regime change in Lisbon, but between 1975 and 1992 the impoverished nation was wracked by a bitter civil war as FRELIMO attempted to purge away portions of society which were felt to be undesirable. The flag changed a couple of times during this period according to the whim of the dictator. The civil war came to an end in the nineties when the collapse of communism brought an end to Cuban and Soviet backing for the internecine internal war. Since then, Mozambique has had a multi-party government—although it is still dominated by FRELIMO. The parliamentary opposition would dearly love to change the flag—or at least remove the Kalashnikov rifle so that the flag is less of a laughing stock—but FRELIMO has prevented any such changes.


Behold the moderately exciting crown of João VI!  Crafted in 1817, the crown served as the sole royal crown of Portugal until a revolution in 1910 transformed that nation into a republic.  Made by the Portuguese royal jeweler, the crown lacks gemstones and if crafted wholly of gold, silver, iron, and velvet.  Eight half arches (which somewhat resemble octopus arms) meet at a monde (a globe like ball) surmounted by a cross.  Although the crown may not be as exciting as more ancient or ostentatious royal regalia, it forms the central decoration of the Portuguese royal coat of arms (below) which is very exciting and strange.  Two frowning spear-tongued wyverns hold up a shield (which is inexplicably wearing a crucifix necklace).  Upon the shield are seven castles and five smaller shields–each with a quincunx (five spots in an ancient Roman pattern).  The whole thing is like some weird royalist arithmetic question.


Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

June 2023