In Portugal, there are two matchmaking saints. One with its throne in Lisbon which is Santo António, and the other located to the north, S. Gonçalo de Amarante. In order to avoid unfair competition between the two, Santo António takes care of the younger women, while S. Gonçalo deals with the “old”. This is the popular belief, but it is not just for this reason that the church of São Gonçalo is a mandatory stop.
S. Gonçalo has the honor of Padroeiro de Amarante and his memory is celebrated on two occasions during the year: the 10th of January, the date of his death, and the first weekend of June, with the great festivities of the city.
Coming from the noble family of Pereira, Gonçalo was born in Paço de Arriconha, around 1187 and inherits from his parents nobility in blood and greatness in Faith.
He is educated in good Christian principles and, when he reaches his youth, he opts for ecclesiastical life, studying the first letters, it is believed, in the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Pombeiro de Ribavizela, that he continued his studies at the Paço Arcebispal de Braga, where he would become ordained priest. Not satisfied with his parish life and burning with the desire to visit the most holy places of Christianity, he decided to start a long pilgrimage to Rome, to be with the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and then on to Palestine.
After fourteen years, Gonçalo returns to his parish of S. Paio de Vizela, which, during his absence, was directed by a nephew who, not recognizing him, expelled him from home. Disillusioned by the opulent and lavish life of his replacement and faced with disrespect for Christian teachings and humility, he decides to abandon the parish life and opts for a more contemplative, hermitic and evangelizing modus vivendi. Take the habit of the Order of S. Domingos.
It was through this new way of life that it reached the Tâmega valley. Facing a ruined hermitage dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Assunção, located in a deserted place, next to the river and close to a vacant bridge, the old temple is installed and restored.
Bordering the villages of the Tâmega valley and Serra do Marão, Frei Gonçalo evangelizes and blesses marital unions, supports and protects the most disadvantaged and performs some wonders, which give him an aura of sanctity. In the course of these pastoral actions, he is faced with the difficulties and the danger that his faithful ran when venturing to cross the river, especially at times when it presented more flow and, in the absence of alternatives, he decides to undertake, himself, the restoration or rebuilding of the old Roman bridge, back in 1250.
For its reconstruction it will have had the participation of everyone, from the wealthiest who contributed some money and raw material and the poorest who, with their effort, carried out the work. The architect is said to have been the saint himself. The medieval bridge would last until February 10, 1763, when it succumbs to the turbulence of the waters of the Tâmega, during a flood, collapsing completely.
After the construction of the bridge and the restoration of traffic, the Dominican friar continued his life as a preacher until the day of his death, which occurred on January 10, 1259.
From then on, many were the ones who came to his tomb, installed in the same chapel where he lived to ask or thank his intercession, next to his remains.
In 1540, D. João III ordered to build, in the place of the old medieval hermitage, a convent that delivers to the friars preachers of S. Domingos, Order to which the Saint was linked.
On September 16, 1561, Gonçalo de Amarante was beatified by Pope Pius IV and, some time later, in the reign of D. Filipe I of Portugal (II of Spain), his canonization process began, which ended for having no effect.
Pope Clement X, in 1671, extends the service of his liturgical feast to the entire Dominican Order, which is celebrated on the day of his death, on 10 January.
Since then, his cult has never stopped spreading and spreading in Portugal and in the Portuguese-speaking countries, especially Brazil, where several localities have him as their patron.
So São Gonçalo is not a saint. For the Catholic Church, Blessed Gonçalo de Amarante is considered blessed. But for the population it is holy and devotion to it is not less, whatever the denomination used. His tomb, where his body is believed to be buried, can be visited in the main chapel of the monastery.
São Gonçalo is considered the “matchmaker of the old women”, which does not seem to please the younger ones who do not want to wait, and that is why the famous popular court of Amarante was born:
S. Gonçalo de Amarante,
Matchmaker of the old women,
Why don’t you marry the new ones?
What harm did they do to you?
In the church, there is still the statue of São Gonçalo, from the 16th century, in which there is the famous rope of São Gonçalo. The rope surrounds the statue’s waist and, according to popular belief, “the old women” should pull the rope three times to ask the saint for a wedding.
In conclusion, if you have passed the age to ask for help from Santo Antonio, here you have the wedding prayer for São Gonçalo:
“São Gonçalo do Amarante, Matchmaker you are, First couples to me; The other couples later.
São Gonçalo help me, On my knees I beg you, Make me marry soon, With the one I adore.
A curiosity: ”São Gonçalo de Amarante is rooted in the culture of the city Princess of Tâmega, with peculiar sweets with phallic forms, with spicy courts that and a rich history of conquests and important heroic acts in the construction of the history of Portugal. According to popular legend, São Gonçalo is a matchmaker and it is for this reason that during feasts S. Gonçalo’s “phallic sweets” are sold and appreciated, of all sizes and shapes.
Today we are talking about one of the most disputed saints in history, a saint who for Italians is undoubtedly Saint Anthony of Padua. But be careful to say it here in Lisbon! Here is Saint Anthony of Lisbon. During my tours, I invite my tourists to do a little experiment: look for Santo Antonio on wikipedia. Try and you will see that, if in all languages it is Saint Anthony of Padua, in Portuguese it is Saint Anthony of Lisbon. But then, what is the truth?
He is one of the most loved saints in Christianity, yet Saint Anthony of Padua, as he is known today, has always carried with him this curious controversy linked to his name.
To be fair, it must be said that Antonio lived in Padua for just 3 years, the last of his adventurous life. Fernando Martins de Bulhões – this is his real name – was born into a wealthy family in 1195 in Lisbon; at the time the city had returned to Christianity from about 40 years, after Alfonso Henriques stole it from the Moors thus becoming the first king of Portugal. The father Martinho, a knight of the king, lived with his family in a house near the Lisbon Cathedral, where Fernando was baptized.
In 1210, at the age of just fifteen, he entered the Order of Augustinians at the Abbey of St. Vincent in Lisbon. After about 2 years he was transferred to the Convent of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, he remained there for about 8 years, during which he studied theology assiduously. In 1219 the beheaded bodies of 5 friars sent by Francis of Assisi to Morocco arrived at the convent with the task of converting Muslims. Fernando was so shocked by the incident that he decided to leave the Augustinians to join the Franciscan Order. He therefore chose to change his first name to Anthony, and to leave as a missionary himself.
Antonio embarked for Morocco in the autumn of 1220. However, upon arriving in Africa, he contracted a tropical fever that forced him to return to Europe. But on the return voyage towards the Iberian Peninsula, the ship encountered a fierce storm that diverted its course towards the Mediterranean.
The boat was wrecked in Sicily. Here, Antonio found refuge in the Franciscan convent of Messina, where he learned of the fact that in May of that year (1221) Francis had convened the elective and legislative assembly of the friars of the Order. After a long journey, Antonio arrived in Assisi where he personally met the future patron saint of Italy. Antonio received the order to preach and from there he left for a new conversion mission, this time to northern Italy, and at the end of 1224 he moved to southern France.
After spending 2 years in France, Antonio returned to Italy in 1226 when he learned of Francis’ death. His sermons began to be followed by fools of people, and they did not even stop when, he exhausted by the continuous travels and long fasts to which he underwent, he became ill enough to be forced to be carried in his arms to the pulpit. He died on June 13, 1231, at the age of 36.
Thanks to the fame he gained, from the day of the funeral his tomb became a pilgrimage destination for thousands of devotees who paraded in front of the sarcophagus day and night asking for graces and healings. So many miracles were attributed to his intercession that the Bishop of Padua “by popular acclaim” had to submit them to the judgment of Pope Gregory IX. In June 1232, exactly one year after his death, Antonio was named Saint with “53 approved miracles” and the denomination of Saint Anthony of Padua. That same year, construction work began on the Basilica intended to preserve the remains in the Venetian capital and which today receives millions of visitors every year.
And the Lisboets, your fellow citizens? They still have to be satisfied with a fragment of bone from the left arm, granted by the Paduan Franciscans and kept in the crypt of the humbler, but equally beautiful, Church of Santo António de Lisboa, which stands a few steps from the Cathedral in the exact place where, as the legend, there was the house of his parents.
On the other hand, the largest popular festival in the city is dedicated to the saint, the famous Night of St. Anthony which every year between 12 and 13 June (anniversary of his death) fills all the neighbourhoods with marches, songs, dances and the characteristic scent of sardines, grilled and eaten outdoors. But we will talk about this another time.
Maria Severa is, perhaps, the first fadista icon in Portugal.
She was baptized on September 12, 1820 in Paróquia dos Anjos, which is why some people say that she was born in Mouraria, where in fact, in Rua do Capelão, she lived part of her life, and where she died. But the most believed theory is that she was born in Madragoa where her mother, Barbuda (so called because she had a beard that forced her to cut her often and cover her with a scarf), a famous and feared prostitute of the Mouraria that had a tavern on Rua da Madragoa.
Then Severa beat fado with Manozinho, the oldest fado singer on that place, and Mesquita, a fado singer who was also sailor.
She lived only 26 years – from 1820 to 1846 -, but Maria Severa Onofriana, revolutionized the Lisbon of her time, and great was her fame in life and even more after her death.
The writer Júlio Dantas was responsible for this aura of fame for his novel and, later, for the play “A Severa”, which later Leitão de Barros adapted to the cinema, having been the first Portuguese sound film. Starring Dina Tereza, the film premiered in June 1931 at Teatro S. Luiz, where it was on stage for six months and was seen by 200,000 viewers.
The character of the novel, from which the myth of Severa was built, does not fully correspond to the real life of the singer who was, among others, a lover of the last Count of Vimioso. The actress Palmira Bastos who came to embody the character of Severa on stage stated that she was “the Portuguese lady of the camellias”.
Maria Severa was distinguished by the “quarrelsome” character she had inherited from her mother, but essentially by her voice and the way she sang, in addition to her slender figure. She was “tall, thin but not too thin, opulent breast, very white skin, black eyes, a lot of black hair, heavy eyebrows, very small red mouth, beautiful teeth, thin waist and small foot”, as described by a contemporary.
The painter Francisco Metrass (1825-1861) still sketched her portrait, without ever finishing it.
Severa lived in the full advent of liberalism when the end of the Old Absolute Regime began to be felt.
Her contemporaries say that they left memories written about Severa, who besides singing fado, accompanied herself, on a tuning guitar, and even wrote the poems she sang.
A companion of her, Manuel Botas, describes her peculiar way of singing: “Sometimes she kept herself melancholy, in those moments she sang with such a feeling that she made a deep impression on us”.
Severa, of which there is no voice record, is said to have been the first person to sing fados in the street and raise her problems representing the people, and the reason why fado has spread to the level of national entity that today is.
She had several well-known lovers, among them the Count of Vimioso (D. Francisco de Paula de Portugal and Castro) who, according to legend, was bewitched by the way she sang and played the guitar, often taking her to the bullfight. It provided him with a great celebrity and naturally allowed Severa greater prestige and a greater number of opportunities to show off to an audience of young people from the Portuguese social and intellectual elite.
But the social difference was never going to allow a marriage between the both and, the story says, this caused the death of Severa who died from a broken heart. She actually died poor and abandoned, of tuberculosis, in a miserable brothel on Rua do Capelão, on November 30, 1846.
Her last words are said to have been: “I die without ever having lived” – She was 26 years old.
On July 23, 1920, a woman was born in Lisbon, whose name would remain forever linked to the history of Portugal: Amalia Rodrigues. At 14 months, she was left in the care of her maternal grandparents when her parents returned to Beira Baixa. Having had, at a very young age, several occupations – from embroiderer to waitress – she sang for the first time in public in 1935, at a charity party, accompanied by an uncle.
As a professional, she made her debut in 1939 at Retiro da Severa. In the following year, she performed in Madrid, starting a national and international career unmatched by any other Portuguese artist. In 1944, she traveled for the first time to Brazil where her success was so great that she would end up staying there longer than expected and returning there many more times.
She sang for the first time at the Olympia de Paris, in 1956, at a farewell party for Josephine Baker, but only the following year would she act on that stage as the main and absolute artist.
Her powerful and expressive voice was heard and applauded almost everywhere in the world. Amália Rodrigues became the great promoter of fado abroad and is recognised as the greatest interpreter of the long tradition of this type of music.
There were countless concerts that she gave throughout her artistic life and there were also several situations in which she was venerated, such as those that took place in the great tribute show at the Coliseu dos Recreios de Lisboa, where she received the Grand Cross of the Order of Santiago and Espada (1990); at the ceremony in which François Mitterrand, President of the Republic of France, awarded her the Legion of Honor (1991); and at the Gare Marítima de Alcântara show, shown live by Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (1995).
The Portuguese fado singer died on October 6, 1999 and was buried on October 8, after funeral ceremonies that had state honours. She was 79 years old. The news of her death spread around the world and moved the country. About 50,000 people accompanied the artist’s urn in the procession between the Estrela basilica and the Prazeres cemetery, in Lisbon.
The Portuguese singer, actress and fado singer, who many continue to acclaim as the voice of Portugal and consider one of the most brilliant world singers of the 20th century, is now buried in the National Pantheon, where she was moved 21 months later, in July 2001.
Some curiosities that not everyone knows:
– After working in an embroidery studio, Amália Rodrigues goes to work for a candy factory, close to home. The future artist peels quinces and wraps candy while singing. Colleagues praise her voice and, as the hours go by, ask for more songs.
– Debuted in a yellow dress with green stripes. She debuted as a fado singer in the fado house O Retiro da Severa in July 1939. On the eve of the first public performance, Jorge Soriano’s wife, the owner of the space, went with the interpreter of “Gaivota” and “Barco negro” at shopping. The choice fell on a short-sleeved dress, yellow with green stripes, with a lace bib and a golden collar.
– The lyrics for “Foi Deus”, one of Amália Rodrigues’ most popular fados, were composed by a pharmacist from Reguengos de Monsaraz in Alentejo. Proud of the composition, which was written at the table of a local cafe, Alberto Janes announces, shortly afterwards, to friends that he is preparing to travel to Lisbon to offer it to the fado singer. The majority, incredulous, laughs. Days later, it rings at the door of Amalia. She reads the poem and agrees to record fado.
– In 1952, Amália Rodrigues went on to conquer America and triumphed across the board. Some agents propose to her to record songs in English of composers like Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Samuel Barber. The fado singer refuses. In Hollywood, there are also several film producers who dispute her. 20th Century Fox executives offer to her a millionaire contract. The artist returns to Lisbon without giving an answer.