The origin of the filigree dates back to the third millennium BC in Mesopotamia. The oldest pieces date back to 2500 BC and were discovered in the, today, Iraq. Other pieces, discovered in Syria, date from approximately 2100 B.C.
It arrived in Europe via trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea, where it became relatively popular in the Greek and Roman civilizations. The oldest discoveries of filigree jewellery were made in modern Italy and are estimated to be from the 18th century. However, the filigree continued its journey and crossed borders to India and China. In the Far East, it was used mainly as a decorative element and not as jewellery.
But how does filigree differ from other jewellery arts?
In the way different fine threads draw patterns and are welded together in order to create a much larger piece. No other jewellery art uses a similar fusion technique to join gold threads. Today – as thousands of years ago – the different threads that make up each piece come together only by heat, without resorting to any other material or alloy.
The oldest filigree pieces discovered in the Iberian Peninsula date back to 2000 – 2500 BC, but their origin is unclear. Possibly, these pieces belonged to traders or navigators originating in the Middle East and were not manufactured here.
Only during the rule of the Romans, during the century. II BC, began to exist in the Peninsula.
But only thousands of years later, in the century. VIII, we were able to ensure with certainty that the filigree was being developed and produced in Portugal. It was with the arrival of Arab peoples that new patterns emerged and that, little by little, the filigree of the Peninsula began to differentiate itself from the filigree of other parts of the world.
The Portuguese filigree mostly represents nature, religion and love:
– the sea is represented with fish, shells, waves and boats;
– nature is the inspiration of flowers, clovers and wreaths;
- with religious motifs, we find crosses, like the Maltese cross, and reliquaries.
- love, of course, is the inspiration of all hearts in filigree.
Other iconic symbols of Portuguese filigree:
– The heart of Viana: a symbol of dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Queen Maria I was the one who, thankful for the “blessing” of having been given a male son, ordered a heart to be executed in gold.
Over time, the heart started to be related to “profane love”, a symbol of the connection between two human beings. It became so popular that the cornucopias and the lines of Coração de Viana began to be reproduced on handkerchiefs and embroidered on all types of fabrics. Eventually, this brought the recognition and popularity of Coração de Viana to the present day.
– Queen’s earrings: it is almost unanimous that queen earrings appeared in Portugal during the reign of Queen D. Maria I (1734 – 1816). The origin of the name, this, seems to go back to the reign of D. Maria II (1819 – 1853), who wore a pair of these earrings on a visit to Viana do Castelo in 1852. After this visit, they became popular as a symbol of wealth and status and won the name “queen earrings”.
– The arrecadas: they started being the earrings of the most humble population and that the most privileged classes started to imitate. At its origin were the Castrejas stonework, inspired by the quarter moon.
Today, filigree manufacturing in Portugal is mainly concentrated in the areas of Gondomar and Póvoa do Lanhoso. The proximity of the raw material – coming, for example, from the mountains of Pias and Banjas – made the region one of the most notable nuclei of the Portuguese jewellery. Even today, in 2018, Gondomar is responsible for 60% of the national jewellery production.
A curiosity: Portuguese gold is 19.2 carats (pure gold is 24).
The pilgrimage of Nossa Senhora da Agonia, which takes place in Viana do Castelo, in Minho, is one of the best-known festivals in the country: it is grand in programming, in the number of visitors, in the strength of the tradition of the Viana costume, in the weight the gold that mordomas display on their breasts.
The history of the party joins the history of the Church of the Sorrow. In 1674, in honor of the patron saint of fishermen, a chapel in invocation to the Bom Jesus do Santo Sepulcro do Calvário was built and, a little above, a chapel devoted to Nossa Senhora da Conceição.
Today, the name is associated with the queen of pilgrimages, born in 1772 from the devotion of the sailors from Galicia and the entire Portuguese coast. Later, in 1783, the Sacred Congregation of Rites allowed a Solemn Mass to be celebrated in this chapel (now known as the Chapel of Our Lady of Agony) on August 20 each year.
In 1861 the Solemn Feast is overtaken by the Pilgrimage of Sorrow, and the latter takes on more importance and becomes so big that it ends up spilling out the religious feast. It becomes a festival full of singing with the sound of violas, dances, an extravagant festival.
In 1862, the pilgrimage assumed such popularity that it was estimated that the fireworks alone were already contemplated by more than fifty thousand people. Nine years later, the bullfighting was added to the program (which since 2009 is no longer part of the party).
In 1906, in this pilgrimage the Costume Festival was born and, two years later, in 1908, the first Agricultural Parade took place (nowadays it is the famous ethnographic procession).
From then on, the pilgrimage was no longer limited to Campo da Agonia and invaded the entire city of Viana do Castelo. During the pilgrimage days the program is complete. Every year there is a Craft Fair, a musical show with well-known artists, there are fireworks every day at 24:00 always in different locations in the city, meetings of Philharmonic Bands, a Mordomas Parade that takes place on one of the days of the pilgrimage at 10 am, the Ethnographic Parade that normally takes place on Saturday afternoon and a festival of Concertinas and Challenge with songs. On the 20th there is always a solemn Eucharistic celebration followed by a procession to the sea, and on the day before there is the making of “Flowers Carpets” in the streets of Ribeira.
Mordomas: in Alto-Minho, they are the women in charge of collecting funds for the pilgrimage to the patron saint of their land. The mordomas’ costumes were usually black or dark blue. This costume would later serve as the bride’s dress (with the coat and veil) and still be buried with them. The scarf ‘carpet’ on the head in silk, vest, pouch, apron (with Royal coat of arms), black slippers and skirt at the waist.
The costumes have several characteristics and meaning:
Wedding dress: black. The bride exchanges the mordoma scarf (coloured and in silk), for a fine scarf (light fabric made in cotton or linen), crossed at the front. But also (and more usual) there is the embroidered lace veil or tulle. The votive candle, or Easter palm, is now exchanged for the bridal bouquet.
Farmer’s dress: colourful and owing their tones to the different regions of Alto-Minho. The blues are associated with lands facing the sea, the greens with mountainous and green lands, the red suit is ‘from Viana’ or “Minho style”. It’s a party outfit. There are two handkerchiefs: one drawn on the chest and tightened at the back, at the height of the belt; another pierced over the back of the neck and tied at the top of the head.
Half-lady / morgata costume: the farmer who, although she may already be married (therefore her social and economic position has already evolved), has not yet achieved social recognition, and so she was a ‘half-lady’. She takes the mordoma / bride’s coat, the skirt with flower print, adorned with ruffles and ruffles, but it can also be a black farm skirt with a bead and a gallon embroidered, finishing off the slippers black. On her shoulders is a printed natural silk scarf (usually worn on her head while dying), as well as the “confectionery jacket” hanging from her hands to replace her pouch, or a shawl.