March 22, 2012

0153 PORTUGAL - The map of the country

In 1519, when was completed the construction of the Belém Tower (Torre de Belém), during the reign of King Manuel I (1495-1521), Portugal was at the peak of his territorial expansion and of the economic and cultural flowering. Established as a vassal county of the Kingdom of Leon in 1095, on the territory between the rivers Minho and Douro ripped from the Moors, who possessed it since 718, Portugal (Terra Portucallis) becomes independent kingdom in 1139. Eight years later is recaptured Lisbon (which replaced Coimbra as royal residence), and in 1249 the southern province of Algarve, the last one under the Moorish rule. At the end of the Reconquista are traced boundaries with the neighboring Spain (1267), Portugal being the first European country that set his final borders, remaining unchanged until today. Unchanged until today is also the alliance with England, signed in 1373, the longest-standing alliance in the world.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal established a global empire (the first in history) that included possessions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America, becoming the world's major economic, political and military global power. The Portuguese Empire was also the longest lived of the European colonial empires, spanning from the capture of Ceuta in 1415, to the handover of Macau to China in 1999.

Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the Age of Discovery left from Lisbon, which has become one of the richest cities in Europe, because was the European hub of commerce between Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploiting the riches from trade in spices, slaves, sugar, textiles, and other goods. The Belém Tower, now on the shore of the Tagus, originally was built on an island closely located to the right bank of the river, opposite the Restelo beach. Built to honor Lisbon’s patron St Vincent, Belém Tower was meant to be part of the defensive system for the estuary of the Tagus River, providing crossfire with the fortress of São Sebastião da Caparica on the south bank, but also as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.

Something about the history of Portugal I wrote when I received the first two postcards, here and here, so now I will insist upon the images. Thanks to Paulo (obrigado, amigo), I can easy specify what illustrates the four photographs from the left, only after a minimum documentation:

The Luís I Bridge from Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, also one of the oldest European centres, located along the Douro river estuary, which name has been referred to as the origin for the name of the country
Statue of King José I (1714-1777) in the Commerce Square (Praça do Comércio) from Lisbon
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, built at the site of the Marian apparitions reported by three Portuguese children in 1917
Algarve coast, the southernmost region of mainland Portugal, the most popular tourist destination in that country, and one of the most popular in Europe

The statuette on the right represent the famous Galo de Barcelos (Rooster of Barcelos), the most brightly coloured and significant unofficial symbol in Portugal, of which interesting story should be remembered. One of the many versions of this legend goes that a rich landowner threw a big party. When the banquet was over, the host noticed that his sterling cutlery was stolen by a guest. He accused a pilgrim from the neighboring Spanish province of Galicia who went to Santiago de Compostela and led him go to court to be tried. He swore to his innocence, but the magistrate didn't believe him. The magistrate was about to eat a roasted rooster when the pilgrim said: "If I am innocent, this rooster will crow three times." When the pilgrim was about to be lynched, the roasted rooster stood up on the table and crowed. The judge immediately released the pilgrim and told him to go in peace. The story ends a few years later when the pilgrim returned to Barcelos and had erected a cross in honor of the Virgin and St. James. Calvary (or Crucifix) to the Lord of the Rooster (Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo) still exists, in the Archeological Museum of Barcelos.

As I said, there are many variants of the story, but for men with faith, the message is the same: Our Lady and the Saints are there to help in every trial, because God gives justice to the righteous man.

About the stamp
The very interesting stamp is part of Bordados Tradicionais Portugueses (Traditional Portuguese Embroidery) set, issued on June 28, 2011:
Vila Verde (0.32)
Arraiolos (0.47)
Castelo Branco (0.57)
Viana (0.68) - It’s on the postcard
Madeira (0.80)
Açores (1.00)

sender: Paulo Baptista (direct swap)
sent from Lisbon (Portugal), on 28.01.2012

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