Lisbon - Antiquity - Architecture
( Originally Published 1891 )
April 4th.—When I returned from Rome I found Chester here, who loved art and knew all the artists, and never put brush to canvas nor finger to clay ; who loved books and was intimate with all good authors, and never wrote a volume ; who was welcome at the fireside of all great thinkers, and knew how to encourage them without interference ; who talked of Browning and Lowell, and Story and Tennyson, and Longfellow and Agassiz as friends, and was Chester the sympathizer with them all. He had started from New York and had travelled through London, and Paris, and Rome, and Venice, and Naples, and Madrid, and had come to Lisbon to see something new. " Nobody goes to Lisbon," he said ; " nobody seems to know much about Lisbon ; an old friend of mine came down here in his yacht, and lay a fortnight in the harbor without going ashore, so poor an opinion had he of the attractions of Lisbon. But how do you manage to do up Rome in a week ? " asked he. " As the Frenchman did," said I. " There were three of us," he replied to a similar question, " myself, my wife, and the boy ; in the daytime I took the restaurants, my wife went through the churches, and the boy walked the galleries. We all met in the evening and compared notes." But it was evident this plan would not answer for the unknown Lisbon, and it was there-fore determined that Chester should join me in the exploring expedition, and enjoy the pleasures and surprises of a new land. To him England meant Browning and Mrs. Browning and Landor, and in old times Rogers' breakfast-table ; Paris meant Dumas, pere et fils, Victor Hugo, Alphonse Daudet, Alfred de Musset, and Sainte-Beuve ; Rome meant a brilliant group of English and Americans ; Madrid meant Castelar, whom Chester loved because Sumner loved him. The mind of the great Spanish orator and republican was still occupied with the revolution in Brazil, and I have no doubt it was his discussion of Portugal in this connection that had filled Chester's mind with a desire to see Lisbon. It was evident that Castelar hoped through the influence of Brazil to see the House of Braganza and all its connections utterly overthrown in Portugal. He consoled himself with the idea that Dom Carlos, the reigning king, is really a prince of the house of Coburg, but this was not the utter annihilation of the family which he had long waited for. " It is the two centuries and a half of Braganza rule," said he, " which have prevented Portugal from joining that republican movement which has occupied the thoughts of Europe, and we have seen that unhappy kingdom delivered by this family first to the Jesuits and afterwards to England, so that she should never enjoy independence and autonomy of her own." Castelar charged this family with having lost the Indies and Brazil, and probably would have charged to them the recent despoiling of Africa. He denounced their flight to Brazil and their acceptance of a constitution for Portugal at the hands of England, condemned in unmeasured terms the reactionary movement of Dom Miguel, and ridiculed the appeal of Maria Gloria for aid to defend " what in the language of the Braganzas is called the monarchy and independence of Lusitania.''
Castelar thinks that Portugal meanwhile has been influenced largely by Brazil—the only instance in history in which a colony has controlled a mother country. He says : " She supplied the sinews of war in the contests with Spain ; she filled the coffers of the Braganzas ; she sent forth the liberal charters which Dom Pedro, father of the ex-emperor, granted to Portugal ; her rulers have joined every power engaged in the humiliation of Portugal. And now it is to be hoped that a rising republic in Brazil will extend its influence to that mother country she has ruled so long. The deposition of Dom Pedro ends the Braganza rule, and gives Portugal an opportunity for a new career, a career which the Braganzas might have inaugurated had they had wisdom and courage sufficient for such noble work. For more than fifty years he has worn the crown which he inherited from those who lost to Portugal all her resplendent power in South America and the Indies, and has cherished all the wrath which naturally falls upon the authors of such disasters in the families which suffer from their faults and follies. The republicans of Portugal possess all these irritating memories as a source of strength to their own cause. To their friends in Brazil they send words of encouragement and congratulation, evidently feeling that day has dawned also for themselves. Should men of affairs arise to give effect to the teachings and doctrines of those who are endeavoring to lead Portuguese thought in the paths of free government, the work of regeneration will begin and go on to a rapid consummation. But thus far these practical leaders have not arisen. It is to be feared that the strength of monarchy in Portugal consists in the indifference of the people, which no appeal of leaders can remove. Popular education there seems not to have inspired popular free-dom. Brazil is now removed beyond the range of influence, and her future no longer controls the future of Portugal ; and Brazil will not return to the Braganza rule—she has got far beyond that." " But then," said Chester, " I could not help thinking, as I listened to Castelar, that it was better never to have secured a republican form of government than to have lost it when once gained. I hardly dared to suggest this, however, to Castelar."
It was on account of this interview with Castelar at this most interesting period of Portuguese history that Chester had come to learn what he could about Lisbon. He was not much of a politician, but he had devoted himself and all he had as a citizen to the cause of his country in the Civil War, and this experience has produced in his mind a deep interest in national affairs. Besides, he found no difficulty in finding records of the social and civil life of almost every community from New York to Corea, along every parallel of latitude and up and down every meridian of longitude ; and a reason-able record of Lisbon, with its fine harbor, and its picturesque location, and its curious mixture of importance and prominence and seclusion. Chester is sociably inclined, and manages to become part of every social organization with which he comes in contact. At dinner-parties he is the life of the table, is always welcome, and makes his seat at the feast the centre of great wit and genialty. A reception at which he is present is never known to be dull. An afternoon call of his is an event from which a family can date a new era, and an evening spent by him at the fireside is not forgotten until he gives a new one to take its place. He makes it his first business to become intimate with the town, and considers the hospitality of the people to be the foundation of all its intellectual and moral and religious life. Observing a community at arm's length he considers most unsatisfactory business, and having had large experience in all the great cities of Europe and America, he requires no guide to his entrance into society and no leader after he gets there. Entertainments of this description have so long formed a part of his life that he seldom alludes to them as matters of importance in conversation, and, as he is no gossip, he seldom gives an account of what is said or done, unless he happens to meet some person of distinction, whose opinions or experiences are valuable. Chester was very busy during his stay in Lisbon, and, as I heard nothing to the contrary, I infer his time was divided between investigating the curious and thrilling history of the place, visiting the many objects of interest, and attending the balls, routs, assemblies, and dinners, with which every rich and cultivated community abounds, and which constitute the difference between the fascinating life of the town and the dull monotony of a country village. Once or twice I think he alluded to the brilliant conversation of some beautiful and accomplished young woman whose knowledge of literature and art had astondished him, and of the costly jewels of some dowager whose ancestors had entered early upon the diamond mines of Golconda or the emerald riches of Brazil. As he formed very definite opinions on the African question, and expressed on one occasion great admiration for Serpa Pinto, I suppose he met occasion-ally some minister of state or perhaps a member of the Geographical Society, and became familiar with the best opinion of Lisbon on this disputed matter. He seemed to have learned the exact boundary lines which enclose the territory along the Zambezi, the Shirk and in Massononoland, which Portugal discovered and occupied long before the British flag floated in South Africa or a British keel divided the waters of the Indian Ocean. Into the sources of his knowledge I never inquired, my own time being chiefly occupied in securing the rights of American citizens in the Delagoa Bay Railroad. I never met any one else who knew so much about Lisbon society, or who found so many intimate friends in this city in so short a space of time.
The social charms of the place, however, did not draw Chester away from the object he had in view when he came to Lisbon, in addition to the pleasure of meeting an old friend—a pleasure which he always counted superior to all others.
To learn the intent and meaning of any place one must commence, Chester thinks, with its history and origin. But Lisbon, I suggested, seems never to have had a beginning. If it had been founded on the hunting-grounds of an exterminated Indian tribe there might be some hope for its antiquarian explorer. If it could be traced into the regions of fable—that would hold out some hope. But to be told that Lisbon was founded by the great-grandson of Noah, or by Ulysses after the destruction of Troy, is quite discouraging, considering the cloud of mystery which hangs over Noah and Ulysses themselves. We must content ourselves, therefore, with the subjugation of Portugal by Carthage under the lead of Hannibal as the beginning of the active existence of Lisbon. That Lisbon was attractive from the very outset is easily understood. Its harbor is by far the best on the entire coast of Europe from the Clyde to the Adriatic. To every storm-tossed mariner skirting the coast in his little ancient shallop, the mouth of the Tagus offered a refuge, and the wide bay into which he floated as he reached the site of a future city gave a haven of rest and safety. The beauty of the scene, too, was unsurpassed. The hills on which the town now rests swept their curves along a sky of singular radiance, and were clothed with perennial forests and adorned with great clusters of the rose and the myrtle. The fame of all this natural charm reached the remotest regions occupied by man—and Roman, Goth, Vandal, and Moor struggled alternately for the great possession. There is nothing in all history more weird and oppressive than the wild and sweeping contests which raged over this land, from the earliest periods of the Christian era to the Peninsular wars of Napoleon. Here the Moors secured their power in the early part of the eighth century, and for more than three hundred years held their gloomy sway over Lisbon. Here the great Affonso Henriques swept on with his victorious forces from Ourique to Lisbon, through a career of slaughter and siege and famine and horror and victory. Here Don Juan, King of Castile, besieged the city and furnished another chapter of " man's inhumanity to man," and of what is called valor and courage. Here in 1580 the city was taken by Philip I. and the conspiracy against Spanish dominion broke out, ending in seating the Braganza family on the Portuguese throne. Here the Prior of Crato, who had been declared king on the death of Cardinal Dom Henrique, fought his fatal battle with Alba, and Lisbon was delivered over to Spanish atrocities. Here in the middle of the eighteenth century the great earthquake swept away the town, and Pombal defied the destructive power of nature and outraged the rights of man. Here the armies of Napoleon committed their ravages and Wellington displayed his genius. Here the Miguelites exercised their cruelty, and here this long period of strife and blood terminated in the accession of the present royal family to the throne. To recount the personal suffering of all this period, the tortures and murders, the destruction of life by disease and starvation, would be merely to tell a tale which belongs to the savagery of war. It is only especially noticeable because it constitutes the career of Lisbon. During this constant struggle the vast colonial possessions of Portugal had been secured in India and South America, the wealth of the world had been poured into her coffers, the names of John de Castro and Vasco de Gaina had been enrolled among the great of the earth, and Portugal had achieved an earthly power unequalled in her day and had built an empire on the sand. Of her philosophy and art and literature and culture the names of St. Anthony of Padua and Luis de Camoens and Padre Vieira and Pope John XXI. almost alone remain, with her monumental churches and despoiled monasteries, to bear witness to her genius and devotion.
The early conversion of Lisbon to Christianity gave it an important position in the church, and its ecclesiastics have always held an intimate relation with Rome. To its relief came a great body of Crusaders who, in 1147, paused on their way to the Holy Sepulchre to aid Affonso Henriques in expelling the Moors. In 1394 it was raised to the rank of an Archbishopric and became the capital of the kingdom. At the Castilian usurpation in 158o it was reduced to the rank of a provincial city, and was only restored by Dom John V., who adorned it with many of its finest public buildings, many of which were destroyed by the great earthquake of 1755, whose marks remain to this day.
The political career of Lisbon has been interesting and perhaps important. The seat of a great empire one day, a dependency the next, the stronghold of an usurper at one time and the loyal home of a royal family at another, it has passed from one era to another with-out exerting a controlling influence on the kingdom. In political agitation and progress Oporto has always been its rival. And its political distinction has been gained mainly as the home of contending rivals for power.
The view out from Lisbon is much finer than the view from the river into it. While it is a strong well-built town, the absence of towers and cupolas and minarets injures greatly its general effect. Standing on any one of its hill-tops and looking over the wide river to the mountains beyond, you are impressed with the rare beauty of the scenery. The architectural taste of the buildings is manifest in their interior, while their exterior is chiefly marked by strength and solidity. Of course the city abounds in churches, as does every Catholic country ; but when one has carefully studied the Church and Convent of St. Jerome at Belem, the real beauty of Church architecture in Lisbon is exhausted. After Burgos and Seville and the Alhambra the cluster of churches in Lisbon appears somewhat commonplace ; and among the two hundred places of worship in the capital the Estrella and the San Roqua—with the remains of the Carmo left by the earthquake—are the most interesting.
Of the church at Belem I have already said enough and I can do no better than give Chester's account of the structures which attracted his attention chiefly.
THE BASILICA DO CORAÇAO DE JESUS, commonly called the Estrella, situated on the high ground which forms that part of Lisbon named Buenos Ayres, was to his mind and is to mine the most satisfactory and attractive of all the ecclesiastical structures in the city. It is situated in a wide open plaza on a most conspicuous point and commands a charming view of the city and surrounding country. It has the only fine dome to be seen and attracts the attention of all who approach the town—a dome of great merit.
The church owes its origin to a vow made by Dona Maria I. for the birth of an heir to the throne, in fulfilment of which it was built, being commenced in 1779 and completed in 1790. The architecture is in imitation of the famous convent at Maria, especially the dome and the two towers. The four colossal figures on the peristyle represent faith, adoration, liberality, and gratitude, qualities so conspicuous in the royal foundress. The images in the niches are St. Theresa, St. Elias, and St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. The two statues in the vestibule are our Blessed Lady and .St. Joseph. In the sanctuary are two seraphs beautifully executed, and on the epistle is the mausoleum of Dona Maria I., whose remains were brought hither from Rio de Janeiro, where she died in 1816. It has been said by critics that some portions of this church are over-ornamented, but the interior is of commanding height, the chapel is most imposing, and the coloring and gilding in strong contrast to the generally cold and colorless finish of most of the Lisbon churches. The effect of the Estrella is so fine that it is easy to imagine yourself in a much more elaborate order of architecture than belongs to Portugal. Great genius was manifested by the architects and artists engaged in the erection and adornment of the structure.
SAN ROQUE, which was most carefully studied by Chester, was formerly in the hands of the Jesuits to whom it was given by King John III. in 1533. From its pulpit once preached St. Francis Borjia, and his cloak, darned by himself with white thread, is pre-served as a relic. What good pictures there are in Lisbon are found mainly in this church, which was built by John V. with the treasures brought from the Brazils, and who lavished great sums on the chapel of St. John the Baptist, which on account of the name he took under his special care.
Dimensions of the chapel were sent to Rome with instructions to the Portuguese ambassador to have a chapel made of the richest material and finest workmanship, regardless of expense. The chapel was consecrated by Pope Benedict XIV. , who received for this favor from the King a present of 10,000 pounds.
The construction of the chapel is most gorgeous. The exterior of the arch is of coral, with the royal arms of Portugal on the keystone supported by two alabaster angels. The interior of the arch is of alabaster. A balustrade of verd-antique divides the chapel from the body of the church, the entrance to it being by two side-doors of bronze delicately worked, with jambs and lintels of verd-antique. The walls are of black marble, jald-antique, and alabaster, with pilasters of jald-antique. Over the doors are two mosaics set in porphyry frames. The cornice is of jald-antique relieved with bronze. The vaulted roof is of the same stone and verd-antique ornamented with jasper. Over the altar is a large mosaic with porphyry frame, representing the baptism of Christ in the Jordan. In this mosaic are a figure of the Eternal Father, groups of angels, the dove descending, and figures of the two Marys. The mosaic on the gospel side represents the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin ; that opposite is the Annunciation. These mosaics are the first works of their class in Europe, and are so well executed that many incredulous visitors refuse to believe they are other than oil-paintings until they have carefully examined them by the touch.
On either side of the principal mosaics are columns of lapis-lazuli, with bronze capitals ; the wall at the back of the columns is of alabaster and amethysts ; the architecture is of jald, and the figures of the angels are of jasper. The space between the altar and the mosaics is filled with coral, amethysts, and lapis-lazuli. The floor is a marble mosaic inlaid with porphyry imitating a richly flowered carpet with a globe in the centre. These mosaics were made in the Vatican manufactory, and are copies of pictures by Michael Angelo, Guido Reni, and Raphael. The cost of this superb structure was more than £200,000.
But the fascinating church in Lisbon is the IGREJA E CONVENTO DO CARMO—the ruined Carmo—the great edifice stricken by the earthquake nearly a century and a half ago, and standing there without roof and with broken arches and columns, so grand in its decay that the imagination exhausts itself in the work of replacing the vanished beauty to accord with what remains. The Carmo was built in the latter part of the fourteenth and the early part of the fifteenth centuries, to commemorate the great victory of Aljubarrota. It was founded by the Lord High Constable Pereira, the commander of the Portuguese on that field, and was erected at his expense. It was dedicated to the Carmelite monks, and in its peaceful cloisters the great captain passed the close of his life in religious seclusion. In all its design and association Carmo is the most impressive structure I have yet seen ; as a ruin its grandeur is unsurpassed ; as a collection of broken architectural beauty it is quite unequalled.
When it was demolished by the earthquake its roof, which stretched over an enormous nave 160 feet in length, fell upon the hundreds of devotees who had gathered there on the morning of All Saints' day, and not one escaped. As you traverse the floor, from which the accumulation of broken marbles has at last been removed, you see high above you the lofty arch of the sanctuary still remaining, and the displaced ribs of many of the smaller arches, held in position by their perfect construction, which even that great convulsion could not entirely destroy. The remaining columns and capitals are models of beauty.
In addition to the relics which the church itself has furnished, the sanctuary and collateral chapels have been converted into a most interesting museum of the Archæological Society—a collection of antiques from Greece and Rome—window-panes and doors of ancient convents, rare marbles and medallions. Mafra has furnished a beautiful iron railing with bronze ornaments. Models of the Acropolis, the Circus Maximus, and other classical buildings, as well as of the tomb of the founder, attract as much attention as models are entitled to. An upright figure in armor represents Nuno Alvaraz Pereira as Lord High Constable, and a recumbent figure represents him in the habit of a Carmelite friar. If you would be reminded of the valor, and fanaticism, and devotion, and ancient power, and tragic experience of Portugal, study the church and convent of Carmo—what there is left of it.
Of the rest of the churches in Lisbon there is little to be said. They are all of one style, and differ only as " one star differeth from another star in glory." And here I leave Chester pondering upon the irregular architecture of the kingdom.