Friday, 13 May 2022

nossa senhora de fátima

The series of Marian apparitions that reportedly presented themselves to a trio of three shepherd children appeared for the first time on this day in 1917. Declared events worthy of believe after years of careful study and deliberation by the local bishop, this set off a chain of investigations of the visions of Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins Jacinta Mart and Francisco that led to the coronation and veneration of the site by the mid-1950s. Appearing to the children for the first of six times, the Virgin Mary delivered the prophecy that prayer would end the Great War, promising to return soon in a more public fashion so that all would believe, a miraculous solar aberration observed by many assembled in a field on 13 October of the same year. The call to pilgrimage and the general incredulity of the witnesses was regarded with suspicion with many accusing the movement to be subversive and to overthrow the newly established republic that had first thrown off the yoke of monarchy and then dictatorship in 1910 and 1915. Sister Lúcia—who had since taken become a nun, publishing her memoirs—detailed in 1941 that she and her companions had been entrusted with three secrets: first a vision of Hell and that whilst the Great War (WW1) had ended, more dreadful future conflicts were to come if the people were not repentant; second the need to evangelise to Russia and the restoration of the pious monarchy (an assessment enforced by the thwarted assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II on this day in 1981); and thirdly—not revealed until 2000—that of the downfall of the Catholic Church, which especially hinged on whether the above attack had been carried off successfully.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

el tres de mayo de 1808 en madrid

Considered by many to represent the first modern work of art for its departure from convention stylistically and in its message, the 1814 commission for the provisional government of Spain by Francisco Goya, The Third of May, depicts and commemorates resistance to the forces of Napoleon during the occupation and Peninsular War over access to the Mediterranean—the French garrisons originally invited under the pretence of jointly conquering and dividing Spain and award the Spanish prime minister the principality of the Algarve and not realising the ruse until it was too late. Picturing in media res the suppression of the junta uprising against the soldiers of the First French Empire, the rebels and their ranks facing the firing squad on Príncipe Pío hill portrays war as bleak and unheroic—in vast contrast to the usual posed compositions of charging victory and unflagging patriotism—and inspired Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and Massacre in Korea among other revolutionary and edifying works of art.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

antonio di padua

Priest and Franciscan friar and Doctor of the Church, Anthony of Lisbon (*1195 - †1231 in the commune west of Venice) is one of the most popular and quickly canonised among the cult of the saints and was acclaimed in his lifetime for giving powerful and persuasive sermons, even keeping a school of fish in rapt attention once and reputation for care for the poor and sick. Invoked in the name of lost things—credited first with the restoration of his own psalter full of notes when Anthony feared it was gone forever—his extensive patronage (see previously) includes things prone to going missing like mail, mariners, shipwrecks, travellers and lost souls, though not all who wander… Anthony in the extended sense is also the protector of the elderly, fisherfolk, amputees, Native Americans, harvests, watermen, horses, travel hosts and counter-revolutionaries.

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

ponte pênsil

Located in the geographic park and preserve in the town of Arouca outside the Porto capital district and definitely not for the acrophobic new span crossing the Pavia river valley boosts the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. The marvel of engineering is over five hundred metres long between peak and pylon with the roaring watercourse one-hundred and fifty metres below and offers outstanding vistas—though far from the only attraction to see in the nature park. More from Plain Magazine contributor Toby Orton at the link above.

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Meaning sweetness and sharing her feast day with the apparition of Our Lady of Fátima, the second century saint compelled to pray to a sculpture of Jupiter which turned to dust by her faith, for which she was sentenced to be torn asunder by wild animals. Glyceria expired, however, before she could be served. Interestingly, especially in light of the minor craze that erupted a few years ago over the chance to drink the mummy juice—sewage found in Egyptian sarcophagi, the relics of Glyceria are counted among the myroblytes, those whose remains (sometimes their icons as well as their coffins) exude the holy and healing Oil of the Saints.

Friday, 9 April 2021


tsugite: software that generates traditional Japanese joinery (previously) that can be 3D printed or precision cut

prince albert in a can: a collection of fish tin labels from a digital museum dedicated to the Portuguese canning industry 

cosmic nature: artist Yayoi Kusama exhibits at New York’s Botanical Garden  

tune-dex: the real-fake book of jazz standards, essential to musicians in the 1970s 

dingbat: thirty select works of Mid-Century Modern print for inspiration 

beer is proof god loves us and wants us to be happy: brew theorems post US National New Beers’ Eve ahead of the anniversary of rescinding parts of the Volstead Act that allowed for consumption of higher proof beer 

ukiyo-e: the unintentional ASMR of a master printmaker at work

Wednesday, 7 April 2021


silvagunner: an appreciation of the remixing collective from Kicks Condor 

film festival: curate one’s own streaming series from a vast, public domain archive  

re-branding: artist FAEL redesigns corporate logos with a perfect balance of retro and progress 

prompts and cues: remedies to exhausting monologues and fostering better conversations  

metronome: a fascinating look at synchronicity  

братство кольца: a 1991 Russian television version of The Fellowship of the Rings (see also) resurfaces on the internet—including an appearance by Tom Bombadil whose otherwise left out of the adaptations  

the only post-punk supergroup: the musical stylings of the New Age Steppers

Friday, 26 March 2021


Taking advantage of the quiet ahead of Easter with the Diet not in session and the regent installed by the Allies Miklós Horthy settled in for a long weekend at the palace, former king and last Hapsburg Austro-Hungarian emperor Karl I. (IV. Károly) attempted on this day in 1921 to retake the throne, encouraged by royalists and his close entourage.

Travelling from exile in Switzerland on a forged Spanish passport, Charles and his party arrived in the border town of Szombathely undetected. The coup attempt ultimately failed due in large part to Horthy’s insistence that his return was premature and was in danger of being arrested by Allied authorities for breach of terms of the surrender. Charles returned to his Swiss villa with greater constraints placed on his political activity though further restrictions did not stop him and his supporters from staging a further abortive coup a few months later, resulting in Charles’ exile to Madeira.

Saturday, 9 January 2021


Via friends TYWKIWDBI and Nag on the Lake, we find ourselves transported to the monastic complex of the town of Alcobaça, a Cistercian community famed for its gastronomical and vinicultural excellence and founded by Portugal’s first king Alfonso Henriques, which features among its Gothic elements a dining hall whose entrance is preceded with the rather abstruse admonishment: Respicte quia peccata Populi comdeitis—that is, Remember you eat the sins of the people. 

Otherwise perfectly proportion, the communal area has direct egress to the kitchen, which according to popular legend and rather practically, had a door to discourage gluttony, either measured for self-catering or as a monthly check on one’s girth with the passage two metres high but only thirty-two centimetres wide, a model pants-size for many though the cloth and cowl could be quite concealing in any circumstance. Perhaps we are misinterpreting the whole intent of this narrow doorway and it was rather meant to shame those who were not committed devoradores de pecados.  According to current lore, those who could not pass needed to diet until they could sidle and squeeze through. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

the governor and company of the merchants of great britain, trading to the south seas and other parts of america, and for the encouragement of fishery

Though not the only joint-stock venture to hedge its liabilities and ultimately prove ruinous for investors, the South Sea Company (official long form above), founded as a public-private partnership—with the support of the government hoping to offset some of the national debt incurred during its involvement with the War of the Spanish Succession and its own colonial activities—in 1711, was the most spectacular economic bubble, bankrupting thousands of investors and speculators who had underwritten the enterprise. Originally incorporated as a substitute revenue generating operation when a national lottery scheme run on behalf of the Crown failed to turn a profit (the jackpot winners were deprived of their prizes), the public was instead invited to purchase shares of a chartered company with a monopoly over trade with Spain and Portugal and would in time collect dividends from the profits. The stock price was inflated by those late-comers not wanting to miss out (taking out loans to take part) on an opportunity and rife mismanagement, including a not insignificant amount of business in the trafficking of enslaved individuals from Africa to Central and South America—and though huge sums of money were trading hands, the company failed to be profitable and engaged in increasing debt for equity swaps until the price increased in a frenzy from £100 to over £1000 in the course of a few months in 1720, falling just as precipitously at an even faster pace. A decade after its founding, on this day, with recriminations rampant and with the aristocracy, the merchant classes as well as the working poor duped and financially broken, the Committee of Inquiry on the South Sea Bubble came forth with their findings, revealing fraud and corruption at all levels. Amazingly the newly appointed First Lord of the Treasury, Robert Walpole, was able to restore public confidence in the financial market and the company continued—this time focusing its efforts on whaling—until the reign of Victoria, finally dissolved in 1838.

Monday, 21 September 2020

empire shops

Though the above euphemism for a colonial goods store (ultramarinos, comptoir des colonies, coloniali), a nineteenth century speciality retailer that sold non-perishable items like coffee, tea, spices, tobacco, etc. as opposed to butchers, bakers and green-grocers, has fortunately fallen out of common-parlance, retained through the 1970s when most former colonies were achieving independence, it is still present, fossilised in some unexpected places, like in the name of our local chain supermarket, an affiliate of the large co-op Edeka, founded in 1898 as E.d.K.—that is, Einkaufsgenossenschaft der Kolonialwarenhändler im Halleschen Torbezirk zu Berlin (Purchasing Cooperative for the Traders of Colonial Wares of the Halle Gate District of Berlin), phonetically abbreviated (see also) out of necessity.

Monday, 20 July 2020

saint wilgefortis

Though officially delisted from the martyrology of saints in the late sixteenth century and her veneration suppressed, the iconography of and devotions to the bearded saint—whose English name is thought to have derived from the Latin for courageous virgin but goes by many others (see previously)—are still to be found to the present age and is feted on this day.
Also going by Uncumber, Ontkommer (Dutch), [ohne] Kümmernis (German), Liberata (Italian), Librada (Spain) and Débarras (good riddance in French), Wilgefortis symbolises the liberation or disencumberment from abusive relationships and is invoked for relief to that end. Historians speculate that her origins can be traced to androgynous depictions of Jesus but was embellished with her own story and cult in the 1420s in Galicia, with a noble woman not wanting to be forced into her arranged marriage and praying for a way out—and miraculous sprouted facial hair that made her repulsive to her betrothed. In iconographic depictions, Wilgefortis’ beard ranges from minimal to quite lush and substantial and is shown often crucified—sadly her fate for showing up and looking unpresentable—with a small fiddler at her feet, having given away her wedding dowry, represented by a silver shoe, to the poor.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

hommages posthumes

Born circa 1700 in Maderia and sold into a life of enslavement Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique (so named by her last owner) was tried and made a coerced confession under torture of setting fire to her master and mistress’ home, engulfing much of the old town of Montréal, and was executed by hanging on this day in 1734.
When the devastating fire had spread back in April, rumours circulated accusing Angélique of arson but there were no witnesses (other than a five-year old that took the stand by surprise, coming forward quite late in the proceedings) or corroborating evidence and prosecutors struggled to impose the sentence but the punishment was eventually meted out.
While until recent times, the court’s verdict was not re-examined, assuming that Angélique did in fact start the fire to exact revenge on her owners, closer inspection suggests it may have been accidentally and that Angélique was a convenient scapegoat—other historians do indeed find her culpable but in the larger context of the struggle for freedom and equal rights. There is of course no such thing as being a little bit owned and not one’s own person but conditions in New France were far different in other areas, there being a degree of civil protections for enslaved persons and rather a hierarchy of “unfreedoms” that restricted movement and liberty. In 2012, a public square facing the Montréal City Hall was designated Place Marie-Josèphe-Angélique in her honour and numerous adaptations of her life have been produced.

Saturday, 9 May 2020

tratado de windsor

Sealing the deal put forward in the Anglo-Portuguese Compact of 1373 for “perpetual friendships, unions and alliances” between the two seafaring nations, the Treaty of Windsor signed on this day in 1386 and secured with the marriage of João of the House of Aviz—settling the kingdom’s succession crisis with the pact—to the daughter of John of Gaunt, Philippa of Lancaster.
Significantly, this treaty is the oldest, enduring diplomatic agreement and moreover demonstrates how foreign relations and trade deals were conducted until recent times—that is through martial arrangements amongst the great houses. One could imagine if this were still the case and whom from the Royal Family might yet be sacrificed and married off to appease one party or another at the UK’s advantage. As was keeping with a uniquely Portuguese tradition of the time, the wedding was conducted by proxy, a surrogate bridegroom for the king called João Rodrigues de Sá (chief chamberlain and from a merchant family of Porto, which does make the whole affair sound a bit like an example of Ricardian economic theory from a college textbook—English textiles in exchange for Portuguese wine and stick with what you’re good at) though I think it is João I rather than his stand-in depicted in the ceremony here) would pretend to carry out the nuptials and consummate the service.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020


Comprised of over two-hundred and seventy million people across the globe that share a linguistic or ethnographic connection to Portugal and its formerly extensive imperial holdings, Lusophone Culture Day is observed today in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Goa, Macau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde.
The designation is derived from the Latin term Lusitania (after the demigod Lusus, companion of Bacchus, the deity of wine and divine madness), the Roman Iberian province that roughly corresponds with modern Portuguese borders. Comunidade dos Paísesde Língua Portuguesa—the Community of Portuguese Language Countries—representing the commonwealth of diaspora selected this day during a summit in 2005.

Friday, 16 August 2019

relaciones geográficas

In order to have a better insight into the distant and vast domain that his conquistadors took by force, King Felipe II of Spain, Portugal, Naples and the Two Sicilies commissioned bureaucrats in the 1580s to produce a land survey through a fifty topic questionnaire to solicit descriptions of cities and settlements from the indigenous population.
Their responses came in the form of detailed manuscripts that told the history of their home towns and assigned by one question to visually describe their municipality, those polled answered with these fantastic maps and charts that captured geographical details as well as natural resources. Much more to explore with the intrepid adventurers at Atlas Obscura at the link above.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

dia da saudade

The subject of many songs—like the blues—and yet whose exact definition is elusive with English lacking an equivalent, today in Brazil (plus for the wider Portuguese-speaking diaspora) is the official celebration of the emotional state known as saudade. More than homesickness or nostalgia and not wholly melancholy, this frame of mind recalls the longing and yearning for something absent mixed with the consolation of the memory that lingers and its non-transferable nature. To add to the intrigue of untranslatable sentiments, we could not find anything to point to why this commemoration is assigned to this particular day of the calendar, so if any of our Brazilian readers know, we would appreciate being informed. 

Thursday, 10 May 2018


We enjoyed exploring the distinguishing architectural conceit that become variations on a theme by browsing the photography of André Vicente Gonçalves’ Windows of the World collection. Much of his portfolio centres on the vibrant styles to be found in his native Portugal, like the pictured collage from Praia da Vitóia on the Azores, but Gonçalves’ beat covers much of Europe and a few localities in Asia with equally distinctive designs.

Monday, 19 March 2018


Via Hyperallergic’s required reading, we discover that though overshadowed by other culinary influences presently that Portugal has played an outsized role in world gastronomy. Dishes that we consider a tradition staple of Japanese dining—fried vegetables or tempura (天ぷら)—was introduced by Portuguese traders who had a presence in Japan for about a century until being banished in 1639 for proselytizing, the ruling shogunate believing that Christianity was a threat to a stable society.
The recipe adapted from peixnhos da horta (little fish of the garden) for battered and fried green beans came to be known as tempura is etymologically tied to Christianity, being a Lenten substitute for a filling meal for those too poor to afford actual fish as a break from fasting, coming from the Latin tempora which indicated the time for abstaining. Improvising Portuguese canteen operators also whipped up a spicy, wine marinated pork dish called carne de vinha d’alhos, which in the former colonial outpost of Goa in India informed the reimport vindaloo. Be sure and visit BBC Travel at the link up top for recipes and to learn more.

Friday, 23 June 2017

tyto alba

Via Nag on the Lake, we learn of a very clever way to up-cycle wine packaging from the Portuguese vintners of Companhia das Lezírias . Having committed to protecting local barn owls, they are raising awareness with a collection named Tyto Alba (the Latin nomenclature for the bird) whose wooden boxes can be hung from a tree branch after enjoying. Though the accommodations might be too cramped for an owl, these bird houses, nest-boxes are a pretty nifty idea. Most populations of barn owls are not under grave threat in Europe, but the creatures have suffered at superstitious hands for ages, believed to be bad omens due to their rather liminal natures. While owls—or birds in general for that matter, are not famed for their ears, but uniquely among birds barn owls ears (if they were visible) would appear lop-sided and it’s this offsetting that allows them to use their preternatural hearing to triangulate prey in complete darkness.