21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Portugal

Lisbon’s Praça de Dom Pedro IV
Georgi Dagnall
Company: Geogad Inc

The lovely square called Praça de Dom Pedro IV or, more popularly, Rossio is easy to spot with its black and white blocks arranged in wave patterns. For centuries, it has been one of the most popular squares in Lisbon and the center of much of Lisbon's activity. Not only does it have its own metro station, but it is also home to the Rossio Train station, which is located to the northwest of this square.

This building was constructed in the latter half of the 19th century and is a Romantic reproduction of the "Manueline" architectural style, that was created during the rebuilding of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake. This square and its transportation hubs is the starting point of Baixa, Lisbon's downtown.

Today Rossio is a busy area filled with cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. In the past it has been the site of festivals, military parades and Portuguese-style bullfights. The original Portuguese bullfight ended with the death of the bull in the ring until Dom José I passed a law in the mid 18th century forbidding the bull to be killed. The king was unfortunate enough to preside over a bullfight in which a young noble was killed. The young noble was the son and heir of the Marquis of Marialva and was fighting the bull from horseback. The bull attacked his horse, which threw the young man to the ground. The bull then turned and kicked the young noble to death. According to legend, the Marquis of Marialva, the nearly 70-years-old father of the young noble, jumped out of his seat into the ring and killed the bull with his sword.

The Rossio has seen darker events than bullfights. The worst was the Portuguese Inquisition. In 1536, the Portuguese Inquisition, the Roman Catholic Church’s movement against heresy, was officially established by the king João III. The Portuguese Inquisition is not as well known to the world as the Spanish Inquisition, but it does have ties to it. Its targets were heretics and people of different faiths. One of the most heavily targeted groups was Catholics who had formerly been Jewish. Portugal had many Jewish citizens even before over 100,000 Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. Many of them settled in Portugal where their skills in science, education and trade were of great benefit to Portugal. However, their contributions to all areas of education, science and commerce could not relieve the unease that the Catholic Portuguese leaders felt at their practice of their Jewish faith. Any semblance of tolerance ended in October of 1497. The Portuguese King Manuel I decided to marry a Spanish princess to give greater legitimacy to his claim to the throne. The princess refused to marry him unless he expelled all of the Jews from his kingdom. Manuel I did not want to lose the benefits brought to his kingdom by the Jewish residents, so he came up with a plan. He ordered all Jews to leave his kingdom before the expulsion deadline of October, 1497, and he then made it very difficult for the Jews to leave. As the deadline approached, the Jews trapped in Portugal with no way to leave were forced to convert to Christianity to save their lives. Even living publicly as Christians did not remove the suspicions or jealousies of their Catholic neighbors. Sometimes their neighbor's emotions erupted into violence. Over the next 30 years, thousands would lose their lives. When the Catholic Church gave its official approval for the Portuguese Inquisition in 1536, the violence was formally legitimized as "auto da fe", which literally translates as "act of faith". The first official auto da fe took place in Lisbon on September 20, 1540.

If a person was found guilty of rejecting the Catholic faith, secretly practicing another religion, or corrupting the doctrines of the Catholic Church, they would be tried by Church authorities. The auto da fe itself was a religious event to judge offenders, which was presided over by the officials of the Catholic Church. During the auto da fe, the Church officials determined the guilt or innocence of the accused and decided their punishment. But the Church did not carry out the sentence; that was the responsibility of the state. As a result, the auto da fe itself was not to include torture or executions. The auto da fe was held in the headquarters of the Inquisition, which used to be located on the north side of this square in a building called the Palácio de Estaús. If found guilty and a punishment was determined, the condemned would be publicly paraded to the Rossio where their sentences were read out to all. The actual punishments and executions were enforced by the government authorities after the auto da fe had ended, often in this very square. These punishments ranged from burning a person in effigy, especially if that person had managed to escape, to beatings and torture and death, often by burning.

The former center of the Portuguese Inquisition, the Palácio de Estaús, used to stand on the north side of this square and was one of the few buildings that survived the earthquake. The rest of the buildings surrounding this praça were rebuilt in a neoclassical style known as Pombaline after the Marquês de Pombal, who took charge of the rebuilding of Lisbon after its destruction in the 1755 earthquake. The Palácio de Estaús even managed to survive the end of the Portuguese Inquisition in 1821. But it was eventually destroyed by a fire in 1836. On the ground where it used to stand is now the neoclassical theatre "Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II". This theatre is easily identifiable with its six huge Ionic columns that were recovered from a church destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. It is still a popular place to see plays and concerts. The theater is named after Queen Maria II, who was the daughter of Dom Pedro IV, after whom this Praça is officially named.

The statue on top of the long column in the middle of the square is of Queen Maria II's father, Dom Pedro IV, king of Portugal and also known as Pedro I, the first Emperor of Brazil. The reigns of kings and queens are rarely quiet, and the reigns of Pedro and Maria were some of the most challenging to the throne of Portugal. Dom Pedro IV's life began relatively quietly with his birth near Lisbon in 1798 as son to the prince and future king, João VI, and Charlotte of Spain. The invasion of Portugal by Napoleon's troops and their conquest of Lisbon on December 1, 1807 forced the royal family to flee to the Portuguese colony of Brazil when Pedro was only nine years old. Brazil was promoted from a colony to the status of a kingdom, and the royal family ruled the empire from Brazil. There, Pedro enjoyed a more relaxed lifestyle. As a young boy, he played in the streets with the uneducated children of ordinary people. He grew to have a more liberal view of monarchy than his brother Miguel, who embraced the absolute monarchy principles of centuries past.

Napoleon's troops were eventually run out of Portugal due in large part to the British and Portuguese citizens who remained loyal to their king. King João VI quite enjoyed living in Brazil and saw no reason to rush back to Portugal while the English forces maintained control. Unfortunately for him, French ideas of revolution had been building since Napoleon's troops had conquered Portugal, and these finally led to the failed Liberal Revolution of Oporto in 1820. At that point, the British demanded that King João return to Portugal. He reluctantly conceded in 1821, 13 years after he had been run out by Napoleon.

King João VI left his 23 year old son, Pedro, to rule Brazil. Within a year Pedro was ordered to return to Portugal, but, like his father, he liked Brazil and refused to obey. After receiving orders from Portugal that would limit his powers and reduce Brazil's political status to a mere colony again, Pedro drew his sword near the Ipiranga river in São Paulo on September 7, 1822 and shouted the famous expression: Independence or death!

Pedro proclaimed Brazil independent from Portugal in 1822 and himself as monarch. His father eventually forgave his son's rebellion and even wanted Pedro to replace him as King of Portugal. The king feared that if his other son, Miguel, were to become king, his love of absolute monarchy would result in political instability as the people of Portugal, like the rest of Europe, were moving to more liberal principles of equality. After his father’s death in 1826, Pedro took the title of King of Portugal for a short time, but nobody in Portugal or Brazil wanted him to rule both countries. He abdicated the Portuguese throne to his daughter, Maria, who was only 7 years old at the time

The theater in this square was eventually named after her. Miguel, Pedro's brother, did not like losing the throne, especially to a little girl. He took over the Portuguese throne and fought a three-year civil war with Pedro. Pedro won, Miguel was exiled, and Maria was placed on the Portuguese throne while Pedro installed his son on Brazil's throne. Even as the fighting came to an end, Pedro died in Portugal of tuberculosis at the age of 35. In his short life, his accomplishments led to Brazilian independence and allowed the Portuguese royal throne to continue for another 75 years until the early 20th century.

To learn more about this location, please visit
Georgi Dagnall
submitted by Matt Ricciardi March 2009
ricciardi.matt at

More Comment


© Hackwriters 1999-2009 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.