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St. Jerome
Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus was born in the town of Stridon in Dalmatia (which today would be Croatia/Slovenia) between 340 and 342. The son of Christians, who gave him a Christain upbringing, he left for Rome in 354, where he studied under the renowned grammarian Aelius Donatus and Vitorinus, a master of rhetoric and orator. He began his theological studies at the renowned Treveris Academy in what is now the German city of Trier, before moving to Aquileia, now in Italy, where he witnessed a meeting of young priests, inspiring him to lead a life of study and virtue. In 374 he travelled to the desert in Syria with a number of companions and lived there as an anchorite. Upon his return to Rome, in 382 Pope Damasus I appointed him as his secretary, commissioning him with a revision of the four Gospels based on the Greek texts. Jerome thus became an influential figure, giving spiritual guidance to virtuous noblewomen of Rome, such as Paula, Eustochium and Marcella, who were to be canonised later. Following the death of Pope Damasus in 384, Jerome was attacked by his enemies and forced to leave Rome. He travelled to Asia Minor in 385, visiting Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria, where he visited the monastic colonies at Nitria. He finally arrived in Bethlehem in 386, where he remained for thirty-four years, and where Paula and Eustochium had used their wealth to build three female convents and a monastery for male clergy. He was spiritual adviser to these convents and built up his own, to which many pilgrims travelled, attracted by his life of prayer and penitence. He became involved in controversies with heretics and the Pelagians and in debates with the theologian Tyrannius Rufinus and St. Augustine. A conflict with the Bishop of Jerusalem led to threats of expulsion from the Roman authorities. Jerome built up a large library and had a huge literary output, with works on the Bible, theological controversies and history as well as his letters and translations. He wrote a new Latin version of the Old Testament, translating and revising the Hebrew texts, which, together with the Gospels he had already revised, would become the Latin Vulgate Bible; it became known for its elegance of form and its faithfulness to the original texts. His final years were overshadowed by the Sack of Rome in 410, the deaths of Paula and Eustochium and his voluntary isolation. After a life of austerity and mortification, he died on 30 September 419 or 420. He was buried in Bethlehem and his remains were later transferred to Rome.

Henry the Navigator
Henry the Navigator (known as Henrique in Portuguese) was the fifth child of João I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster and a member of Portugal's "Illustrious Generation". He was born in Porto in 1394 and died in Sagres in 1460. He is, beyond doubt, the figure who his most closely linked with Portuguese expansion in the Age of the Discoveries. At the age of twenty-one, Henry took part in the conquest of Ceuta and was knighted for his bravery in battle. In 1420 he was appointed Governor of the Military Order of Christ, the order that succeeded the Knights Templar, a position he held until his death. In 1427, explorers in his service discovered and began exploration of the islands of Madeira and the Azores. In 1434, Gil Eanes sailed past Cape Bojador, thus dismantling myths and fears as to what lay beyond that promontory and facilitating navigation along the West African coast. Prince Henry amassed great personal wealth and power, becoming the great driving force behind, and the man responsible for, the Portuguese expedition to Tangier in 1437, which ended in failure and the death in captivity of Henry's brother Prince Fernando. In 1458, at the age of 64, Henry took part in the expedition led by Afonso V to take the Moroccan town of Ksar es-Seghir, thus participating in one more episode of his great life project: conquering North Africa from the Moors. Henry's name will forever be associated with the most important moments in the first phase of Portuguese expansion, in which he invested a considerable part of the income from his properties. Henry lived in a period of transition between two epochs: the Middle Ages, which were marked by religious warfare, and the Modern period, in which one witnessed the affirmation of Renaissance values and early capitalism. His personality, as defined by historians on the basis of chronicles and other documents, would seem to reflect that dichotomy. This is also true of the known artistic representations of the prince: in a manuscript of Zurara's Crónica dos Feitos da Guiné, Henry is depicted as a thoughtful man, with his hair and moustache trimmed and wearing a Burgundy-style hat; he is also presented thusly in the famous Panels by Nuno Gonçalves. However, on his tomb in the Monastery of Batalha, a supine statue depicts him with a full, clean-shaven face.

In the south portal of the Monastery church there is a statue of Henry the Navigator; he is not wearing a hat or helmet, has long hair and a beard and carries a coat of arms and a drawn sword. Manuel I, who was Henry's great nephew, wanted to commemorate his uncle in a fully heroic dimension. Symbolically, the figure of the Henry is placed in the middle of the most visible portal, making it an unusual representation of the "guardian of the threshold". In this way Manuel evoked the memory of an ancestor who was both founder of the first chapel at Restelo and instigator of the great expeditions and discoveries.

Vasco da Gama
Vasco da Gama was born in Sines, possibly in 1468, and died in India in December 1524, only three months into his term as viceroy of Portuguese India. He was the second son of Estevão da Gama. His older brother was Paulo da Gama, who travelled with Vasco on the voyage to India of 1497-1499 and died almost at the end of the return journey at Terceira Island in the Azores. The chronicles of the day tell us that Vasco da Gama was "of medium stature, gentleman's mood, daring for any grand or risky achievement, rough when giving his orders, strong enough to be feared in any dispute, hard worker and inflexible to punish delict on behalf of justice". His daring and inflexibility, and that of his crew, who resisted the furies of the heavens, seas and earth, helped write a new page in the history of the world. Da Gama's remains were brought from India to the monastery of Nossa Senhora das Relíquias near the town of Vidigueira, where they remained for three centuries.


In 1880 the remains of Vasco da Gama and the poet, Luís de Camões, were transferred to the Jerónimos Monastery. Their tombs, made by the sculptor Costa Mota are now in the lower choir of the Monastery's church. Vasco da Gama (on the left-hand side) and Luís de Camões (on the right-hand side) were the two most important representatives of this epic period in Portuguese history. They were given the honour of a final resting place amongst kings.

Luís de Camões
The son of Simão Vaz de Camões and Ana de Sá Macedo, Camões was born in 1524 (?), and went on to study in Coimbra. In Ceuta, where he fought against the Moors, he lost an eye. Back in Lisbon, he was imprisoned in 1552 for an altercation with a functionary at the court. In 1553 he was pardoned by the king and left for India, where he took part in several military expeditions.
According to some historians, Camões wrote the first canto of his epic poem The Lusiads during this period. In Macau he was appointed chief warrant officer, charged with managing the properties of missing and deceased soldiers. In 1569 he returned to Lisbon, where he published The Lusiads three years later. He died on 10 June 1580 in misery.


In 1880 the remains of Vasco da Gama and the poet, Luís de Camões, were transferred to the Jerónimos Monastery. Their tombs, made by the sculptor Costa Mota are now in the lower choir of the Monastery's church. Vasco da Gama (on the left-hand side) and Luís de Camões (on the right-hand side) were the two most important representatives of this epic period in Portuguese history. They were given the honour of a final resting place amongst kings.

Alexandre Herculano
Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho Araújo was born in Lisbon in March 1810. He studied Humanities at the Colégio dos Oratorianos school. In February 1831 he was involved in the unsuccessful coup against King Miguel and was forced into exile, first in England and then in France. While this exile was punishing for him, it did serve to open up his cultural horizons. On his return to Portugal he participated in the Liberal expedition to the Azores which ended in Porto and also took part in the Liberal struggles as a soldier. After having been a librarian at Porto Public Library (1833-1836), he was appointed librarian to King Fernando and placed in charge of the royal libraries at the Ajuda and Necessidades palaces. It was around this time that he began to publish interventionist writings that brought him notoriety. In 1840 he was elected Member of Parliament for the Chartist Party, dedicating himself to the area of public education, but he soon got tired of politics and returned to this writing. He became closely involved with O Panorama magazine. He returned to politics in 1851, supporting the Regeneration Party and drawing up several political projects. Certain incompatibilities that later emerged meant that he took an opposing stand to the government of the day in two newspapers that the founded, O País [The Country] (1851) and O Português [The Portuguese] (1853), in which he advocated a "programme of material improvements". He attacked the reactionary bourgeoisie in the preface to his book História da Origem e Estabelecimento da Inquisição [History of the Origins and Establishment of the Inquisition]. He ran for office in the local elections and was elected mayor of the new municipality of Belém [now part of Lisbon]. He researched in all the notary offices and archives in the country to gather the material that would result in his History of Portugal, in addition to his other major works, the eight volumes of Opúsculos: Questões Públicas [Pamphlets: Public Questions] and Portugaliae Monumenta Historica [Historical Monuments of Portugal]. Herculano was one of the founders of the Historic Party in 1856. He maintained a long-lasting and bitter dispute with the Catholic Church in Portugal that had to do with the Concordata, his defence of rigour in applying the anti-monastic laws and his proposal of the introduction of civil marriage. In 1859 he used the royalties from his publications to buy the Vale de Lobos estate near Santarém, where he began to spend much of his time. When he married in 1866 he moved to the estate completely, where he continued his work as an historian and polemicist but also dedicated himself to agriculture. He saw this withdrawal as a civic protest against the lack of direction and excesses of constitutional monarchism. Alexandre Herculano was a poet, novelist, historian, journalist, defender of the country's heritage, a farmer, an upright citizen and a rigorous researcher - in addition to introducing Romanticism to Portugal (together with Garrett). He died at Vale de Lobos on 13 September 1877. The great respect he commanded was reflected in the many demonstrations of mourning around the country. In 1910 the centennial of his was commemorated nationwide. In 1977 there were also official commemorations of the centennial of his death.

In 1888 Herculano's remains were transferred to the Chapterhouse in the Jerónimos Monastery, which had been expressly prepared to receive him in a tomb built with public donations.

Fernando Pessoa
Fernando António Nogueira Pessoa (Lisbon, 13 June 1888 - Lisbon, 30 November 1935) is regarded as one of the greatest Portuguese and European poets of the 20th century. As he spent part of his childhood in South Africa, where he had moved to at the age of seven when his mothers married, he learned to read and write in English first. Of the four works he published in his lifetime, three were written in English. Pessoa also translated many works from English into Portuguese. During his inconspicuous life he worked in many different fields, including journalism, advertising, commerce and, of course, writing. In his huge body of work, which has been progressively studied in recent years and which consists of many writings under several heteronyms - Álvaro de Campos, Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Bernardo Soares - we find an original polyphonic form of examining the multiplicity, diversity, transmutability and identity of contemporary man. Fernando Pessoa died at the age of 47 in the city of his birth.

Pessoa's remains were transferred to the Cloister in the Jerónimos Monastery in 1985; his tomb was made by the master sculptor Lagoa Henriques.
Source: Dicionário de História de Portugal, Direcção Joel Serrão, Livraria Figueirinhas/Porto, 1990

 

 

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