Friends of Boa Onda Guesthouse Peniche welcome back with news from our travel blog dedicated to Portugal. In this article we will talk about the flag of Portugal trying to offer you useful technical information as well as the main historical notes. This post continues a list of outings dedicated to discovering the curiosities of Portugal.
Flag of Portugal
Flags are never a random assortment of colours, patterns and symbols. Although some flags are more beautiful than others, colours and motifs are never chosen simply because they are beautiful. Everything has a meaning and significance.
The Portuguese flag is no different. The red and green were not chosen simply because the committee that designed the flag liked those colours.
They were chosen because of their significance for Portugal’s past and future.
In 1911, a year after the fall of the Portuguese monarchy and the transformation of Portugal into a republic, a special group was formed to design a flag to symbolise the new Portugal. This committee included the painter Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, the journalist João Chagas and the writer Abel Botelho.
After much discussion and debate, they presented the design of the flag that we know today, but initially it was not accepted by all. In fact, it was considered controversial. The committee had to explain each of its choices and why they were important for this new flag.
The flag of Portugal was officially adopted on 30 June 1911, although its actual use began from the time of the Republican Revolution of 5 October 1910.
Historical notes on the Portuguese flag
According to legend, Count Afonso Henriques achieved a decisive victory over the Moorish forces at Ourique in 1139. The five shields he allegedly snatched from the hands of five Moorish kings were then reflected in the five blue shields of his white banner. Each shield bore five white discs for the five wounds of Christ who, according to tradition, appeared before the battle and ensured the count’s success.
In the 13th century, King Afonso III added a red border with golden castles to the shield as a symbol of the neighbouring kingdom of Castile; this may have occurred in 1254, when he married Beatriz of Castile (Alfonso X’s illegitimate daughter) and had the territory known as the Algarve transferred to Portugal.
Surmounted by a crown, these arms have appeared on many Portuguese flags over the centuries: for example, after 1640, when Portugal regained independence from Spain, its flags were white with the royal arms.
In 1816, the symbol of Brazil, the armillary sphere, was added behind the shield. The armillary sphere had been used as a navigational tool by previous Portuguese kings who had sponsored voyages of exploration and settlement around the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although this symbol was abandoned in the 1820s, when Brazil became independent, it was revived on 30 June 1911, following the October 1910 revolution that overthrew the monarchy and made Portugal a republic.
At the same time, green and red replaced the white and blue background stripes of the flag, in use since 1830. Red was the colour of the revolutionary flag and green was added so as not to confuse the new national flag with the old royal standard, which had a simple red background. Green and red were also present in many early Portuguese flags, such as those of the Order of Christ and those with the Avis crosses.
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