Stone statuary and the French Invasions

Examples of monuments evoking the Peninsular War can be found all over the country, particularly in the regions where the fighting was the most violent. The statues located in Lisbon and Porto stand out for their magnificence, beauty and emotional significance.

In Lisbon, at Rotunda de Entrecampos, formerly known as Mouzinho de Albuquerque Square, stands the “Memorial to the Heroes of the Peninsular War”. Begun in 1908, at the time of the celebrations of the 1st centennial – the first stone was laid by King Manuel II –, it was inaugurated in 1933. Its authors are Francisco de Oliveira Ferreira (architect) and his brother José (sculptor) and represent a tribute to the role played by the Portuguese people during the Peninsular War.

The monument is 16 meters high and represents Portugal as a castle defended by its people. The several groups of figures at the base evoke several episodes: at the front, the insurgent people fiercely defend past glories; on the left, the strain and uproar of war; at the back, the lion embodies the strength of the people; and on the right, devastated houses, a plundered church and a child kneeling at her father’s feet, both crying over their misery and misfortune. The whole set is crowned by a group of figures representing the Portuguese people snatching their flag from the talons of an Imperial eagle (the symbol of Napoleon’s empire).

In Porto, at Rotunda da Boavista, stands another “Memorial to the Heroes of the Peninsular War”, at the very centre of the garden of the Mouzinho de Albuquerque Square (interestingly, at the time the memorials were built both the Lisbon and Porto squares had the same designation).

Signed by Alves de Sousa, the sculptor, it was begun in 1909, but was not finished until 1951. It consists of a 45-meter high plinth encircled by several groups of sculptures that depict the sacrifice and victory of the people of Porto in this war – the disaster of Ponte das Barcas, artillery scenes and the decisive role played by the population in the fight. The female element can be seen in all the groups: at the front of the main group, a woman named Victoria leads the people holding the national flag on her left hand and a sword on the right. The upper section is a column on tops of which stands a lion, the symbol of the Portuguese victory, bringing down the French imperial eagle.

Next time you go past these places, stop to admire these true works of art.

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