St. Anthony or St. Vincent: Who´s the patron saint of Lisbon?
Ask a Lisboner who’s the city’s patron saint and the top-of-mind answer might as well be “Saint Anthony”. This one is surely the most popular saint in town and his popularity has largely surpassed St. Vincent’s, who happens to be the official patron saint of Lisbon, even though we don’t have joyful reasons to celebrate him. Why is that so?
St. Vincent and the conquest of Lisbon
If you look at the coat of arms and the flag of Lisbon you will find a ship with two ravens. The story behind it refers to St. Vincent, a saint originally from Aragon (nowadays, Spain), who lived in the exactly another edge of Iberia between the 3rd and 4th centuries. He was martyred to death for refusing to worship pagan gods. With the Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in the eighth century, the body of St. Vincent was placed on a ship adrift in the sea, arriving to this side of Iberia at the coast in the Sacrum Promontory, Cape of Sagres, the most Extreme southwest point of continental Europe, meanwhile renamed Cape St. Vincent.
According to the legend, our founding king D. Afonso Henriques, in the twelve century, made a vow to recover the body of St. Vincent if he would conquer Lisbon to the Moors. After a siege around the castle that lasted for sixty days, D. Afonso Henrique took the city in 1147. Keeping his word, he sent agents to find the remains of St. Vincent that were hidden somewhere in Algarve. Not an easy task since the remains were missing since the occupation of the Iberia by the Moors in the 8th century.
It was only in 1173 that the saint’s relics were finally discovered and sent by ship to Lisbon. Two ravens protected the ship during the whole trip. In that same year St. Vincent was named the patron saint of Lisbon. As the ship and the two crows became symbols of the city, present not only in its coat of arms on the city flag, but also in many of the beautiful street lamps the city’s public lighting.
The Day of Saint Vincent is the 22nd of January but Lisbon’s public holiday is the 13th of June, the Day of Saint Anthony.
Let us explain to you why we worship so much Saint Anthony!
St. Anthony, the patron saint elected by the people
St. Anthony was born in 1195 in Lisbon. He became very popular both in Portugal and Italy during his life and he was canonized in 1232, only one year after his death, in Padua. Now you know: St Anthony of Lisbon and St Anthony of Padua are both the same man.
Once born in Lisbon, a Lisboner saint will be forever. We can only worship this good saint: He is the matchmaker for those who want to find their better half; He blesses weddings; He protects amputees, animals, elderly people, poor people, oppressed people, expectant mothers, boatmen and fishermen, travelers, harvests, against shipwrecks and starvation; He including helps finding lost objects by simply saying 9 times a specific praying called Respond to Saint Anthony. All in all, he seems to be the one everyone can turn to in times of need or despair and the same one everyone can celebrate in times of joy.
Being a Portuguese saint, who protects everyone, helps to get a good marriage and whose day is celebrated just before the beginning of the summer it is quite easy to understand how St. Anthony became the favorite saint of Lisboners and the patron saint chosen by the people.
Lisboners are so fond of their elected patron saint that people celebrate the whole of June through, decorating the neighborhoods with beautiful and colorful paper wreaths, and all the neighbors come together organizing streets parties — called Arraial — dancing and grilling sardines all night long or in true pilgrimages in the search of the best Arraial.
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