The Thrones of Santo António, Lisbon

The Thrones of Santo António, Lisbon, Portugal. Design: @foartista

In the month of June, the popular saints are coming, and Lisbon begins to prepare to celebrate his beloved Saint Anthony! The party is nice, and it promises, as always. In the downtown, the saleswomen show their flowers (“manjericos”), with their beautiful poems of love. Near the church of Santo António, together with the statue of the saint, two Chinese tourists try to hit some pennies, in the search of their loves…

Street sell of “manjericos”, Largo de Santo António, Lisbon, Portugal

Walking through the streets of old Mouraria, climbing to the Castelo or down the steps and alleys of Alfama, already adorned with colorful ribbons, balloons and little flags, we find here and there, by the doors or windows, the thrones of Santo António. Along with the improvised bars, for the sale of sardines, bifanas and beer or wine, the kids expose their prosaic thrones of Santo Antonio and ask for a coin for tourists and visitors.

Little throne of Santo António, streets of Alfama, Lisbon, during the popular parties in June
Throne of Santo António 2015, Museu de Lisboa – Santo António, Lisbon, Portugal

The sizes, materials and props for creating a throne of Santo António vary according to the taste of its creators or the specific references of each group or neighborhood. In a wooden or cardboard structure, in a staircase or cascade, carpeted with fine tissues and lace, the “manjericos” or other flowers are distributed in devotion to the saint, candles to raise the requests to heaven, small dishes or piggy banks for the little contributions. The rest of the decoration is completed to the liking of each creator, not forgetting the obligatory figure of the saint, at the top of the throne, sometimes, also accompanied by other popular or sacred figures. Generally, the “manjericos” come with little poems or other phrases and requests.

Thrones of Santo António 2016 and 2017, Museu de Lisboa – Santo António, Lisbon, Portugal

This old tradition, deeply identity of the Lisbon neighborhoods, almost fallen into oblivion, nevertheless begins, today, to be better known and recovered. It goes back to the eighteenth century, after the great earthquake of 1755, which destroyed the church of Santo António, leading the children of the choir of the church erected in the streets, thrones to the saint, to ask for coins for the reconstruction of the church of Santo António.

Church of Santo António, largo de Santo António, Lisbon, Portugal. Rebuilt after the Earthquake of 1755
Popular throne of Santo António, streets of Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal

The customs, the faith, the prayers and the responsories remained, as well as the desire for celebration and grace. The kids, on the streets, continued to ask for “cinco reizinhos para o Santo António” and later, “meio tostãozinho para o Santo Antonio”. Every year, in June, during the popular festivities, there are still some of the doors and windows of old Lisbon, the thrones of Santo António, festive and colorful, honoring the saint miracle worker, the patron saint of all causes, with special focus on matchmaking affairs.

Procession of Santo António in 13th of June, streets of Alfama, Lisbon
Popular thrones of Santo António, streets of Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal

There were times when the creation of the thrones of Santo António represented a great and laborious construction of the communities of the neighborhoods, which competed happily among themselves, encouraged by the institutions and newspapers of the time. Nowadays, the autarchy tries to revitalize this tradition, through initiatives of the Museu de Lisboa – Santo António, located in the Largo de Santo António, near the place where the saint was born and played, in the late 12th century. Annually, it promotes to the population of the traditional neighborhoods, a contest of thrones of Santo António, with the objective of transforming the city into a great exhibition hall in the open air, celebrated by all people.

Text and photos: @foartista.

Poster, Thrones of Santo António in Lisbon. Design: @foartista

View more in: