Last week we went for an “immersive experience” called Lisbon Legends – a 360º multimedia show that takes us through the legends and historical episodes of Lisbon’s 7 hills – inside the ruins of the Carmo Convent, a 14th century Gothic style convent destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.
Event though this is an outdoor event, we are required to sanitize our hands upon entry, mask must be worn and social distancing maintained throughout the perfomance.
The show starts at 21:30. Each story is present by a legendary Lisboeta in Portuguese, with explanations in English by a raven named Alexander Search.
Alexander Seach is one of several semi-heteronyms created by the Portuguese poet and writer Fernando Pessoa, who under which name wrote many poems and letters to himself.
Olísipo by Fernando Pessoa
Lisbon was born from a myth…
Here the great poet tells the story of an ancient land called Ophiussa, ruled by a queen, half woman, half serpent. On his return journey from the city of Troy, the Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) arrived in Ophiussa. The queen fell for him and did everything she could to stop him from leaving. But our hero would not be swayed from his love for his wife Penelope. As soon as his men were rested and supplies replenished, Odysseus took off. The Queen hastily chased after him. Legend has it that her arms turned serpents and formed the hills of Lisbon.
The name Olisipo was given by the Romans. The land was later named al-Us̲h̲būna by the Arabs, and over the centuries became Lisboa.
Colina- Santa Catarina by Luís Vaz de Camões
The great poet Luís Vaz de Camões introduces us to Santa Catarina Hill. It is home to the statue of the mythical monster Adamastor.
We follow the epic poetry “Os Lusíadas” – which celebrates the discovery of a sea route to India by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama – as Camões shows us the giant being banished by Zeus from Olympus to Earth.
We also learned the origin of the Portuguese expression “Ficar a ver navios” – meaning someone waits for something to happen but it never does – traces back to the time when king Dom Sebastião went to a battle and never came back, leaving the throne vacant. In need of a monarch, the people of Lisbon frequented the hill of Santa Catarina, watched the sea, waiting for the king’s return, which he never did.
Colina- São Vicente by Almada Negreiros
Almada Negreiros, artist and futurist, tells the story how King Afonso Henriques recovered the bones of Saint Vincent of Saragossa at a cave in the Algarve and had it shipped to Lisbon, accompanied by two ravens.
This act is depicted on the coat of arms of Lisbon, as seen on many Lisbon street lamps. The bones claimed to be those of Saint Vincent – the patron saint of Lisbon – remain in a silver coffin in Lisbon’s Cathedral.
Almada also shows us one of the most emblematic buildings in Portugal – the National Pantheon, where great names of Portugal, such as the fado singer Amália Rodrigues was buried.
Colina- Santana by Diogo Alves
Between 1836 and 1840, the famous aqueduct killer robbed and murdered seventy people by throwing them off the Águas Livres Aqueduct.
Diogo Alves was sentenced to death and became the penultimate hanged criminal in Portugal. After the execution, scientists separated his head from the body (headless Nick anyone?) and studied his brain in an effort to gain understanding into his violent actions. His head is now preserved in a flask at the Museu da Faculdade de Medicina de Lisboa.
Diogo tells us that other men were, like him, “unjustly” hanged on this hill, giving rise to the famous Praça dos Mártires da Pátria (Martyr’s Square) in Arroios.
Colina- São Jorge by Maria Severa
The famed fado singer and portuguese guitarist recounts several tales on the hill of São Jorge.
During the Siege of Lisbon in the Christian Reconquesta, knight Martim Moniz sacrificed himself by lodging his body in the doorway of the Castle São Jorge to prevent the Moors from fully closing the door, gaining time for his fellow soldiers to arrive and secure the door, leading to the eventual capture of the castle.
At the Lisbon Cathedral, suspecious of the Bishop Dom Martinho Annes plotting with the Castilians, the angry residents threw him out of the window of the northern tower.
At the Madalena Church, a poor boy escaped death after seeing the image of the Christ of Forgiveness.
Immediately in front of Largo do Limoeiro, next to the old jail, we find Pátio do Carrasco. This is where the last executioner of Portugal Luis António Alves dos Santos once lived. Some say that there’s an underground tunnel through which Luís walked to the Limoeiro prison, where screams can still be heard today.
Colina- São Roque by Dona Maria II
Her Majesty, Queen Maria II guides us up São Roque hill.
The name of this hill is linked to the story of São Roque: the saint who caught the disease that he helped to cure.
The Queen, accompanied by Alexander Search, tells us that from the top of this hill she can see its theatre and all the surrounding area, such as the famous Café Gelo that D. Maria II remembers as a place that became famous among the Portuguese at the time.
Colina- Santo André by Marquis of Pombal
The great Marquis of Pombal introduces us to the Santo André hill.
Marquês shows us how after the 1755 earthquake, the city was rebuilt with “burro” bricks, made with the clay – a mixture of mud and bones from the numerous cemeteries on this hill. This is where the famous expression “Fazer Tijolo” comes from, usually associated with someone’s death.
Our guide tells us that at the top of this hill is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Monte and its famous chair of São Gens, which has miraculous powers and is still sought after today.
Colina- Chagas by D. Nuno Álvares Pereira
The hill of Chagas is as noble as its host – D. Nuno Álvares Pereira.
As a great warrior and strategist, D. Nuno tells us the legend of his sword forged by the skill of the “alfageme de Santarém” (Burgomaster of Santarém). This sword accompanied him in countless battles and led him to the most diverse victories.
Speaking of bravery, D. Nuno recalls how brave were the soldiers who stood in front of the Convent of Carmo on April 25, 1974, a date that will remain forever in the memory of the Portuguese.
Accompanied by Alexander – the wise raven, D. Nuno recalls other important moments of his hill, such as the day the devil walked through the streets of Chiado – which sadly I had no recollection of 😦 – or the fateful fire of August 25th, 1988.
But, Lisbon is not limited to 7 hills, there’s a 8th one…
Colina- Graça by Frei Nicolau
So there you have it.
The Lisbon Legend – a safe and memorial experience at the former Carmo Convent! Thanks to all the artists, I learned a few things about Lisbon that I did not know of before.
I highly recommend this show if you happen to be in Lisbon when it is running.
Lisbon Legends – Ruínas do Carmo
Address: Convento do Carmo, Largo do Carmo, 1200-092 Lisboa
Phone: 912 620 782
Coming up next: Chinese Braised Spare Ribs