We have arrived at the long-awaited Santo António, one of the most celebrated days in the city of Lisbon and celebrated as a municipal holiday in Lisbon on 13 June, a day that attracts many tourists to get to know a little of the specific culture of this time of year.
If you are curious to really understand the motivations behind this festivity and the origins of Santo António, this article was created specifically for you!
Who was, after all, Saint Anthony?
Santo António or Fernando António de Bulhões, was born in Lisbon on August 15th 1195. From a noble and wealthy family, he was the only son of Martinho Bulhões and Tereza Taveira.
He entered the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, at the age of 15, where he began his religious formation. He then also studied at the Monastery of Santa Cruz de Coimbra, where he received a solid philosophical and religious formation. In 1220 St Anthony was ordained a priest.
Later he decided to join the Franciscan Order and received the habit of St. Francis, with the name Friar Anthony. Wherever he went, his preaching found a strong popular echo, for he was attributed with prodigious deeds which contributed to the growth of his reputation for sanctity.
Protector of lost things, of marriages and of the poor, he is the Saint of miracles. He performed many miracles while he was still alive, and it is said that he cured many blind, deaf, lame and other sick people. He wrote the Sermons, which are printed in two large volumes of his work.
St Anthony eventually died in Padua, Italy, on 13th June 1231, aged only 36. In Lisbon the church bells began to ring by themselves and only then did the people learn of the Saint’s death. He is also called Saint Anthony of Lisbon because of his city of origin.
His reputation for holiness led him to be canonised by the Catholic Church shortly after his death. In 1934 he was declared Patron Saint of Portugal and in 1946 he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII.
Due to his great popularity, his name is commemorated with great festivities all over the world where the devotion has taken root, moving pilgrims, institutions, sacred and profane, as well as the commerce, and in cities where the festivities are traditional and important, hotels, inns and restaurants fill up and the shops offer souvenirs of various types, which are sold by the thousands.
Saint Anthony weddings
Taking the notion of matchmaker that marked this Saint, who during his life always tried to give his contribution in favour of the underprivileged, the Diário Popular newspaper started in 1958, an activity that quickly became popular. It was a series of weddings, held on 12 June (the day before the feast) for couples without the financial means to enter into marriage.
In 1974, the tradition was interrupted and only returned in 2004, through the Lisbon City Hall that recovered the Santo António Marriages with the same purpose of providing the union to sixteen couples in a memorable day for their families and for all Lisboners.
This way, and as usual, Lisbon Cathedral serves as the stage for this very special event, which is followed live on television and by thousands of people present. Afterwards, the bride and groom follow along with the marches.
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