The Peninsular War was a major 19th century military conflict between the French (Napoleon), Spanish, Portuguese and British (Wellington), which dramatically altered Europe’s balance of power within Europe and the Americas. Yet it is one we hardly think about these days in England, unless like me you read Georgette Heyer! I suspect it is also a conflict little thought of by the Portuguese these days as the French brutality and desertion by the Portuguese ruling elite was 150 years later later replaced by the horror of the Salazar dictatorship, Estado Novo. However 100 years after the Peninsula Wars the bravery of those who stood up to and fought the French was remembered, and captured forever in two monuments, one in Lisboa and the other in Porto.
Both are titled ‘Memorial to the Heroes of the Peninsular War’. We’ve not seen the one in Porto but thanks to MrB spotting a picture of the monument in the Gulbenkian’s modern collection, we did track down the one in Lisboa.
We were fascinated by it as not only is it huge, but it is quite unlike most war memorials I have ever come across. It reflects life before the war, the war itself and the impact of a brutal military occupation on civilian life by depicting a woman or is it child crying at the man’s feet. It also manages to capture the joy of a nation when they regain their independence, or in this case the flag from their oppressors (eagle). Visit here for a more detailed explanation.
It is magnificent. What I do find ironic though is that this ‘dramatic depiction of a people caught up in brutality’ (as described by Barry Hatton in his ‘The Portuguese, A Modern History‘) was inaugurated during the Salazar’s dictatorship.
I am really glad we saw it but a word of warning it is not an adventure I would want to repeat. Rotunda de Entrecampos, the roundabout in which is located, is very busy, and there is no way of accessing the monument itself. The Porto one is also in the middle of a roundabout, but has a park surrounding it so a visit to that one looks like it is a much more pleasurable experience.