Lisbon, Day II

Lisbon has a weekly flea market in the shadow of the 17th century Church of Sao Vincente de Fora.   After exiting the rickety tram that wound us up through the Alfama the next morning we wandered towards the church.  We found our way by noting the increased number of University students lugging antique mirrors and carved side tables back to their apartments as we moved further down the hill.   The sprawling market has an eclectic mix of old world book sellers, hairy legged hippies making hemp bracelets, Guinean’s hawking African statues, antique furniture with navel carvings, and the usual ‘junk from my closet’ collections of television remotes, half sets of china, empty chipped frames, and old shoes rubber banded together all spread across an old bed sheet.  I bought several black and white postcards of Lisbon from the early 1900’s but I found my haggling skills much diminished in this non Middle-Eastern country and I’m sure I paid too much.

Many of the churches in the Alfama share a roving preacher and are closed to the public much of the time.  We were very fortunate to catch the Church of Sao Vincente de Fora open for a few minutes after the flea market.  One of the enclaves has a pretty gruesome statue depicting a man, hands shackled but outstretched, and his heart plucked out – blood gushing down his chest.  My training in Catholic saints in minimal so we asked the caretaker about it as she ushered us out the doors to close for the day.  She told us that Sao Joao Do Brito was a Portuguese Jesuit who preached in southern India during the 17th century.  After a significant amount of success he was martyred – slayed through the heart.  My reading revealed that when he instructed a convert to divorce all but one of his wives one of the unhappy (an powerful) women began a campaign against Sao Joao Do Brito and he was later killed as he became increasingly unpopular among the upper class and religious Brahmin.  Funny though, in all my reading I couldn’t find anything about him being stabbed through the heart.  It’s a great story all the same.   I think that kind of history meets legend meets symbolism meets religious expression is what is so fascinating to me about religious iconography. 

After a lunch of pork chops – the first in months – and grilled sardines – which I’m slowly becoming obsessed with – we headed up to the Sao George Castle for a few hours.  This castle was first built by the Moors in the 12th century.   We spent quite a bit of time taking in views of they city and reading up on Lisbon from a shady spot we found…down in the dry castle moat.   It was good to rest our feet, but we spent a considerably amount of time trying not to get busted by the grounds police and making jokes about the number of dead bodies/animals/garbage and sundry things that had no doubt made their way into the soil through the moat.

 After that we checked out the School of Portugese Decorative Arts --an awesome old house full of enough patterns, prints, tiles and carvings to make your head spin—ate a mediocre Indo-Portuguese Curry and, shame of my shame, caught an American movie in English.  In my defense, all of the movies in Casablanca are in French or Arabic and never subtitled in English.  For a few moments I felt like I was back home at Movies 8 with a purse full of smuggled in candy. 

I guess sometimes travel is as much about discovering home as it is about discovering new places.

1 comment: