A few years ago, walking along Avenida da Boavista accompanied by my two older nephews…
― Kids, who knows what is that up there?!
— It’s the Eagle and the Lion in Rotunda da Boavista (Boavista Roundabout)!
I smiled while thinking of how right – and also how wrong – the answer was.
The Monument to the Heroes of the Peninsular War was designed by architect Marques da Silva and sculptor Alves de Sousa. Its construction, under the responsibility of the Cooperativa dos Pedreiros, began in 1909, but the monument was only to be inaugurated in 1952, after the premature death of Alves de Sousa, so its completion was the responsibility of sculptors Henrique Moreira and José Sousa Caldas.
The monument is intended to honour the heroes of the Peninsular War, fought in the context of the French invasions, which opposed Portugal – helped by their ally England – to the French armies of Napoleon Bonaparte, in the period from 1808 to 1814.
My nephews didn’t know this part, but as their tender age did not recommend “wars”, I ended up explaining to them that there was a bit of a bad Frenchman who wanted only cheese to be eaten in Portugal! So, we asked our English friends for help and sent the French “to hell” with their cheese! At the time, I couldn’t think of any better nonsense explanation, but they retained the correct basic idea. I hope…
Composed of a pedestal 45 metres high and surrounded by sculptural groups that represent artillery scenes, the monument features a woman – Vitória – in front of the people, holding the national flag in her left hand and a sword in her right hand. At the top, a high column topped by a lion (symbol of the flag of England) over an eagle (symbol of Napoleon’s empire), elements that gave it the popular name for which it is known.