The Portuguese Church has, in the past, held the largest collection of the country’s goldsmithery and jewellery, which included liturgical items as well as civil jewellery that came into the possession of the Church by means of votive offerings. A relevant sample of this specific heritage can still be seen in the national museums and churches. The Institution’s conservatism has enabled to keep many of the items in their original forms and compositions, which constitute good contributions for the study of the use of precious stones through time.
As far as jewellery is concerned, Portugal experienced two turning periods as a result of the new and abundant gems that poured into the country, particularly in the 16th century, after the Discoveries, and in the 18th century, ensuing the discovery of gold and gems in Brazil. The scarcity of materials in the Middle Ages is quite noticeable in the coeval production, as evidenced by one of the most important medieval pieces, D. Sancho I’s gold procession cross (13th century), decorated with sapphires, garnets and pearls. Some of these gems have come from the Orient and are indeed quite old, as suggested by their cutting and by the inscriptions engraved in some of them.
During the 16th century, gems in greater amount and variety were brought to Portugal from Goa, prompting the creation of bolder and richer jewels and setting new stylistic trends all over Europe. However, it was with the discovery of gold, diamonds and coloured gemstones (e.g. topazes, amethysts, chrysoberyls, aquamarines, rock crystals, and garnet reds) in Brazil, especially after the second half of the 18th century, that Portuguese jewellery underwent a swift development and gained its very own identity. Both amid the civil jewellery, that as ex votos decorated sacred images, like the big bouquet pin from the collection of the Evora archdiocese embellished with topazes, chrysoberyls and diamonds, as amid commissioned items, such as the large bodice ornament said to have belonged to the statue of the Virgin of Carmo, Lisboa, currently at the Soares dos Reis National Museum, one can find good examples of the use made in those days of the gems and colours imported from Brazil.
People’s devotion continues to encourage the production of ornaments and other objects of devotion in present times. One of the most renowned cases is the precious crown of Our Lady of Fatima, made by the company Leitão & Irmão in gold, silver and gems, which is a gift from the Portuguese mothers to the Image. To this crown, kept at the Sanctuary since 1946, was recently added a piece of high symbolic value: the bullet that struck Pope John Paul II during the attempt on his live in 1981 and which is now placed inside the crown.
Technical DetailsIssue Date: 22.03.2010
Designer: Atelier Acacio Santos / Elizabete Fonseca
Size: 40 x 30,6 mm, 125 x 95 mm
Values: ?2,00, ?2,50,?2,95, ?3,74