Republic Day, more fully named “Implantation of the Republic Day,” is a public holiday in Portugal that comes every October 5th to commemorate the overthrow of the monarchy and establishment of a republic in Portugal on that date in 1910.
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The House of Braganca, which had ruled the country since Alfonso Henriques became Portugal’s first king in 1139 paved the way to a republic. As it turned out, however that republic only lasted 16 years, and those few years saw nine presidents, riots, oppression, assassinations, and near anarchy on a regular basis. Despite the republican and democratic style of government set up by the 1911 constitution, the republican experiment ended in a coup in 1926.
In 1933, the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar was set up on the ruins of the republic, and he stayed in power under 1974. The failed struggle of Portugal to hold onto its overseas colonies in Africa in the 1960’s and 1970’s led to his demise, after the struggle ended in humiliation and defeat. In 1974, a bloodless coup called “the Carnation Revolution” overthrew the dictatorship, set free the rebellious colonies, and re-established democratic rule, new elections being held in 1976.
In 2011, Republic Day and three other holidays were eliminated from the calendar due to “EU austerity measures,” but they were restored again in January of 2016 due to popular unrest.
There are not really any Republic day events and traditions commonly kept up by the people of Portugal, except for a few official, ceremonious acts by those in government, but there are still relevant things to do in Portugal this time of year:
- See any of the dozens of old Portuguese palaces from monarchical days. We mention but three: the mid-18th-Century Pimenta Palace in Lisbon, which also houses The Museum of the City of Lisbon; the Pena Palace in Sintra (near Lisbon), which is really a castle on a hill and one of the official “Seven Wonders of Portugal;” and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, located in northern Portugal in the town of Guimaraes.
- Tour the Military Museum of Porto, indeed in the town of Porto to the north of Lisbon on the coast. There is military equipment of different ages on display, ranging from the 15th through the 20th Centuries, and there is a special room showcasing the 1891 revolution that was the first attempt to establish a Portuguese republic. But the main attraction is the huge display of over 16,000 miniature soldiers that tell the story of Portugal’s military history in a graphic, artistic form.
- If you will be in Portugal as late as October 13th, that is a pilgrimage day to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in the Portuguese town of Fatima. However, the shrine is open to visitors all year round. It is one of the most well-known Marian shrines in the world, built at a site where three shepherd children claim Mary came and spoke to them in 1917, during the dark days of the ill-going first republic and of World War I. The basilica is very grand and imposing, and there is an outdoor Chapel of Apparitions at the site of the alleged appearance. There are also stations of the cross, a parish church, and statues of the three children.
Those touring Portugal on Republic Day will find that few Portuguese celebrate it, but they will also find many interesting tourist stops that relate to the history and times it represents.