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How the Central Square of Lisbon Came to Have a Rearranged Statue of Maximiliano of Austria.

Updated on May 13, 2020
Sandra Miliers profile image

Sandra was born in Toronto, but with a swedish mother. Came to Europe for university and ended up travelling the world.

Rossio - central square of Lisbon.

If you go to Lisbon, you will without a doubt see Rossio, the main square of the city, and the most important for the local people. Today it is a very beautiful square, pavemented in black and white "waves", and surrounded by jockrand, or chakaranda trees, as the portuguese would say. In the middle of the square, there is a big statue, high up in the air, a statue of a man. It's Peter IV of Portugal, or in reality it is not.

Rossio square with the jockrand trees.
Rossio square with the jockrand trees.

Grandson to queen Mary I

The story of the statue of Peter, or Pedro as he is known in Portugal, started because of himself, and his ideas, and I think quite alot of boredom.

Pedro was born the grandson to the then current queen Mary (or Maria) I of Portugal. When he was just a little kid, Napoleon arrived, trying to conquer Portugal and instead of fighting him like she should have done, his grandmother, the queen decided to take her family and staffpeople and flee to Brazil, which was Portugal's then safest (and richest) colony.

Peter grew up in Brazil, and was now getting accistomized to the climate, parties and luxurious lifestyle. As early as his teens, he became known as a lady's man, who had a wealthy family, loads of money, and no intention to "grow up". In other words, an "easy prey" for the ladies around him looking to "upgrade" their "civilstatus".

So Peter loved his partying, but eventually, like all royals during that time period, Peter had to get married, to secure the bloodline for future generations of kings and queens and princesses and princes. He married Amalia, but as it was more of a "convenience marriage" than anything else,he didn't really care for her to much, and lived on his life as a lady's man.

With his wife, Peter eventually became the father to Maria and Peter, to whom he later, as he wasn't to interested in governing countries either, gave Portugal and Brazil. His daughter was now the queen of Portugal and his son, the emperor of a newly liberated Brazil. Peter now had too much free time on his hands I think, and decided to go and explore a legend that he had heard about during his upbringing.

The legend said that during the time when the royals were in Brazil, and Napoleon had occupied Portugal, Napoleon also had some business on the other side of the atlantic ocean. Allegedly, he had helped the emperor Maximilano of Austria, gain territory in Mexico, something that he had grown very proud of. So Napoleon had decided that there was going to be a statue made, in France, of the emperor Maximiliano, a statue that was later going to be sent to Mexico and be placed at the entrance of the first port where all the ships arrived.

However, the statue didn't make it. It had left France, but while the boat was pit stopped in Lisbon before crossing the atlantic ocean, the emperor Maxiliano was assainated. The captain of the ship now got scared, and decided to leave the statue in a boat house in Lisbon, to continue over the atlantic ocean without it.

So there was supposed to be a giant statue of the emperor Maximilano somewhere in a boathouse in Lisbon. Peter and his friends decided to go and see if the legend was true or not, and also they thought, maybe we can do something with the statue.

They eventually found in one of the boat houses, a statue that matched the description of what they had heard. Peter and his friends looked at it circuling around it, and when Peter saw the statue from the very front he said to his friends " doesn't this look like me?"

His friends very not to sure about Peter's thoughts, but Peter decided that the statue was going to look like him, and had it sent to a special workshop that rearranged the face of the statue to look like Peter's face. When the "remodelation" was done, Peter again showed the statue to his friends saying " look, NOW it looks like me!", but his friends still did not agree, thinking the statue now, did not really look like anything.

Peter now wanted to place the statue on the central square of Lisbon, but the local politicians were against this. Things went back and forth, Peter saying yes,yes,yes, and the local politicians saying no as they were not ok with what the statue looked like and came from. At the end, Peter had enough and said, "you know what, if you have such big problems with my face, I will have made a big pole and we'll place the statue on top of that, so nobody can see my face".

Peter ended up getting his way. The rearranged statue allegedly of Maximiliano of Austria now had become the statue of Peter IV of Portugal, and it was placed at the Rossio square. Even till today, the statue is standing in the middle of the square, although Peter left this earthly life centuries ago.

Statue of Peter IV on the Rossio square in Lisbon.
Statue of Peter IV on the Rossio square in Lisbon.

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