Portuguese Phaleristics is considerably rich and deserving serious study, despite being little known.
A variety of factors has made the collection of Portuguese medals become attractive: its award for a variety of purposes, directly related with Portuguese history, its symbology and motifs, used in the past two centuries
However, the classification of this wide variety of medals created with the intention of being ostensibly worn by its recipients, has proved to be not an easy task.
Back, in 1916, Artur Lamas, a well-known Portuguese numismatist and collector, already recognized the difficulties of its classification, in his book “Medalhas Portuguesas e Estrangeiras referentes a Portugal », Part I- “Medalhas Comemorativas”.
Notwithstanding, the latter proposed a classification, dividing medals, in general, into four great groups, this being the first and only attempt of doing so made, up to our days:
A. – Commemorative of facts, of personalities to whom they were dedicated, of monuments, etc.
B. – Reward or Prize for:
a) humanitarian service;
b patriotic services like those conferred, both to civilians and service men, on the occasion of military campaigns, or those awarded exclusively to members of the armed forces, etc.;
c) political service;
d) services or acts of a scientific, artistic, literary or industrial character;
1 – Miscellaneous;
3) School Medals;
e) miscellaneous services;
f) sport events
C. – Medals-Insignia of:
a) Orders: religious, military and of merit;
b) Corporations or religious orders;
c) Humanitarian corporations;
d) Patriotic associations;
e) Political Parties;
f) Scientific, literary and artistic Societies and of Congresses;
g) Class guilds;
h) Miscellaneous Corporations.
D. – Religious or cultural, commonly called Verónicas or Veneras (marks of honour, token of a religious order)
In Artur Lamas opinion decorations ought to be included in Groups B and C:
“In this classification decorations – or medals made to be ostensibly worn by certain people according to special laws – are not a class in its own; they fit among the categories of Reward and Insignia.
This theme is far from being consensual but it is not our aim to discuss it here or to advance a new classification, since this one does not seem to be the more adequate in our days.
For presentation in our website, Portuguese Medals were divided into four great groups, although mixed in their contents, though risking to denote a certain lack of rigour.
An “easy” way of classifying medals would be to order them chronologically immediately identified with historical events in Portugal. But, by doing so, the continuity of the historical symbolism of those medals would be lost. Indeed it must be stressed that despite the radical changes of political regimes which have occurred in Portugal (civil wars 1828-34) and the Republic in 1910), the medals previously awarded did not disappear, being merely adapted as regards its wearing, and ideologically adjusted as regards its concessions.
Beyond the political and ideological discussions that took place in various of those moments of radical political ruptures, prevailed the idea that decorations, as visible signs of recognition of services by the State, were above and cross-cut those events and as such, important to the new society.
Images of some of those medals will be posted in this website and for a more detailed information, articles will regularly be published in our Bulletin «Pro Phalaris» and in other publications due to appear in the near future.
by Paulo J. Estrela
Pages will be coming soon dedicated to:
- The Peninsular War
- Military Medals
- Commemorative Medals
- Other official Decorations