Human Flower Project

São Brás—Carry a Torch


A town in Southern Portugal rejoices in the Christian Resurrection (and its own victory over English marauders)  with a parade of upheld bouquets.


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Forsythia for a torch in Sao Bras de Alportel

Photo: Reisefuhrer Algarve

When religious doctrine, natural splendor, and civic history come together, what do you get?

Festivity. Happy Easter, especially to those in São Brás, Portugal. Today they hold the “Festa das Tochas Floridas” —Flower Torches Festival—beginning with 10:30 Easter Mass at Igreja de Matriz. After church, the local people will process through flower carpeted streets, holding up “torches” and chanting. “The leader cries ‘Christ is risen’ and the procession responds with three cries of “Alleluia!”

imageThe floral carpet for Easter’s parade

Photo: Municipality of Sao Bras

Across the world, flowers and fire are the two prime materials for sacred celebration. São Brás’ custom combines the two, turning the shape and shimmer of spring blooms upheld into beacons of the day.

The town, in the far Southern province of Algarve, was a center of cork production for many years, as well as the favored retreat of 17th Century Catholic bishops, a fine perch above the sea.  São Brás de Alportel has only about 11,000 residents, though we understand that 6000 visitors come to town each Easter to enjoy the celebration. May we be among them next year!

According to one source “similar festivals were celebrated in many Algarvian towns in the 18th and 19th centuries” but only the São Brás Torch Flower Festival remains—maybe because this town has an important secular event to remember, for which flower torches serve especially well.

Between the Igreja de Matriz and the old Bishop’s palace, a cobblestone road once led from Sao Bras to the town of Faro. According to local history, ” it was up this road that the marauding seamen of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh proceeded after sacking Faro in 1596 - having already sacked Cadiz in Spain. Bent on more pillage in the hill towns, it was the men of São Brás, armed only with clubs and branches, who defended the town and sent the invaders back to their ships. The São Brás men returned home with their clubs and branches decorated with flowers to celebrate their victory.”

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The Flower Torch Procession leaves the Igreja de Matriz

Photo: East of Faro

As always, we welcome further insights into the Festa das Tochas—photographs, too—and rejoice in this beautiful confluence of history, nature, and spirit.




Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/16 at 09:26 AM

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