Anglican open day

news: Anglican open day

The Anglican Chaplaincy of greater Lisbon, the governing body and custodian of historic St. George’s church and the British cemetery, has scheduled Saturday, October 2, to be the first ever open day – dia de porta aberta – for the public to discover and delight in this unique and exotic setting in the centre of the city.

The gates, across from the Jardim de Estrela, will open at noon for an exciting day of historic tours and re-enactments, musical events and traditional English food. Special activities and games are planned for children of all ages on the lawn of the adjacent European University, and there will be book sales, a bargain table and a raffle. There is no entry fee and all are invited to experience the magic ofthis historic site, a monument to over 600 years of Anglo-Portuguese friendship and co-operation.

At sunset, a classical music programme in St. George’s church will conclude the dia de porta aberta activities. Prepared and presented by the talented musicians in the chaplaincy, whose day jobs are with the Gulbenkian and Lisboa Sinfónica orchestras, this musical treat will be a fitting end to a memorable day.

The British cemetery, found in parkland just north of the Jardim de Estrela and the great Lisbon landmark, the Basílica da Estrela, was the first burial ground authorised for non-Roman Catholic funerals in Portugal. The original concession dates from the 17th century and was the result of the fast growing Anglo-Dutch merchant community in Lisbon at the time. Permission was later granted for the construction of a Protestant place of worship and the first of two St. George’s was built in the 19th century. The original permit required that rows of fast growing cypress trees be planted to hide the site of non-Catholic worship from the Catholic Lisboetas. In time, a beautiful garden grew up among the graves.

Over the years, the cemetery has become the burial ground of at least one famous author, diplomats, a one-time head of state, brave RAF aviators who were lost in the world war, shipwreck victims and Boer war exiles. It also became the last resting place for many of the scions of old Anglo-Portuguese families who played such a role in the development of the modern Portugal. A short walk through the grounds is a journey back through several hundred years of the eclectic history of this vibrant expatriate community.

The chaplaincy and cemetery board expect that the October 2 open day will, in a manner of speaking,help put this historic site back on the map. As custodians and preservers of this valuable part of Lisbon history, Canon Michael Bullock and the Church Council believe it should be a regularly visited tourist spot, as well as a touchstone for all residents with an Anglo-Portuguese heritage.

Special musical and historic events and longer opening hours are planned in the future to augment the weekly Anglican worship services on Thursdays and Sundays. In addition to calling attention to the site, the dia de porta aberta is expected to raise funds from the sale of food and drink and a raffle. The organisers plan to split the proceeds between the preservation and upkeep of the church and cemetery and building a relationsip with Anglican communities in Angola and Mozambique.