The heart of Dom Pedro I is received with military honours upon its arrival at the Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, on August 22.
The heart of Dom Pedro I is received with military honours upon its arrival at the Brasilia Air Base, Brazil, on August 22. Photo: EPA/JOEDSON ALVES

Heart of Brazil’s first emperor flown from Porto to Brasilia

The embalmed heart of Dom Pedro, the first emperor of Brazil, has been received with pomp and circumstance in Brasilia after being flown from Porto to Brasilia for Brazil’s 200-year independence celebration.

Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, received the heart of Dom Pedro I at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, during a ceremony that included an air show and all the same military honours carried out for visits by foreign heads of state.

Dom Pedro – who is known as Dom Pedro I in Brazil and Dom Pedro IV in Portugal – was responsible for declaring Brazil’s independence from Portugal in 1822, after having fled to the country as a member of Portugal’s Royal family before Napoleon’s forces reached Portugal.

The relic, which has been preserved in formaldehyde for 187 years and is normally kept in Porto’s Lapa Church, arrived on Monday in Brazil, where it is to be on display until September 5 as part of the celebrations of the country’s independence milestone.

Before Tuesday’s ceremony, the heart had been kept at Itamaraty Palace, the seat of Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from where it was taken to the Planalto Palace in the presidential Rolls Royce, surrounded by guards mounted on horseback, in gala attire.

Bolsonaro received the relic at the door of the palace, with first lady Michelle Bolsonaro at his side, along with the minister of defence, Paulo Sérgio Nogueira De Oliveira, and dozens of children holding small national flags.

Also in attendance were Brazil’s foreign minister, Carlos Alberto França, and Portugal’s ambassador to Brazil, Luís Filipe Faro Ramos, as well as Bertrand de Orléans e Bragança, a member of Brazil’s former imperial family.

As the heart was carried up the ramp and into the building, cannon shots were fired, and Brazil’s national anthem and the Independence anthem played.

“Two countries, united by history, connected by the heart,” Bolsonaro said into the microphone. “Two hundred years of Independence. Ahead, an eternity of freedom. God, homeland, family! Long live Portugal, long live Brazil!”

The display has been criticised by some historians, who argue that Bolsonaro is appealing to nationalism in his campaign for re-election ahead of general elections on October 2.

“This is going to be a farce by Bolsonaro, welcoming this heart like a visiting dignitary,” historian Lilia Schwarcz, who has written books on Pedro I and Brazilian independence, told The Guardian.

  1. Pedro’s heart was separated in 1834 and kept in a church in Porto according to his last wishes, while the rest of his remains were donated to Brazil in 1972 for the 150th commemoration of Brazilian independence and are kept in a museum in São Paulo.

The heart will be flown back to Porto on September 9 and go on display on September 10 and 11 before being locked back into its small mahogany coffin.