Of hearts and other relics

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By FLAVIO AGUIAR*

Considerations on the exposition of part of the body of D. Pedro I

The arrival, reception with military honors and exposure of the heart muscle (I wrote this to avoid the rhyming echo) of Emperor D. Pedro I to and in Brazil is causing a huge auê, to the right, center and left of our political spectrum.

In the midst of all the necrophiliac hubbub, the words “only in Brazil…” sometimes stand out. But that's not quite the case.

Well, first of all, let's recall some other Brazilian examples – on the commemorative side. We will not go into the details of those horrendous exhibitions of dismembered bodies, such as that of Felipe dos Santos Freire, leader of the revolt in Mariana, Minas Gerais, in 1720, that of Tiradentes or the heads of the cangaceiros of Lampião.

Let's start by evoking another episode, this one satirical, also involving the mortal remains of our first independent representative.

In 1972, his other remains came to Brazil. They were not exposed, but protected inside a proper urn, which traveled throughout Brazil and throughout Brazil. He also passed through my hometown, Porto Alegre. This was going through a moment of profound and deep-rooted alterations in its landscape, with the opening and widening of avenues and also the construction of viaducts. One of them, at the end of Avenida Borges de Medeiros, beginning of Avenida Beira-Rio, connecting this perimeter to the perpendicular avenue José de Alencar, was baptized with pomp and circumstance, giving it the name of the Emperor: Viaduto D. Pedro I .

In the city there is a long tradition of double names for certain public places. For example, many people don't know that the official name of Rua da Praia is Rua dos Andradas; or that the traditional Praça da Matriz is called, on paper, Praça Marechal Deodoro; or even that the Borges Viaduct is named after Otávio Rocha, and so on.

The D. Pedro I Viaduct was soon baptized by Vox Populi as “Marli Viaduct”. The reason: next to it, there was a… well, let's say, “sneaky meeting place for sexual purposes” that kept the name of its owner, Mrs. Marli, worthy of all respect among the distinguished men of the capital of Rio Grande do Sul.

The fact generated a stir and ridicule, adding to the great fame of the Don Juanesque conqueror of the illustrious son of the House of Bragança. It so happened that we were in the middle of the Medici government, and that popular irreverence became a threat to the sacrosanct National Security. Result: one fine day, the police descended on the venerable Casa da Marli, and took everyone there, including Marli. It wasn't the civil police, nor the customs police, it was the political police, the DOPS, to find out what was behind that insulting abuse of a national symbol.

As Dona Marli had nothing to do with what could be called the appropriation of her name by the people to rename the Viaduct, she was immediately released, along with the regulars of the house, many with their tails between their legs, fearing that their sneaky adventures came to public and/or family knowledge.

The case became part of the city's folklore, but as the inexorable time ended up swallowing Marli's house, the nickname also disappeared. Today the Viaduct bears only the prosaic name of the Emperor, although many of the older ones fondly remember the days of Marli and its Viaduct. The foregoing is true and we attest, imprimatur potest and nihil obstat.

Before going abroad, let us remember that the heart of Santo Dumont rests in a spherical gold reliquary at the Museu Aeroespacial da Aeronáutica, in Campo dos Afonsos, in Rio de Janeiro. And as a child I collected saints of Padre Reus (pronounced “Róis”), of beatific and miracle worker fame. Next to the little picture, exposed in a double fold of paper, was a piece of black cloth that was said to belong to the Jesuit priest's cassock. Begun in 1953, eight years after his death, his official beatification process is still ongoing at the Vatican. As these saints were distributed by the thousands, we imagine that the size of the cassock must be immense.

These procedures are reminiscent of the medieval practices that the Jesuit anti-reformists brought to the future Brazil, of public exposition of the relics of saints, which could range from a piece of bone to a mummified head of the eleven thousand virgins.

Moving on to the Old World full of gates, in four countries of the continent (Italy, France, Croatia and Spain) at least nine exposed bodies of saints, from different eras and with different degrees of preservation, rest (?) But nothing beats the display of St. Anthony's tongue in the Basilica of Padua, Italy, along with parts of his left arm, chin, foot, and the skin and hair on his body. Let us also remember that pieces of these bones were sent to other cities, as a donation, including Lisbon, his hometown.

All over Europe, from Cabo da Roca, on the Atlantic, to the Ural Mountains, which border Asia, from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, there is an endless number of churches and monasteries with the remains of saints and saints. As the number tends to infinity, we cannot list them all. We can, however, recommend one in particular, the Monastery of Andechs (Andechs Kloster), in the Bavarian Alps, Germany.

In the church are the remains of saints Pauline and Serene, as well as a piece of the skull of Saint Edwiges of Silesia and nothing less than a thorn from the crown of Christ)!. After his visit and prayers, the pilgrim can commemorate the feat in the Bier Garten of the monastery, savoring the very famous beer produced in-house, eating some pork bacon and other local delicacies. As it is very strong, extra-moderation is recommended and not driving afterwards. Public transport is accessible and constant.

Continuing our tour, we pass to the Asian continent. In it rests, more precisely in the Church of Bom Jesus, in Goa, in the south of India, the body of Saint Francis Xavier. Every ten years the body is transported in procession to the Sé Cathedral, where it is exposed for five weeks, at Christmas time. As the state of the body has deteriorated a little over the centuries, despite it being considered “incorruptible”, its contemplation is not recommended for people with pacemakers or emotionally fragile people. In time: the right arm of the saint was donated to Church of the Gesu, Church of Jesus, in the center of Rome, considered the headquarters of the Jesuit Order. There he rests in a chapel next to another, where the mortal remains of Saint Joseph Pignatelli are.

But nothing, really nothing, impressed us as much as the visit to the Topkapi Palace Museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. Leave aside miniatures such as the Harem, where up to 300 of the Sultan's concubines, in addition to his 4 legitimate wives, were jostled at the same time, and go straight to the relic rooms in the Museum. There, the visitor can have fun with appetizers, such as a tunic of Mohammed or a dress of his wife. But the important thing are the main dishes: a piece of the Prophet's tooth, strands of his beard (we remember the famous cry of the announcer Silvio Luiz, "by the Prophet's beard"), his footprint printed on a stone, Josué's turban, the David's sword, the arm bone of Saint John the Baptist, a pot of Abraham and – relic of relics – the staff of Moses!

We were entranced by it: it looked new, as if it had had a coat of varnish. That staff had turned into a serpent in front of Pharaoh, and then turned back; by touching the waters of the Nile, he turned them to blood; when wielding it before the waters of the Red Sea, Moses opened them, as if they were gelatin, and then closed them back over the Egyptian troops, thanks to the powers of the wooden rod. As the Bible says, Your Rod comforts us.

This mention of Moses' staff brings us back to the heart of D. Pedro I, or more precisely, to Pedro Américo's painting, “Independence or Death!”. This painting, today so accused of being fake news as it had previously been incensed as a faithful reproduction of the facts, it is one of the most wronged pieces of Brazilian painting. For in both cases — fake news or praise – the author is treated as if he should be considered a XNUMXth-century photographer, rather than a XNUMXth-century academic painter with allegorical bent. In it, the sword of D. Pedro, raised over his head, connects with the sky and captures the energy that emanates from it, just as the mosaic staff did before the waters of the Red Sea.

We are left with a doubt. The heart on canvas is preserved in formalin. When reading in the newspaper The globe the interview with the doctor who boasts of having given the idea of ​​bringing the heart to the occupant of the Planalto Palace, for the celebrations, and remembering that she had been scheduled to defend the early treatment kit at the Pandemic CPI, came to mind The following question comes to mind: wouldn't it be better to replace formaldehyde with chloroquine, in order to better protect our country's heart?

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo).

 

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