The Mausoleum for the Heart of King Peter IV of Portugal

The Mausoleum for the Heart of King Peter IV of Portugal

Contributor: Jorge Bastos da Silva

Location: Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Porto, Portugal

Description: King Peter IV (D. Pedro IV, 1798-1834) was King of Portugal and the first Emperor of Brazil. An advocate of constitutional monarchy, he became the leader of the “liberals” in a civil war against the absolutist King Michael (Miguel), his brother, between 1832 and 1834. Known as “the Liberator” and “the soldier-king”, he bequeathed his heart to the city of Porto, where this mausoleum was built to house it with inscriptions emphasizing the motif of delivery from tyranny.

It seems fitting that it was in a room named after Don Quijote, in the Palace of Queluz in the outskirts of Lisbon, that King Peter IV was born and died. He was something of a figure of romance, deeply immersed in the turmoils of his age, and a factor in the emergence of civic and political modernity in Portugal and across the Atlantic. In 1807 he left with the royal court for Rio de Janeiro, fleeing Napoleon’s armies. During the Peninsular War, Brazil became de facto capital of the Portuguese empire, and underwent significant social, economic and cultural development. It rose to the status of realm with the institution of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarve in 1815. When Peter’s father, King John VI (D. João VI) returned to the metropolis in 1821, he appointed Peter regent of Brazil. Clashes between the political elites of both countries would lead Peter to proclaim the independence of Brazil the following year, with the famous cry of Ipiranga (named after a brook in São Paulo), “Independence or death!”, an early instance of his personal flair for dramatisation. Peter then became the first Emperor of Brazil, acclaimed as protector and perpetual defender. This eventually led him to abdicate the throne of Portugal on behalf of his infant daughter, D. Maria da Glória (later Queen Mary II), on the condition that his brother, Michael (Miguel), would marry her and swear to uphold the Constitutional Charter granted the Kingdom of Portugal by Peter himself in 1826 upon their father’s death. As fate would have it, Michael disregarded such promises entirely and took the throne as absolute monarch, causing Peter to leave Brazil (after abdicating the Empire on behalf of his son) and to take up arms in order to re-establish his daughter’s rights and a constitutional monarchy in Portugal. A civil war ensued, which lasted from 1832 to 1834, one of the most celebrated episodes of which was the siege of the city of Porto that the “liberals”, led by Peter, withstood gallantly.

The “liberals” came out victorious, and Mary would be crowned queen, but her father did not live long after, which made him all the easier to mythologize. And Peter certainly knew how to make a gesture he would be remembered by. On his deathbed he expressed the wish that his heart be removed from his body and given to the city of Porto as a token of gratitude for the loyalty and bravery of its unvanquished population. The title “unvanquished” is retained to this day in the device of the city, and a golden heart stands at the centre of its coat of arms, designed by a major writer of the Romantic period, Almeida Garrett (1799-1854).

Peter’s heart was embalmed and carried to Porto early in 1835 on a man-of-war, the Jorge IV, so called after the British King. It was decided to build a mausoleum in the main chapel of the church, where it is reported the former emperor used to attend mass (Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lapa). The mausoleum, built of fine local granite at the expense of the municipality, was completed in 1837-38. The royal relic is kept under lock and key in a glass canister filled with formaldehyde. This canister is fitted onto a silver urn which is itself kept in a wooden case lined with black velvet. Engraved on the urn is an inscription in Latin praising the late king as the founder of public liberty (“fundatoris publicae libertatis”), which echoes an inscription on the Arch of Constantine in the Roman Forum (see Coutinho 30-34). The outer layers of the mausoleum include a large bronze plaque nailed to a wooden door, bearing an inscription in Latin which repeats the motif of delivery from tyranny. The mausoleum boasts the royal arms on top, and the arms of Brazil and Portugal on its left and right side respectively.

Not unlike Peter’s life, his mausoleum appears to bring together public glory and private pathos. His career as a monarch and a citizen blended heroism, abnegation and disappointment. At several moments in his life, several different crowns were either his or appeared to be attainable: those of Emperor of Brazil, King of Portugal, King of Iberia (under the assumption that Portugal and Spain would be united), and King of Greece. By bequeathing his heart to the people of Porto, he ensured he would be commemorated as someone who had given his all to the causes he believed in. His mausoleum became a shrine for secular pilgrimages by Brazilian dignitaries, who desired to see the heart of their first emperor and constitutional ruler.

Date: 1837-38

Creator: Venerável Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Porto, Portugal

Subject: mausoleum of King Peter IV (D. Pedro IV)

Media rights: Image kindly provided by Venerável Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Porto, Portugal

Object type: mausoleum

Related objects: The Junot-Wellington Watch

Publisher: Venerável Irmandade de Nossa Senhora da Lapa, Porto, Portugal


Coutinho, B. Xavier, O Coração de D. Pedro I, Imperador do Brasil (D. Pedro IV), Pertence à Cidade do Porto (1834-38), Separata do Boletim Cultural “Amigos do Porto”, n.d.

Ramos, Luís Oliveira, ed., D. Pedro Imperador do Brasil, Rei de Portugal – Do Absolutismo ao Liberalismo. Actas do Congresso Internacional – Porto, Palácio da Bolsa, 12 a 14 de Novembro de 1998, n.p., Universidade do Porto / Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Descobrimentos Portugueses, 2001.

Santos, Eugénio dos, D. Pedro IV – Liberdade, Paixões, Honra, Casais de Mem Martins, Círculo de Leitores, 2006.