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Colonial Flags of Brazil

Last modified: 2001-07-05 by joe mcmillan
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Order of Christ (Ordem do Cristo)

[Flag of the Order of Christ]
by António Martins

Would you be kind enough to translate the following statement? "...1320, da Ordem de Cristo 1ª hasteada em solo brasileiro."  The 1320 here apparently refers to a year, as all the other flags have dates of use listed. If that is so, how could this flag have been in Brazil at that time when, if I recall correctly, Portugal first arrived in Brazil in 1500?  If I understand correctly, and please comment if you have other thoughts, the web site is trying to state that the "Order of Christ" flag [which was adopted in the year of 1320] was the first flag of Portugal raised over Brazil in the 1500s. That being the case, I could understand that the Order of Christ banner that was 180 years old at the time Brazil was colonized became the first flag in Brazil.  Secondly, the flag shown is a red Order of Christ and to my memory all (or most) first flags of Brazil have been golden Order of Christ.  Just by reference to later flags of Brazil, the Order of Christ is red, and I believe red is correct. However, there seem to be many golden  flags shown in books.
C. Eugene Baldwin, 20 October 1998

The inscription indeed means "1320, of the Order of Christ. [adding a period, without which this makes no sense] First to be hoisted on Brazilian soil."  I think there is some confusion here:  Portugal only arrived in Brazil in 1500, but the Order of Christ was founded in 1320 (or something like that).  So 1320 doesn't refer to the first time the flag was hoisted in Brazil, but when it was adopted.

The Order of Christ was the main financer and "pusher" of the Portuguese discoveries, the man behind them, Infante Dom Henrique [Prince Henry the Navigator] being a member of the order.  Most if not all the ships that sailed to find new lands had members of the order in the crew and sailed under the flag of the order.  In fact, the various banners of the order that are mentioned by António Martins were, at the time, nearly the equivalent of what would today be called naval flags or ensigns of Portugal.  Therefore, as the British did with their ensigns, it was the banner of the order that was hoisted in the territories claimed for the Portuguese crown. This happened not only in Brazil, but also in the other territories in Africa and Asia. The usual thing, as far as I know, was for the captain of the ship to claim the territory for the King of Portugal and for Christianity--Christianity, naturally, being represented by the Order of Christ. The monuments the Portuguese left in the lands where they landed (called padrões) are a good example of this:  they were topped by a cube containing four Portuguese escutcheons with the bezants (quinas) and atop the cube a cross of the Order of Christ.

As far as I know, there is no proper color to the Cross of Christ, but it is usually represented in red.
Jorge Candeias, 21 October 1998

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