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The Two-Way

Selfie With Statue In Portugal Doesn't End Well


A man passes in front of Rossio train station in 2014 (when King Sebastian still stood watch).
Patricia de Melo Moreira, AFP/Getty Images
A man passes in front of Rossio train station in 2014 (when King Sebastian still stood watch).

But first, let me take a selfie.

Maybe that's what a young Portuguese man was thinking when he climbed up on a statue at the Rossio train station in Lisbon, only to send the figure of 16th century King Sebastian tumbling to the ground. (NPR has not confirmed whether the selfie was ever taken.)

The statue, now in pieces, had remained intact at the station for 126 years, Vanity Fair reports. The building and the approximately 3-foot statue are national monuments, The Associated Press says.

The AP reports the Public Prosecutor's Office is investigating and "looking into whether the statue can be restored or whether a new one must be made." The statue-breaker could face charges.

There's a good story behind the statue, too: King Sebastian I took the throne in 1557 at the age of 3. He died during a crusade in Morocco in 1578, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

"After his death, many of his subjects believed that he would return to deliver them from Spanish rule, a messianic faith known as Sebastianism (Sebastianismo)."

With this legend in mind, a number of people attempted to impersonate the king in the years that followed. Ruth MacKay writes about one such case in her 2012 book, The Baker Who Pretended to be King of Portugal. A Stanford review of the book says the baker-turned-con artist "looked nothing like the dead king." It adds:

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"Age and misfortune had left their marks, he and his handlers claimed. The plan was to chuck out Spain's Philip II (that's right, the same one who made overtures to his sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth of England), who had assumed the throne of Portugal after Sebastian died without heir."

Even today, King Sebastian "remains a mythical figure to the Portuguese," Vanity Fair says, "for his qualities of inspiration and heroism, something like a regional King Arthur."

Sebastian was 24 when he died — the same age as the selfie suspect. Coincidence? We think so.

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