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Photograph by Pedro Corte Real, 2005
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In the last year of the 20th century (December, 8th 2000) I was admitted to the Order in the Cathedral of Braga in a private ceremony headed by the Lord Archbishop of Braga (the Order’s Chaplain) and His Royal Highness the Duke of Braganza in one of those rare moments when the ceremony was held outside of Vila Vizosa (the seat of the Order). One of the foreignen dignitaries present at the ceremony was Mr. Anthony Bailey, OBE, GCSS. This ceremony was arranged in co-operation with the Royal Confraternity of Saint Mary (that acted as the inviting order and has its permanent seat at the Chapel of Don Afonso in the Cathedral of Braga).
This page provides some information about the Royal Order of the Immaculate Conception of Vila Vizosa (Viçosa). The Order itself has no official pages but there are two permanent pages with information: one in the pages of the Royal House of Portugal (in Portuguese only) and the other in Wikipedia (this one in English, fortunately).
PATRON SAINT AND QUEEN OF PORTUGAL

The order was created by King John VI of Portugal in Rio de Janeiro on February 6, 1818, the date of his acclamation, in recognition for the efficient protection of the Kingdom's Spiritual Sovereign (Portugal is known as the Land of Santa Maria since its foundation). The Blessed Virgin Mother under the invocation of the Immmaculate Conception (see image to the right: as venerated in the Ducal Chapel of the Palace of Vila Vizosa) had earlier been acclaimed Queen and Patroness of the kingdom by King John IV on March 25, 1646 following a referendum of the Portuguese Empire that lasted 6 years and asked subjects: 1. If they believed the Blessed Virgin Mary to have been conceived without sin, and 2. If they believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary was the physical reigning Queen of Portugal and not just symbolically the Patroness. The people answered affirmatively and since the Coronation that took place at Vila Vizosa, the Kings of Portugal never again wore a crown. This order distinguished those who proved their loyalty to the Portuguese Royal House in the war against the Bonapartist occupying forces. Later, in 1818, a royal decree stated that the Order would be given as a military award in four classes of Grand Cross, Commander (Comendador), Knight, and Servant. Knighthood was given to those who were servants to the king and devoted Catholics to the pope and the Holy Mother. The Order was originally limited to twelve Grand Crosses, forty Commanders and one hundred Knights, with the provision for the award of supernumerary Grand Crosses. [ Wikipedia ]
Procession
Letters Patent
Order of the Immaculate Conception

December, 2000
Signed both by the Chancelor
and by HRH the Duke of Braganza (King of Portugal)
Design
Images from the annual procession in Vila Vizosa (Viçosa), Portugal, seat of the Ducal Palace and the Order of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, Queen of Portugal. To the left: some of the equestrian participants in traditional Portuguese costume. Below: the knights of the Order, the confraternity and the Lord the Bishop of Evora.
Five Portraits, an article by H. D. Cerqueira de Souza
Five Portraits, an article by H. D. Cerqueira de Souza
FIVE PORTRAITS IN CITY HALL: THE FEYO DYNASTY
CINCO RETRATOS NOS PAÇOS DO CONCELHO: A DINASTIA DOS FEIOS
in BOLETIM CULTURAL, 2006
36 pages
Portuguese
In 2006 I published an article about the Feyo family, former Barons and Viscounts of Torre (Barões e Viscondes da Torre) and distinguished figures of Vila Verde, because of a group of five paintings that the City Hall owns depicting four of them, all of which were knights and knight commanders (comendadores) of the Order of the Immaculate. Seen below here is the portrait of António Alberto da Rocha Paris, Governor of Braga and Viana do Castelo, of Her Majesty’s council (Queen Maria II), who was a brother in law to the last Captain Major (Capitão-Mór) of Vila Cha and father to the 2nd Viscount of Torre and Mayor of Vila Verde (also Member of Parliament). He is
seen here wearing the badge pendant and breast plate of the Order.

Membership of the Order was highly sought during the 19th century and after the republican coup of 1910 it became a way of proving nobility (very much like being a member of the Order of Malta).
The article was published in the Boletim Cultural (Câmara Municipal de Vila Verde, 2006), but it is also available in a separate publication (36 pages in full color) and in pdf file. It contains a detailed description of the five portraits, the full genealogy of the Feyo family and an heraldic study.
The procession is an important religious ceremony in the Catholic Church, especially since the Counter-Reformation, when all the devotees were called to participate, but it has its roots in the very beginning of Christianity. More about processions:
in the Catholic Encyclopedia
in Wikipedia
Order of Saint Eulalia
Royal Confraternity
SEE ALSO

THE ORDER OF SAINT EULALIA

AND

THE ROYAL CONFRATERNITY