How did the Portuguese cobblestone tradition come about? It was because of a rhino! The animal was called Ganga and gave rise to one of the greatest symbols of Portugal.
Do you know the origin of the Portuguese sidewalk? Although cobblestone pavements appeared in the kingdom around 1500, the Portuguese cobblestone, as we understand it today, began in the mid-19th century. XIX The Portuguese pavement, in white and black limestone, is characterized by the irregular shape of the stones. However, the most widely used type of application today since the mid-19th XX, called Portuguese cobblestone, is applied with cubes, and has a diagonal frame.
The curious story of the Ganga rhino
In 1514, Afonso de Albuquerque, founder of the Portuguese Empire in the East and governor of the Portuguese Indies, wanted to build a fortress in Diu, a town in the kingdom of Cambaia, ruled by King Modofar. Alfonso de Albuquerque was then authorized by King D. Manuel I to send an embassy to the king of Cambaia, requesting permission to build the fortress.
King Modofar did not yield to the request but, appreciating the offerings received, gave Alfonso de Albuquerque a rhino. As it was impossible to keep it in Goa, Afonso de Albuquerque decided to send the rhino to King Manuel I as a gift.
The arrival of the animal in Lisbon caused a lot of excitement and curiosity, not only in Portugal but in the rest of Europe mainly due to its appearance – the rhino weighed over two tons and had a thick and rough skin forming three large folds that gave it the strange appearance of wearing armor. It was the first rhino alive on European soil since the 19th century. III.
The rhino was installed in the park of the Palace of Ribeira. Reminding the king of the Roman stories of the deadly hatred of elephants and rhinos, D. Manuel I was now able to ascertain whether this was true. Thus, a fight was organized between the two animals, attended by the king, queen and their companions, as well as many other important guests.
When the two animals met face to face, the elephant, who seemed to be the most nervous, panicked and fled as soon as the rhino began to approach.
In 1515, King Manuel I decided to organize a new extraordinary embassy to Rome to secure the Pope’s support following the increasing successes of Portuguese navigators in the East and to consolidate the kingdom’s international prestige. Among the offerings was the rhino, which wore a green velvet collar with roses and golden carnations. The ship departed from Lisbon in December 1515.
Off Genoa came a violent storm, the ship sinking, the entire crew perishing. The rhino, though he knew how to swim, eventually drowned because of the tethers. However, it was possible to recover your body.
Upon hearing the news, D. Manuel I ordered the rhino to be stuffed and sent to the Pope, as if nothing had happened. But this animal was not as successful with the Pope as the elephant had done before!
In Portugal the rhinoceros was immortalized, being represented in one of the guardrails of Torre de Belém and also in the Alcobaça Monastery, where there is a naturalistic representation of the gargoyle full-body animal in the Cloister of Silence. It was also designed by the great printing master Albrecht Dürer, based on a letter from a Portuguese merchant that contained a rhino drawing.