– Do you have a lighter?
– I’m sorry – I don’t smoke.
The talk between a Portuguese soldier and the restaurant worker ended up with a small gesture that will become a symbol in the history of Portugal: not having any cigarettes, Celeste Martins Caseiro gave a carnation (flower of the Portuguese spring) to the soldier. It’s the flower that will give the name to the Carnations Revolution, which marked the end of the Estado Novo (1933-1974) in Portugal.
The fascinating story of Celeste Martins Caseiro
On the morning of 25 April 1974, Lisbon woke up to the rhythm of the drums of the revolution. Citizens and soldiers were standing against the regime of António de Oliveira Salazar. On that same day, Celeste, 41, was walking through the streets of Lisbon, with several bouquets of carnations in her arms.
“I used to work in a restaurant, that was celebrating its 1-year anniversary and the owners had asked me to buy red and white flowers to give away to customers during the party. But the following day they decided not to open the restaurant because the revolution had started. I was sent home and told that I could take the wasted carnations.”
recalls Celeste, in an interview to the ‘Jornal de Notícias’.
On his way home, one of the armed rebels asked her for a cigarette. Celeste didn’t have any. She looked around and there was no shop therefore she offered him a carnation. He took it and put it in his shotgun. Afterwards Celeste offered more flowers to other tanks involved with the coup and they also placed them in the muzzle of their guns. It was a great moment.
The idea was quickly copied and flower sellers donated more carnations to decorate the mutinous soldiers. The gesture went down in history as one of the reasons why the revolution was so peaceful: only four people died.
A part from Celeste’s story, there are other 2 theories attempting to explain the name of the Portuguese revolution. They say that all churches closed because of the coup, forcing a couple to postpone their wedding and leaving all the flowers ready to load the soldiers’ rifles. Others claim that the flowers belonged to a trading company that could not send the shipment to the destination given the fact that the airport was closed.
The square of the revolution
Do you want to visit the places of the Carnations’ revolution? Rua Braamcamp, the restaurant where Celeste was employed as a waitress, was very close to Rossio Square (Praça do Rossio), also known as Praça de D. Pedro IV. And it was exactly in this iconic square where several soldiers started to use Celeste’s flowers to decorate their weapons.
Rossio Square was Europe’s first great example of neoclassical design and urban planning, and one of the finest European architectural achievements of the age. It keeps its imposing appearance, with elegant squares, pedestrian roads, cafes, and shops. Old tramcars, street performers, tiled Art Deco shopfronts and elaborately decorated pastry shops give a special charm to the area.
We suggest you to enjoy this folklorist atmosphere from a table of the Nicola Café facing the monumental National Theater and Saint George’s Castle. As you walk down the pedestrian Rua Augusta, past the triumphal arch, you will end up in the majestic Comercio Square.