“Many Portuguese souvenirs and contemporary designs now sport this distinctively curved heart with its crown-like growth at the top so you’re bound to see it at some point.
But what’s the story behind the shape?
Viana do Castelo has adopted the wonky heart as its emblem.
Back in Ancient Greece, the heart was considered to be the center of life and the source of charity, brotherhood and, of course, love.
Much later, these attributes morphed into religious depictions of saints with their hearts showing outside their chest, often surrounded by flames to amplify the warmth and strength of the love stemming from the organ.
The cult of the Sacred Heart of Jesus first introduced these external flaming hearts to Portugal at the end of the 18th century.
The basilica at Santa Luzia that overlooks the city of Viana do Castelo is also called the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Christ so there’s a strong local connection with this symbology.
The extra part that sits atop the Viana heart and gives it its distinctive shape is a stylized version of these flames. The twist in the tail of the heart remains a mystery, however. It was most likely a design that became fashionable and later developed into a firm feature of the golden hearts from the Minho region.
The filigree hearts weren’t originally very popular given the labor and skill involved in creating them. Other more common forms involved sheet metal beaten to form a hollow heart or more elaborate embossed gold.
These days, you’re far more likely to see the filigree version. They certainly look prettier and more romantic.
The Viana’s heart has captured the imagination of other Portuguese creatives and you’ll also find it incorporated into the beautifully embroidered handkerchiefs of love, also from the Minho region, as well as murals, contemporary art and street decorations.”
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