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Sebastianismo, the popular beliefs surrounding the figure of the Portuguese king Sebastian (1557–1578). Even before his birth, Sebastian was heralded as O Encoberto, "the hidden-one," the mythical ruler who was to establish a powerful Portuguese empire. The popular reinter-pretation of an apocalyptic poem, the "Trovas do Bandarra," confirmed his divine commission. The dismal outcome of his reign—his untimely death in battle, the failure of his troops to recover his body, and the loss of the Portuguese throne to the Spanish in 1580—gave rise to Sebastianist legends in Portugal and later Brazil. While some claimed that he had merely vanished to perform penances for his failures, and others that he had died but would be resurrected, supporters agreed that Sebastian would yet inaugurate the Quinto Império, or Fifth Empire.

Reports of his return began soon after his death, and at least four claimants appeared between 1580 and 1610. Portuguese folktales still eulogize their lost leader. Brazilian Sebastianists connected the legends with their New World experiences, and three messianic movements, in 1817, the 1830s, and the 1890s, linked their rebellions to the longawaited king. Predictions of his return (in the year 2000) still recur in songs and popular publications.

See alsoMessianic Movements: Brazil .


João Lúcio De Azevedo, A evolução do sebastianismo, 2d ed. (1947).

Mary Elizabeth Brooks, A King for Portugal (1964).

António Machado Pires, D. Sebastião e o Encoberto (1971).

Carole A. Myscofski, "Messianic Themes in Portuguese and Brazilian Literature in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries," in Luso-Brazilian Review 28 (1991): 77-94.

Additional Bibliography

Godoy, Marcio Honorio de. Dom Sebastião no Brasil: Fatos da cultura e da comunicação em tempo/espaço. São Paulo: FAPESP, 2005.

                                 Carole A. Myscofski