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Pernambucan Revolution, 1817 (Brazil)

Revolução Pernambucana

Last modified: 2010-10-23 by ian macdonald
Keywords: brazil | rainbow | star (yellow) | stars: 3 (yellow) | sun | cross (latin | red) |
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[Flag of the Pernambucan Revolution (1817)] image by Jaume Ollé
Introduced 21 March 1817

See also:

About the Flag

According to Clovis Ribeiro, pp. 135-141, the flag of the 1817 Pernambucan Revolution had its origin in the requirement for a flag to replace the Portuguese flag that had been hauled down from the Recife fort after the provisional government took control of the city. The government originally considered hoisting the French tricolor, but instead appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Father João Ribeiro Pessoa to develop a design. The design was copied in watercolor by the Rio de Janeiro artist Antônio Álvares--a painting that still existed when Ribeiro was writing in the 1930s--essentially the same as the modern state flag with the field dark blue over white, a single star above the rainbow. The flags were produced by the tailor José Barbosa, who was also a captain in the militia. The first flag was publicly blessed by the dean of the Recife cathedral on 21 March 1817.

Article 1 of state decree 459 of 23 February 1917, issued in connection with the centennial of the revolution, provided that "the flag of the revolution of 1817 is declared to be the flag of the State of Pernambuco."
Joseph McMillan, 4 September 2002

Variant Versions

[Variant Flag of the Pernambuco Revolution (1817)]  image by Jaume Ollé

Ribeiro notes several variations in the design and in the descriptions of it. In the first place, the concept was to have one star at the top for each captaincy that adhered to the revolution, so there is at least one example with three stars for Pernambuco, Paraíba, and Rio Grande do Norte, which were held to have joined the revolution as of 5 April 1817. A flag of this design was taken to the United States by Antônio da Cruz Cabugá as part of a campaign to generate support for the revolution, and, according to Ribeiro, was still housed in the archives of the Department of State as of 1933. Ribeiro says an official U.S. description in English described this flag as having a three-color rainbow standing for peace, friendship, and union; the sun as standing for the people of Pernambuco, and the cross at the bottom for the original Portuguese name for Brazil, Santa Cruz (Holy Cross). Klauss Erich Klein says that the red cross on a white field also appeared in the arms of Duarte Coelho, the original donatary of the Captaincy of Pernambuco. Some contemporary observers described the flag slightly differently, one stating that the blue and white areas were equal, another that the letters "S.P.L.E." appeared below the cross and making no mention of a star or stars.
Joseph McMillan, 4 September 2002

[Variant Flag of the Pernambuco Revolution (1817)]  image by Jaume Ollé

John Fetzer sent me a photocopy of an image of the old flag above. I think the image is from William Crampton The World of Flags.
Jaume Ollé, 13 September 1996

Jaume's image based on Crampton shows four stars above the rainbow rather than one or three, as documented in Clovis Ribeiro's 1933 book. Is there primary evidence of a such a four star version?
Joseph McMillan, 4 September 2002

Background on the Pernambucan Revolution

In 1817, discontent with the Portuguese colonial administration started the Pernambucan republican revolution, which was liquidated by the Portuguese Army. As a result of the revolution, Alagoas, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, and Ceará were separated from the Pernambucan capitaincy (capitanía, the name of the old provinces during the Portuguese colonial administration).
Jaume Ollé, 13 September 1996