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Versão Portuguesa

The Rhinoceros

In 1514 Afonso de Albuquerque, the founder of the Portuguese Empire in the Orient and Governor of Portuguese India wanted to build a fortress in Diu, a city in the kingdom of Cambay (now Gujarat) governed by the Sultan Muzafar. He was authorised by Manuel I to send an envoy to the Sultan asking permission to build said fortress. Muzafar did not grant his wish but, grateful for the gifts he received, he gave Albuquerque a rhinoceros. As it was impossible for him to keep the animal in Goa, Albuquerque decided to send the rhinoceros to as a gift Manuel I.
The animal's arrival in Lisbon caused great commotion and curiosity, not only in Portugal but in the whole of Europe. Its physical form, in particular, attracted curiosity - the rhinoceros weighed more than two metric tonnes and had a thick, wrinkled skin that formed three large folds, giving the strange appearance of armour. It was the first live rhinoceros to be seen in Europe since the 13th century, and was given a space in gardens of the Royal Ribeira Palace. Remembering Ancient Roman stories about the deadly rivalry between elephants and rhinoceroses, Manuel decided to see if this was true. He organised a bout between the two animals to which he also invited the Queen and her ladies-in-waiting, as well as other important guests. When the two beasts were placed opposite each other the elephant panicked and ran away the moment the rhinoceros began to approach it.
In 1515 Manuel decided to send a new extraordinary envoy to Rome in order to secure the support of the Pope in the wake of the ever-growing success of the Portuguese ventures in the Orient and with a view to consolidating his kingdom's international prestige. The rhinoceros, sporting a green velvet collar decorated with golden roses and carnations, was one of the gifts. The ship left Lisbon in December 1515 but sailed into a violent storm off the coast of Genoa and sunk, killing the whole crew. Although rhinos can swim, because it was tied up the animal also died. However, its body was recovered, and when he heard of the disaster Manuel ordered the rhino to be stuffed and sent to the Pope, as if nothing had happened. But it did not go down so well with the Pope as his previous gift, the elephant, had!
In Portugal the rhinoceros was immortalised and a representation of it decorates one of the bartizans in the Tower of Belém. It can also be can be found in Alcobaça Monastery, where there is a naturalistic full-body representation of the animal in the form of a gargoyle in the Cloister of Silence. The rhinoceros was also drawn by the German master painter and printer Albrecht Dürer, who based himself on a later from a Portuguese merchant that contained a drawing of the rhinoceros:
"On the first of May in the year 1513 AD [sic], the powerful King of Portugal, Manuel of Lisbon, brought such a living animal from India, called the rhinoceros. This is an accurate representation. It is the colour of a speckled tortoise, and is almost entirely covered with thick scales. It is the size of an elephant but has shorter legs and is almost invulnerable. It has a strong pointed horn on the tip of its nose, which it sharpens on stones. It is the mortal enemy of the elephant. The elephant is afraid of the rhinoceros, for, when they meet, the rhinoceros charges with its head between its front legs and rips open the elephant's stomach, against which the elephant is unable to defend itself. The rhinoceros is so well-armed that the elephant cannot harm it. It is said that the rhinoceros is fast, impetuous and cunning." Translation of the inscription on Dürer's woodcut