Every third Sunday of the month at 11:00 am, the Ceremony of the Solemn Render of the Republican National Guard (GNR – Guarda Nacional Republicana), takes place in Belém, Portugal directly opposite the pink walls of the National Palace of Belém. The ceremony, which lasts about one hour, has been reported to be one of the top 20 changing of guard ceremonies worldwide.
About the Guarda Nacional Republicana
When the Portuguese monarchy ended in 1910, a new Republic was formed, and the Guard was established. It consists of a military security group of soldiers who have been chosen to be in this special corps of troops. Their current mission is to ensure the protection of the democracy and to guarantee the permanent security of the official residence of the President of the Republic. On any given 24-hour day, two guards stand in small huts next to the gated entrance of the Belém Palace, where the President resides. On a normal day, there is very little pomp and circumstance when the guards change. But all that changes during the traditional monthly ceremony.
The purpose of the ceremony is to show the Portuguese population the symbolism of the passing between the two guards who take turns guarding the Palace.
On a warm winter Sunday morning, Paul and I had the chance to see this ceremony for ourselves. We arrived early enough before most of the large crowd (that becomes even larger during tourist season) assembled, and we stood on the sidewalk directly across from of the Belém Palace where most of this elaborate and colorful event is performed.
The ceremony participants consist of 160 Calvary and 4 infantry soldiers which include the Guards to the Palace, the Mounted Music Brass Band, and the Charameleiros Horse Squad.
The ceremony begins with a trumpet horn and continues with the Guards taking position in front of the Palace where there is a change of guards. The ceremony continues with the playing of the National Anthem. There is an exchange of dialogue between the commanders of the Guards which consists of a greeting and transmittal of orders and information regarding the service of guarding the Palace. Once this is done, a parade of guards marks the start of the Changing the Guard ceremony.
The ceremony is precise, and well organized. There are guards marching on foot keeping time with the live music played by the marching brass band. There are two military dogs also in this ceremony. Another group of guards follow on horseback with flagged staffs at their side. And a procession of horse mounted musicians follows balancing large instruments with precision. There are also horse-mounted guards with swords at their side.
The Lusitano horses are some of the most stunning creatures in the world! Their manes are beautifully braided.
At one point in the procession, the guards and horses line up along the street, making an impressive sight.
Charanga on horseback
When the ceremony has ended, the public is invited to walk a short distance to the Jardim Vieira Portuense which is a public park to watch Charanga on horseback. Here a visitor can see the Mounted Brass Band play a variety of tunes while the horse’s step, trot, and gallop to the music.
Details: Solemn surrender of the Guard to the Palace of Belém
The Ceremony of the Solemn Render of the Guarda Nacional Republicana takes place on the 3rd Sunday of each month, at 11:00 am, on Rua de Belém. For more information, visit the Guarda Nacional Republicana website.
Until next time…