Dragons’ Den: a house wearing its heart on a pedestal

Monday, September 23, 2019, 23:52
carved grey stone dragon with a ball on a gatepost

That title is an odd mixture of words, phrases and ideas, isn't it? Have a look at this photo of a dragon outside a house on the way to the Peneda Geres National Park and see if you can tell why I've used it.

The dragon has its tail wrapped round a ball and seems to be giving a V for Victory sign. Don't you think that is unusual? So, what is going on? It has nothing to do with the boy wizard of children's literature nor with the bloody struggles for supremacy in mythical kingdoms so recently a TV hit. Nothing indeed like that. Think about famous institutions in northern Portugal and see if you can divine why the dragon is there.

To find out – if you haven't already guessed – why this family has chosen dragons to tell the world what matters to them, click here.

Now it's not unusual to find stately homes with lions, whether rampant or recumbent, on their gate posts. They are perhaps part of a tradition of using symbols from a noble coat of arms to decorate an entrance; or they may simply express a desire to show the world that this is a strong family with which you will meddle at your peril. That explains lions. But what is a dragon trying to tell us?

Let's have a look at the pedestrian gate.

Blue painted dragons either side of a gate

Well it seems that these dragons are more explicit than the first one. They are painted blue and white. That must mean something. Aren't dragons usually red or green, though? Why this odd choice of colour?

I had puzzled over these dragons many times before I found the answer. Then one day, as we sped by on our way to show the national park to friends from Lisbon, they exclaimed, "Oh look! They're Porto supporters in that house."

Since football is not one of my interests, I knew nothing about Porto FC; neither the club mascot nor the colour scheme meant anything to me. Though, come to think of it, I did know that the metro line from Porto airport ended at the Estádio do Dragão – the Dragon Stadium - but I had never put two and two together and associated dragons with a football club.

My own gate does an excellent job of opening and closing but it is miserably bereft of symbolism. If I were to put up statues on either side of it, I ask myself what I would choose. Maybe for me the answer is not to have a stone symbol but a horticultural one. I love cork, so maybe, if I had the space, I should plant cork oaks either side of my gate.

Have you installed anything at the entrance to your property to represent your family or interests? If you have nothing but could afford to do it, what would you ask the local stone mason to make for you? If you have a good idea, do write in and tell us. (If you are Portuguese, please feel free to write in your own language. You don't have to write in English. Lembre-se: o que é importante não é a língua mas a contribuição.)

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