Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro

four students inside saint sebastian cathedral in rio de janeiro.

Hello guys! Ready for another amazing A Dica do Dia? We’ll discuss a very important date for cariocas: January 20th, when we commemorate Saint Sebastian in Rio de Janeiro. Did you know that Rio used to be called Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro? During the battle between France and Portugal in Rio de Janeiro, legend has it that Saint Sebastian was fighting with the Portuguese and not a single arrow hit him. From that moment on, Saint Sebastian became the patron saint of our well-known, Marvelous City. Did you know that he is the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro?

Who was Saint Sebastian?

First things first: who, actually, was St. Sebastian? Well, let’s learn a little bit more about this martyr.

It’s said that Saint Sebastian began as Sebastian, a man who lived to convert people to his God in Rome. During one of his trips to convert people, he supposedly converted a woman named Zoe, who had been mute for six years. Through her conversion, she regained her voice. This was the first time Sebastian became popular.

But times in Roman Empire were tough for religious people who didn’t believe in their Roman Gods. Sebastian had prudently concealed his faith, but in 286AD he was caught. He was ordered to be bound to a stake, after which archers would shoot arrows at him. When converted people decided to get his body for a proper burial, they discovered Sebastian alive. According to tradition, he was rescued and healed by Saint Irene.

Sebastian decided to face the emperor and talk to him about his cruelties against Christians. The emperor was impressed Sebastian was still alive, and gave orders for him to be seized and beaten to death with cudgels, after which his body would be thrown into the sewer. However, a converted named Lucina was able to privately remove the body and she buried it in a catacomb.

The History of Saint Sebastian of Rio de Janeiro

When the Portuguese explorers landed at Guanabara Bay, they thought they had reached the gorge of a gigantic river, Rio in Portuguese! Portuguese explorers arrived at Guanabara Bay in January 1502, and named the new city Rio de Janeiro (River of January). In 1555 Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon led the French troops to conquer the city, managing to turn it into a colony and renaming it “Henriville”, in honor of its king Henrique II.

Under the command of Estácio de Sá, the Portuguese fought for a decade to recover the territory; on March 1st 1965 they found a city that we now know as Rio de Janeiro, at which time known as “São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro”. It was thus that, every January 20th, a procession of the figure of the saint takes place from the Church of the Capuchins in the Tijuca neighborhood to the Metropolitan Cathedral.

What Do People Do This Day?

four Portuguese students in front of saint sebastian church in rio de janeiro. headline: "nossos alunos adoram visitar aquela catedral!"

Saint Sebastian is a Christian saint and also the patron saint of the city of Rio de Janeiro. That is why, on January 20, the Cariocas celebrate his day.

In the historical account, Saint Sebastian was a soldier who enlisted in the Roman army in the year 283 AD. At the time, Rome kept Christian soldiers as prisoners, and Saint Sebastian often visited them. His quiet demeanor towards Christian prisoners made the Roman emperor judge him a traitor. He was condemned to death with arrows in his body.

The Cariocas devote the Day of Saint Sebastian to the procession of Saint Sebastian, that is, a parade in honor of the patron saint of the city, carrying his graceful statue on an altar. People go to the Catholic Church, where they participate in the Mass in the name of holy Saint Sebastian. Then, they walk towards their final destination, making prayers and asking for protection from him in relation to their lives.

The church in which the graceful statue of the patron saint of Rio de Janeiro is located is Catedral Metropolitana de São Sebastião no Rio de Janeiro. You can go visit it on the January 20th. Or, perhaps, you can go on another date on our Cathedral RioLIVE! when you come study Portuguese with us.

In your city, is there a holiday as important as this? Tell us in the comments below! See you in the next Dica!

An extra kiss from the Rio & Learn team!

Click in the links below to see more related Dicas
Holidays in Brazil
Carioca’s New Year
Festa Junina in Brazil
Lover’s Day

This post is also available in: English Português (Portuguese) Español (Spanish)

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Had an incident with a holiday. I selected Monday and Wednesday for my classes, since I can’t attend classes on other days. Due to holiday one of the lessons was scheduled on Friday. I warned about this issue on Tuesday, 3 days before the lesson, but manager answered in a rude way that they can’t do anything and blamed me that this is my fault I didn’t warn earlier. Teacher is asking their students to give good grades to the course on a second lesson. This is not teachers fault. Probably managers ask her to do this. Maybe my grade will change. Only time will show. At the moment as is.
Mykola Kurenkov
Mykola Kurenkov
Estudar portugués online com a escola Río & learn é muito gratificante pra mim, pois as professoras são amorosas. As aulas são engraçadas, com muita prática falando português brasileiro. Também eu posso conhecer pessoas de outros países e outras culturas. Eu sinto que moro no Brasil quando eu estou em aula!!
Raccomando tantissimo! Ho fatto lezioni private e il mio portoghese migliora a vista d'occhio. Fluente in 4 mesi grazie a questa scuola <3
Giulia Benzi
Giulia Benzi
I took a one week in-person course and had an amazing experience. It was intensive and definitely highly recommended! I appreciate the great, caring and highly professional team : Diogo for your awesome and energetic lectures and dedication. The lessons outside the classroom were very engaging and a useful way to immerse into local life. Thanks Laise, Marta and Dayane for the great support and smooth coordination. I look forward to taking the online sessions next!
Cheryl Loh
Cheryl Loh
I joined the online classes 1 month ago and I am loving the experience. Shout-out to Professora's Dani & Nathalia,they're amazing! The classes are interesting,focused and the teachers are very patient. They also do extra online activities outside the class schedule to really boost your learning in a fun, engaging environment. My speaking proficiency is improving faster than ever before compared to other classes I tried with other schools. The staff are very organised, communicate well and I think the cost is excellant value for money. Vamos lá!
Natasha Deegan
Natasha Deegan
Followed one week of group classes in Rio de Janeiro, I had no prior experience with Portuguese. The classes were really good, fun even (we laughed a lot) and the material is very well chosen. The after activities (Rio Live) as well were so fun and the teachers (Diogo) always made you feel comfortable and had a lot of patience. We even went for lunch together to learn about this subject. I really loved this way of teaching. I feel like I have a good base of the language and I can understand so much more now.
I have taken online courses twice now with Rio & Learn. In both group and private lessons the instruction was excellent. Classes were well-planned and the instructors were responsive and engaging. If I ever have the chance I will definitely sign up for their in person classes.
Heather Minielly
Heather Minielly
Ich war vor 4 Jahren dort und habe dort die Basics in Portugiesisch gelernt. Sehr praxisnaher Unterricht mit vielen Aktivitäten und Spaß. Mir gefällt dieser spielerische Ansatz sehr und ich konnte einiges lernen. Absolute Empfehlung!
Lars Altmar
Lars Altmar
This is the best language school ever. I spent one month, started with no portguese whatsoever, and now I can hold basic conversations and understand most of what people are saying. My progress was pretty amazing thanks to all the teachers who are AMAZING. I can't stress enough how nice, helpful and fun they are. In addition to classes in the mornings, the school offers different kinds of activities every afternoon outside the school. It's great to practice portuguese outside and also discover some great places in Rio as well as many different kind of fun activities. I made great friends there and had so many good laughs. Often the teachers also take you out of the classroom for the entire class or half of it to make it more entertaining. I truly recommend this school that was way more than a school for me. Thanks to everyone there, especially Diogo, Lais and Guliana for everything.
tessie cranman
tessie cranman
Rio & Learn is a great space to learn Portuguese. The amazing teachers and support staff create a wonderful and intimate environment to learn, through a varied set of mediums: class lectures, out and about lesson around copacabana, post-school activities as well as a range of 121 teaching options. I highly recommend this school!!!