FARIA, Manuel Severim de (Lisbon, 1583 ? Évora, 1655)
His date of birth is a matter of controversy among his several biographers, since his brother Friar Cristóvão de Lisboa was probably born in the same year. Only SILVA (2003) puts forward 1584 as his date of birth. Having been educated and having lived under the Iberian Union (1580-1640), he was a notable figure of the Church and an eminent erudite man who left countless religious and secular texts. Many of these documents are fundamental to know his time, not only because of the political thought they present, but also because they are a direct witness of cultural, political and day-to-day aspects of Portuguese life.
With an illustrious ancestry, he was educated and graduated under the eye of his maternal uncle Baltasar de Faria Severim, a canon and cantor at the See of Évora. He attended the Jesuit University of Évora, obtaining the degree of Master of Arts and a PhD in Theology (1606). After the resignation of his uncle, he was appointed canon of the See of Évora, later reaching the office of cantor (1609). During his life, he continued his study and research of Theology, History, Politics, Geography and Genealogy, demonstrating a particular liking for Archaeology, Numismatics and Bibliophily. Truly embodying the spirit of an antiquary, he collected Greek, Roman and Visigoth antiques, including vases, statues, columns, coins and medals, many of which were bought. According to VILHENA BARBOSA, it was ?a national collection of archaeology? the second museum that we know of was founded in the city of Évora at the beginning of the 17th century? (SILVA, 2003: 15). Sobre as Moedas de Portugal (On the Coins of Portugal) summarises his interest in Numismatics by saying that ??because the memory of time was better preserved in the images and inscriptions of coins than in any other monument?? (FARIA, 2003: 135). He also collected books and handwritten documents, among which the original manuscript of André de Resende?s Crónica de D. Afonso Henriques (Chronicle of King Dom Afonso Henriques) (MACHADO, 1752: 369), works by Prince Dom Pedro, son of King Dom João I, works in Japanese by the Spanish Dominican Friar Luís de Granada, papyri from Egypt and Chinese books with precious silk binding with stitching, certainly one of the first Chinese texts to reach Europe. Such a collection of books, to which he allowed other erudite men to have access, became famous not only for its quantity but also for its quality. After his death, we lose track of his antiques, but the library was incorporated into the library of the Count of Vimieiro, to whom he was related, with this latter library, partially destroyed by the fire that followed the 1755 earthquake, being of one the most important of the 17th century. Severim de Faria?s liking of antiques and his vast and erudite knowledge was celebrated both by authors that were contemporary of his, such as Gregório de Almeida, Luís dos Anjos, João Franco Barreto, Friar António Brandão, Friar Francisco Brandão, Friar Bernardo de Brito, Jorge Cardoso, Dom Rodrigo da Cunha, Manuel de Galhegos, António de Macedo, António de Sousa de Macedo, Francisco Manuel de Melo and Manuel de Faria e Sousa among others, and by later authors, as BARBOSA MACHADO (1752) widely demonstrated.
An open and inquiring spirit, he researched archives, register offices and documents and maintained contact with erudite men, missionaries and travellers, keeping himself informed and updated without leaving Évora. For instance, the correspondence exchanged with his brother Friar Cristóvão de Lisboa, a Franciscan and a missionary in Maranhão, whose manuscript work Historia dos animaes e arvores do Maranhão (History of Animals and Trees of Maranhão), written between 1624 and 1627, constitutes the first description of the Brazilian fauna and flora, registers this indirect contact with the world. The letters brought him novelties of an unknown nature but also of other peoples, practices and customs and how the Portuguese adapted to them. Even though Severim de Faria was not very keen on travelling, he recognised some advantages of it in Sobre a Peregrinação (On Pilgrimage), where he concisely described that ??we should only leave the motherland to reach the sciences and the arts that are necessary to public and private life?? He added how useless it was to go away when we could find next door what we were looking for, namely universities, stating that ??there being a place where the letters are taught near us, we have no need to seek them in distant and far places,? and even more explicitly asserting that ?there being schools in the Province of each one of us, where reading and the sciences are taught with known excellence, we do not need to take a pilgrimage to other places.? He acknowledged an exception for the art of warfare, detailing that ?those who serve the Republic in the Armed Forces and want to be reputed in their service should either go and get practice and learn in the armies, following them outside the motherland, when they cannot be found at home, or board the Galleys of the Mediterranean and the Fleets of the Eastern Ocean and India, which are the schools in which the motherland flourishes today? (FARIA, 2003: 220-221). Nonetheless, he expressed the undisputable necessity of having a good knowledge of what we intent to administer, because ?we will badly govern what we do not know? (ibid., 222). Few were Severim de Faria?s trips; in 1604, he visited the great Sanctuary of Guadalupe (Spain), in 1609 Miranda do Douro and in 1625 Maçãs de Dona Maria (Tomar). Following these trips, he wrote quite vivid descriptions that constitute true trip reports and inform us about the Portuguese reality.
BARBOSA MACHADO mentions the abundant writings of Severim de Faria in a compilation that was recently updated (FARIA, 1999). Among the printed ones, one should highlight the Discursos vários politicos (Various Political Speeches) (Évora: Manoel Carvalho Impressor da Universidade, 1624) and the Noticias de Portugal (News from Portugal) (Lisboa: Officina Crasbeeck, 1655). From the Discursos?, seven parts in total, including important biographical texts on João de Barros, Luís de Camões and Diogo do Couto, one should highlight, for its political importance, Do muito que importará para a conservação, e aumento da Monarquia de Hespanha, assistir sua Magestade com sua Corte em Lisboa (How Important the Support of His Majesty with His Court in Lisbon will be to the Preservation and Increase of the Monarchy) (First Speech), in which he put forward an original argumentation that was sometimes naïve, but still plausible to justify the move of the capital from Madrid to Lisbon; he argued ??that with the King being in the interior, he cannot address maritime affairs with the necessity that they require?? and presented many arguments and comparisons. The speech on the Portuguese language, in which he listed its many virtues, the speech on hunting, full of details about its role in education, or even the very informative speech on the origin of priests? garments are all texts in a direct and involving style, and thus modern despite the high level of erudition. On should also underline his choice of notable figures for the biographical notes, figures who are associated to the History of Portugal, autonomous and independent in the Iberian context. His Notícias? is a mix of erudition and of analysis and proposals to solve the pressing national problems. He made use of his knowledge of history and his erudition, but as it happened with the Discursos?, the reading of the Notícias? grabs the reader right from the beginning. Comprising eight speeches and some praises, Notícias? covers subjects as diverse as the situation of the indispensable means for the survival of Portugal, the organisation of the armed forces, the history and origin of noble families, numismatics, the universities of Spain, the spread of the Gospel, the cause of shipwrecks in the Carreira da Índia and pilgrimages, that is, travelling. Severim de Faria?s secular texts achieve a complete balance between erudition, the educational and philosophical character and the simple chronicle, something which renders them attractive and to a degree timeless.
From a historical point of view, Severim de Faria was the last representative of a certain spirit from the Renaissance, but at the same time, he already showcased some features that would characterise the seventeen hundreds: curiosity proved by facts, sharing the knowledge with others and the ability to listen and to counter-argue. He lived his life under the rule of the Filipes, a domination with which he apparently agreed, if one believes in his proposal for the reorganisation of the Empire, a position that may be, however, immediately questioned, having in mind the irrefutable way how he supported the rise to power of King Dom João IV in 1640.
FARIA, Manuel Severim de, Discursos Vários Políticos. Introdução, actualização e notas de Maria Leonor Soares Albergaria Vieira. Lisboa: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, 1999. LV, 205 p. FARIA, Manuel Severim de, Notícias de Portugal. Introdução, actualização e notas de Francisco António Lourenço Vaz. Lisboa : Edições Colibri, 2003. XXVIII, 316,  p. MACHADO, Diogo Barbosa, Bibliotheca Lusitana Histórica, Critica, e Cronológica. Lisboa: Na Officina de Ignacio Rodrigues, 1741-1759. 4 v. (v. 3, 1752, p. 368-374). SERRÃO, Joaquim Veríssimo, Viagens em Portugal de Manuel Severim de Faria: 1604-1609-1625. Lisboa: Academia Portuguesa de História, 1974. 155 p.,  mapas desd. (Subsídios para a História Portuguesa; 12). SILVA, Joaquim Palminha, Manuel Severim de Faria, o mais douto português do seu tempo. Ensaio biográfico. Évora: A Defesa, 2003. 61,  p. SOUSA, Luís Filipe Marques de, ?Frei Cristóvão de Lisboa e a sua correspondência com Manuel Severim de Faria, seu irmão?. In Actas. Congresso de História no IV Centenário do Seminário de Évora, 1994. Évora: Instituto Superior de Teologia, 1994. 2 v. (v. 2, p. 127-141).
Author: Maria Luísa Cabral
Translated by: John Silva