Fifth Empire

A spiritual vision of a unified world under Portuguese cultural and mystic leadership.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Catholicism
Founded: 16th century (revitalized in 1934)
Location: Primarily in Portugal, Brazil, and other Portuguese-speaking countries
Other Names: Quinta Monarquia, Quinto Império

The concept of the Fifth Empire is a deeply spiritual and esoteric vision, with its roots in the interpretations of biblical prophecies and the belief in Portugal’s destiny to lead a global empire of a spiritual and cultural nature. This idea, primarily developed in the works of the 17th-century Jesuit priest António Vieira and the 20th-century poet Fernando Pessoa, envisions a future global empire led by Portugal, blending spiritual and temporal power. This idea is not grounded in territorial conquest but in the unification of the world through a synthesis of material knowledge and spiritual wisdom, encompassing science, reason, and mysticism. It is considered the culmination of the efforts of all previous empires, aspiring to bring about a new era of peace, understanding, and spiritual unity under the leadership of Portugal, symbolized by the figure of “the hidden one” or O Encoberto, often associated with the legendary King Sebastian of Portugal.

The concept of the Fifth Empire emerged from the Portuguese Age of Discovery, during which Portugal established a vast maritime empire. This period significantly influenced Portuguese national identity, with the idea of a global mission becoming a central theme in its culture and literature.

Father António Vieira, a Jesuit priest, was a key figure in the development of the Fifth Empire concept in the 17th century. Vieira’s vision, influenced by the Fifth Monarchists, emerged in a context of national crisis following the loss of independence to Spain and the subsequent restoration of sovereignty in 1640. He saw Portugal’s role in this divine saga as predestined, leveraging the nation’s past as a leader of the Age of Discovery to herald a new age. Vieira, inspired by millenarian and eschatological beliefs, preached that Portugal was destined to establish a new, spiritual empire. He interpreted the Book of Daniel’s prophecy of four empires to mean that a fifth, a Portuguese empire, would be the last and eternal. Vieira’s vision was deeply intertwined with the Portuguese Restoration War and the messianic expectations surrounding King Sebastian of Portugal, who had disappeared in battle in 1578. Vieira and others believed that Sebastian would return to establish the Fifth Empire, marking a new era of spiritual and temporal power.

This idea also found resonance in the works of the 16th-century prophet Gonçalo Anes Bandarra and was further popularized by the poet Fernando Pessoa in the 20th century through his book “Mensagem.” Pessoa’s vision of the Fifth Empire was less literal and more symbolic, representing a spiritual and cultural renaissance rather than a physical empire. He saw it as a metaphysical realm where humanity would reach a higher level of spiritual consciousness, transcending national and religious boundaries.

In modern times, Brazilian writer Glauco Ortolano revisited the theme, envisioning the resurgence of the Fifth Empire in the 21st century with Brazil playing a central role. This adaptation reflects a continuing fascination with the idea of a Portuguese-led spiritual empire, blending historical, cultural, and mystical elements to envision a utopian future marked by unity and peace​​​​.

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