An old Khazak neurologist, who probably knew all about Saint Theodore, once told me that life is short. At the time, we were working together in Lusaka, Zambia, in 2005. It was the first time I heard it, just after turning 50, he was over 60. Now, I have learnt so much in an encounter with the relationship between my greatgrandfather Dâmazo Corrêa de Bittencourt and the famous Teatro Guaíra, which seats in one of the main squares of the city of Curitiba, meters away from where his son’s beautiful home used to be, and even closer to where his grandsons and greatgrandsons went to school and to university.

Dâmazo appears to have been an amateur stage artist who got along with enterpreuners including Manoel de Souza Dias Negrão, Agostinho Ermelino de Leão and Fidêncio Munhoz, and established an NGO called “União Curitibana”, in 1874,  to start the construction of Theatro São Theodoro. It was innaugurated on 28.9.1884. Soon came the end of the Brazilian empire and slavery, and the theatre had its function interrupted and was used as a prison by the republicans. Eventually it came back, but only in 1930 as Theatro Guayra, the name that remains until today. The name Saint Theodore had become a problem.

Saint Theodore is a very powerful and very early figure in the Christian faith. So much that it is associated with St Mark, the Virgin Mary and Gabriel the Archangel as patrons of Venice, one of the major cities of the Roman and medieval world. It appeard first in 130 AD in the north of present day Turkey, and soon was taken up by neighbouring Georgia, a very typical historical development of the eastern Christian church, which developed almost a millenium before the Roman, western Catholic church. In the 3rd century it is represented in this mosaic in the Georgian language, the oldest Georgian Asomtavruli inscription found in the Bir el Qutt inscriptions, excavated at a St. Theodore Georgian monastery in 1952 by an Italian archaeologist Virgilio Canio Corbo near Bir el Qutt, in the Judaean Desert, 6 km south-east of Jerusalem and 2 km north of Bethlehem, according to the wikkipedia. Georgian inscriptions were found on a mosaic floor. Two inscriptions are dated AD 430 and the third one AD 532.The monastery where the inscriptions were excavated was founded or rebuilt by the Georgian philosopher and royal prince Peter the Iberian. One of the inscriptions mentions him:

Jesus Christ, have mercy on Bakur and Griormizd and their descendants.”

Saint Theodore, have mercy on Maruan and Burzen, Amen.

“With the help of Jesus Christ and Saint Theodore, God have mercy on Abba Antony and Iosia the layer of this mosaic and the father and mother of Iosia, Amen

Most scholars and people who have attempted to study a little about religion will note that few saints have an archeological and historical proof of existance as hard as that available for Saint Theodore. It appears that Dâmazo had good reason for his choice of a name for a theatre in Curityba.

Dr Paulo Bittencourt

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