S. Silvestre 1976 Overprint
on 1962 Sports Omnibus Issue
Who was “S. Silvestre”?
Browsing through a stock book of stamps from Portugal, its colonies and former colonies, I came across a diamond shaped stamp that caught my attention because of its ambiguous overprint. The 15 escudo stamp depicting a weight lifter, was the high value from the 1962 sports issue. It was overprinted with black rectangles obliterating the phrase “REPUBLICA PORTUGESA” which was replaced with the phrase “REP. POPULAR DE” and the year 1976. All of this made perfect sense in the year following Angola’s independence in 1975.
Less obvious was the meaning of the overprinted name “S. Silvestre.” Who could this be? A revolutionary martyr? A leader of the independence movement? Perhaps, given the design of the stamp, S. Silvestre was a famous athlete, a medal winner? The date of issue of the stamp provided a clue.
The stamp in question was issued on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1976. It turns out that New Year’s Eve is also the Feast of Saint Silvester, the anniversary of the death of Pope Silvester I. Pope Silvester led the Catholic Church from 314 until 335. Legend asserts that Silvester cured the Emperor Constantine of leprosy and, in gratitude, the emperor accepted the primacy of the Pope over his temporal authority.
But why did postal authorities choose to place this overprint on a stamp from a series depicting sports? Since 1954, the Clube Atlético de Luanda has sponsored the São Silvestre Angola. This long distance road race, inspired by an event that has been taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil since 1925 (commemorated by a Brazilian stamp on December 23, 1974), has attracted international competitors since 1964. Why is there a weight-lifter on a stamp commemorating an international running competition? Unfortunately, the Angolan sports issue of 1962 did not feature any runners; the other sports depicted were flying, rowing, water polo and hammer throwing.
One of the joys of stamp collecting is never knowing who or what I will discover as a result of the questions that arise when I browse through a stock book.
"Angola." Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. 2008.
"Brazil." Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. 2008.
"Pope Sylvester I." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Feb. 2015. Web.
22 Feb. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Sylvester_I.
"São Silvestre - Uma Prova De Todos Nós." São Silvestre Angola, 2 Jan. 2015. Web.
22 Feb. 2015. http://www.saosilvestreangola.com/.
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