Passarola Rising is a fable of the impossible, a dream inspired by the curiosity of a superior intellect made real in 1731 Lisbon at the hands of Bartolomeu Lourenco. Bartolomeu and his younger brother, Alexandre, sail from the earth in their scientifically designed flying ship, the Passarola.
This magnificent invention will fly all over the world in years to come, everything below insignificant in contrast, gliding from one continent to another, undeterred by doubt or hardship: “We braved air currents, we plowed into rainbows and we sailed through clouds.”
Bartolomeu and Alexandre’s great adventure withstands the small-mindedness of the envious, the rigors of unfriendly climates and the political machinations of those who would deny the importance of this endeavor. The Passarola’s final rite of passage is a journey across the Azores, an eight-hundred mile trip they accomplish in three days. The brothers Lourenco rise above it all, their flying ship the metaphorical ascent of man’s intellect reaching for God’s boundaries, free from the constraints of metaphysical philosophy, the religious fanaticism of the Inquisition, royal hubris and doomed military campaigns.
His grand ambition realized, Bartolomeu rides the currents of the skies unobstructed, until a former but still powerful Inquisitor, Cardinal Conti, declares the enterprise evil, and schemes to bring about its destruction. No fool, Bartolomeu understands the inherent deceit of the Cardinal’s endeavors: “They are afraid that I’ll sail my ship through the ether and find what must not be found.”
Thanks to the Cardinal’s vicious gossip, the brothers’ reputation is in tatters and they flee Portugal for France, where they are offered the protection of Louis XV. The King of France has grand ideas of his own, sending them headlong into a maritime battle in Poland and later to explore the Equator and the Polar Circle.
Bartolomeu agrees, desperate to repair his battered ship, a higher purpose ever in his Jesuit-trained mind: “I want to see what exists at the edge of the world.” His superior vision for sampling all the world has to offer is too foreign a concept for men who seek to conquer by force. Unfortunately, all that military men and monarchs can imagine from the genius of the Passarola is a fleet of warships, Bartolomeu’s magnificent creation betrayed by the martial ambitions of kings and their lackeys.
But even harsh reality fails to subdue the beauty of this fable. The author has embellished history in this imaginative mix of fact and fiction, his protagonist based on a true character. Bartolomeu’s curiosity and belief in scientific truth trump intellectual paucity and religious stricture, taking two brothers on a journey of a lifetime.