President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa paid homage to the former Portuguese consul, who during the Second World War (1939-1945) saved thousands of Jews and other refugees from Nazi Germany, by issuing more than 30,000 visas without authorisation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During the Second World War, Sousa Mendes issued the thousands of visas in Bordeaux, France, directly contravening orders from the Portuguese government of António Oliveira Salazar.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes was previously decorated in 1986 with the title of Officer of the Order of Freedom and, in 1995, with the Grand Cross of the Order of Christ.
In 2014, national airline TAP introduced a new aircraft, which it named after the Portuguese Consul, in Bordeaux during the Second World War.
The announcement that he was to receive the Grand Cross of the Order of Freedom was made by President de Sousa last September during a visit to the New York Centre for Jewish History, where he met several elderly people who Sousa Mendes saved by issuing them with visas when they were fleeing the Nazis.
This week’s ceremony was held at the consul’s family home, Casa do Passal, in Cabanas de Viriato (Viseu).
Casa do Passal, which was classified as a national monument in 2011, has undergone a first stage of building work, which is preventing its ruin.
The second and final phase of Casa do Passal’s refurbishment and its conversion into a museum is expected to cost €800,000.
In 2014, several forms of action were staged to save Casa do Passal from being reduced to rubble.
These included around 500 people coming together to form a human chain to surround the former Consul’s home and raise awareness to prevent it from falling into disrepair.