Curiosities

The fire alarm system, in Porto city, in the 19th century
13 November, 2020 / , ,

– HELP ME, HELP, HELP….

Maria das Dores Bernardes, butcher´s daughter, Bernardo, screamed at the top of her lungs, that her house was on fire and distressed, asking for help from her neighbors, who half-walled , lived with her in other wooden houses in Ribeira do Porto.
The neighbors did what they could with a buckets of water and little else, because there was nothing more to do …

Screams of terror and cries of women were heard, crying out for divine intervention …
It took a few hours for everything to be destroyed and the few goods consumed by the fire.

This story of pure fiction, would have been a situation that would surely have occurred several times in the early years of the 19th century in the city of Porto, where a small fire created chaos in the city and there was no one to help the fires that consumed the small houses. It was necessary to take measures so that these fires did not further aggravate the difficult situation of those who, with very little, managed to survive and fires were the worst of all evils.

There were no firefighters, nor fire-fighting cars, and in the absence of electricity (only invented many years later), only candles and lamps illuminated houses at night, increasing the risk of fires, particularly in the closed urban centers.
The scare was permanent and the risks increased, because the population was increasing – they came from the interior, from Minho and from all regions of the country looking for better living conditions which the new industries of the industrial revolution brought to all these people.
The small houses became more and more crowded and the risk increased.
Something had to be done quickly…
It was there that, by agreement between the representatives of the different masters of the city, the City Council and the Cabido, an innovative solution was sought to calm the populations and reduce the risks of fire.
Eureka! Finally a solution…Everyone was called to go to a fire, wherever part of the city was – everyone would be a volunteer.
A contraption was designed, a “device” capable of warning everyone that there was a fire so that everyone could come to the rescue.

FIRE ALARM SYSTEM

Stored inside an iron box, a lever pulled a protected rope inside an iron pipe that would ring the bell of the Church high up there giving a number of rings on the bell announcing the place of fire, so that the whole population would know where to go to help those in need.

A uniform regulation was created throughout the City and depending on the number of times the Church bell rang, anyone who could go to that place would go. For this purpose, a table was created of the number of chimes that the bell would ring, where the fire would occur according to the places.

So, if the fire occurred in the Sé area, the bell would ring 4 chimes and so on. As soon as the bell rang 3 times, the alarm signalled that the situation was under control and everything could return to normal. This system was then set up in various churches in the 50s, in the 19th century, located at strategic points of the city, and it worked well.

Only years later, in 1875 the Associação dos Bombeiros Voluntários was founded in Porto by a group of influential people in the City, merchants and industrialists who, concerned with safeguarding their goods, decided to put their hands to work, and create the best conditions so that in case of fire the firemen could put out the fires. So, no wonder that influential people in the City and with financial capacity to organize an Associação dos Bombeiros Voluntários had been essential to set in motion an organization that would defend everyone from that common enemy – the fire!

Names such as Alexandre Theodoro Glama, Hugo Kopke, Walter Kendall, Alexander Miller Fleming, were essential in the realization of this need increasingly felt in Porto, installing its first headquarter in Rua do Bonjardim.
Specific wheelbarrows were built with water pumps that were carried in barrels and that could calm the anger of the blazes.

In 1876, the publication “O Bombeiro Portuguez” (The Portuguese Fireman) was created to publicize the activity of the Voluntary Firefighters, which was a fortnightly leaf, where the creation of other machines and techniques for fighting fires was taken into account, as well as other news.

Since it was necessary to increase the number of volunteers, in 1872, notices were placed in the City’s commercial houses for recruitment to make themselves available for this noble and altruistic function.

And here comes the registration as a volunteer of a young man of 19 years, born in Brazil in 1850 from a wealthy family who settled in Porto.

Guilherme Gomes Fernandes, developed a remarkable evolution in the creation of conditions for the Voluntary Firemen of Porto until his death in 1902 in Lisbon, following a septicaemia after a surgery.
He is honoured in a square that carries his name (ancient Santa Teresa Square), where a bust keeps his memory forever.

Well…

As for the “contraptions” they no longer have any reason to exist and to fulfil their role, rusting and almost lost forever, and I say almost, because fortunately, some have been recovered recently and put into operation as at the time they were created, such as the one on the façade of S. Lourenço Church, in the Cathedral, among other cases which it is pleasing to note and continue to protect because they are already part of the history of the City.

Today they no longer play their role of fire alarm, but keep alive the memories of the city that are always worth preserving.

Commercial Association of Porto – since 1834
7 October, 2020 / , ,

Despite the fact that it was officially founded in December 1834, the Commercial Association of Porto which dates back to the twelfth century, when trade and tradesmen, especially in coastal areas, were gaining more power.

Over the centuries, owing to its strategic location and the entrepreneurial spirit of its people, the city of Porto acquired great importance, becoming an important financial center in Europe and the world. It was at this stage that a shared “Trust fund” was established, created by merchants to cover risks and shipment losses of their commodities. This fund was recognized in 1295 by King Dinis and in 1402 by King John I.

However, until 1834 there was no organization of traders with legal status and competent to meet the needs of local entrepreneurs. At this point, meetings, the exchange of information, business and auctions were held in the “Juntina”, located at the then Rua dos Ingleses. After the Liberal Revolution of 1822 and the enactment of the Commercial Code, the Juntina was the basis of the founding of the Porto Commercial Association, which is currently the second oldest Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Portugal mainland.

Porto city of Labor and Freedom
7 October, 2020 / , , ,

To affirm that Porto is the city of work – it is a brand image, certainly adequate and fair, but that does not guarantee, by itself, that all Porto people love the work or that there are not many other lands that deserve the same praise.

In any case, such fame reflects the external recognition that its people are hardworking and that throughout history they have been affirmed by work, that is, by business as opposed to leisure.
However, Porto is not just the city of work.

The Portuguese tradition, corroborating the opinion of 19th century scholars and historical events of ‘national projection’, attributes the epithet of Land of freedom to it, an older and more noble coat of arms than the previous one, which, contrary to hypothetical considerations about a deep lost paradise biblical, not only does not belie it but even complements it.

In fact, work, whether or not it is a consequence or punishment of the original fall, is a condition of success for the common man.

But … work without freedom is always slavery
Fonte: O Tripeiro 7ª série Ano XVI Número 6 e 7 Jun/Jul 1997

King Carlos Alberto Chapel
22 September, 2020 / , , ,

Carlos Alberto of Sardinia was born in Turin, Italy, in 1798. He was King of Sardinia from 1831 and was one of the fathers of the unification of Italy, a country that was divided into several political entities, all more or less controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Carlos Alberto wanted to unify all Italy under his scepter, but he had to take refuge in Porto in 1849, after being defeated by the Austrians in the Battle of Novara.

Upon arrival, the dethroned monarch stayed at the Hospedaria do Peixe, operating in the majestic Palace of the Viscounts of Balsemão, in the then Praça dos Ferradores, today Praça Carlos Alberto. There he stayed, until he was offered a place to live. He later moved to Quinta da Macieirinha, where today the Solar do Vinho do Porto and the Romantic Museum are located. There he died.

His body was transferred to the Pantheon of Savoy, in Italy, but the half-sister had a chapel built on the grounds of the farm currently incorporated in the gardens of the Crystal Palace.

The day the king visited Porto
21 September, 2020 / , , ,

In November and December 1908 D. Manuel II, who would become the last king of Portugal, made a long journey to the north of the country and spent several days in Oporto.

On one of these days, and after his mother, Queen Amélia, having shopped in a large store in the city, the people gathered at Campo da Regeneração (currently Praça da República) for a military parade.

The newspapers of the time headlined that many people went up to the rooftops to watch the parade, however, cars, trams that headed to the place had to turn back due to the concentration of people.

The Royal cortege toured several streets of the Baixa and on Rua de Santa Catarina, they were received with a shower of flowers. At the end of the day a gala dinner was held at Palácio dos Carrancas.
Dona Amelia had a full day, having visited the atelier of the sculptor Teixeira Lopes.
After having traveled several localities of the north, D. Manuel II returned to Oporto, having participated in a soirée at Ateneu Comercial of Porto.
In another tribute to the king, the baths of Praia do Ourigo were named after the King. In October of 1910 the Republic was implanted and the designation was forever forgotten.

SOURCE: The Tripeiro 7th grade Year XVI Number 1
and 2 February 1997

Spoon fountain
18 September, 2020 / ,

It will be one of the oldest fountains in the city. Not this one that we can see today at the bottom of Monte dos Judeus stairs, and should go back to the middle of the 19th century, but its predecessor, installed in the 13th century still on Miragaia beach, for community use.

The name “spoon” will come from the tax that had to be paid for the entry of products into the city (measured on a spoon); or according to other versions, by the spoon (wooden or metal) with which the water was given to drink. But the current fountain remains a relic, with its granite structure and strangely finished off with the balcony of a house. It is classified as a public interest property, but deserved better visibility.

Its water was once considered “the best in quality that the city had”. We can access the antiquity of this fountain by reading the legend, now almost imperceptible, that was engraved on the headstone “Praise the Most Holy Sacrament and the Most Holy Conception of the Virgin Our Lady, conceived without original sin. 1629. The water from this fountain is from the city

Source: O Tripeiro 7th series Year XXXVII Number 3 March 2018

The statue that, has the name of the city
17 September, 2020 / ,

In the very central Praça da Liberdade, more precisely at the confluence with Rua Dr. Artur de Magalhães Basto next to the Banco de Portugal Building, a statue is installed, nowadays seen drawn and photographed not only by the thousands of people who visit us, but equally by so many locals in their routine passages, and who represents a warrior.

It has a number of peculiarities that in itself arouse some interest.
From the very beginning, the fact that it is possibly the one that most ‘strolled’ through the city. It is now and since 2013 in the place closest to the point where it was designed, which was the top of the triangular pediment of the façade of the palace that existed at the north top of the current Praça da Liberdade where the City Hall was installed for about one hundred years until its demolition in 1916 for the opening of the then Avenida das Nações Aliadas, now Avenida dos Aliados. At that time it was dismounted and placed next to the Episcopal Palace and later on next to the Medieval Wall. Later it was removed again, this time to the Gardens of the Palácio de Cristal until the architect Fernando Távora, in the renovation work of Casa dos 24, installed it in Terreiro da Sé until finally being deposited in the place where it is today.

Another curious aspect is that we know that it was idealized and that is why it was often attributed to the Sculptor João de Sousa Alão but not made by him. He commissioned it from Mestre Pedreiro João Silva, who was actually its author.

The initial idea was to adorn that palace that until then had been a private residence, with symbols that identified it with the new functions of the Headquarters of the City Hall. And so this warrior was conceived with his weapons and a helmet topped by a dragon, as well as a shield where, in addition to the inscription Portus Cale, the Weapons of the City itself appear. For all these reasons, this work received the name of the city itself that symbolizes: “Porto”.

One last reference has to do with the costs and payment contract, because according to the documents of the municipal accounts of that year of 1818, it should be settled in 3 times the amount of… 343 $ 20. If we do not count on the obvious updates, this value corresponds to about € 1.60…

Christmas Nativity
23 December, 2019 / , ,

Joaquim Machado de Castro (Coimbra, 1731 – 1822) was one of the most important and renowned Portuguese sculptors, having also been one of the
most influential in Europe in the 18th and early 19th centuries. He produced several Christmas Nativity Scenes, so much so that the oldest Nativity scene in the city of Porto, which dates back to the 18th century, is his own, and it is possible to visit it in the Church of São José das Taipas. But, also, in the Church of Corpo Santo de Massarelos it is possible to see one more of his beautiful Christnas Nativity Scenes. His work isspread throughout the country.

Amor de Perdição – the tragic story of an impossible love
3 December, 2019 / ,

Amor de Perdição is a novel written by Camilo Castelo Branco, in 1862, which narrates the tragic story of young love.  The tale, based on true facts, was written when Camilo was imprisoned and living a forbidden love himself.

It is one of the most renowned romances in Portuguese literature. The book has already been translated into several languages and adapted to the cinema four times, including a version directed by the famed Manoel de Oliveira. Amor de Perdição is also the name of the street where the current Centro Português de Fotografia stands (Portuguese Photography Centre), and a former prison (Cadeia da Relação do Porto) where Camilo Castelo Branco wrote his most famous work whilst awaiting trial for adultery. The name of the street is thus a tribute to the illustrious book.

Camilo Castelo Branco had been accused with adultery: he fell in love with Ana Plácido; her husband found out and charged both lovers for adultery. Both were arrested, trialled and later acquitted. They later married, but didn’t live happily ever after. Camilo committed suicide in 1890 after living his last few years blind and disease-ridden. Whilst in prison, the writer found in the jail’s logs details for a story their family had once told him: of his uncle Simão Botelho, imprisoned and convicted to exile for murdering a rival in a love relationship.

From then on, Camilo wrote the story of Simão e Teresa, born into rival families from Viseu. A forbidden love, which resembles Romeo and Juliet, with an equally tragic ending. Teresa was to marry a cousin, Baltasar Coutinho, who she rejected due to her love for Simão. Hurt, Baltasar convinced her lover’s dad to send her to the Convento de Monchique, in Porto. Interestingly, the convent building is still there however very degraded.

Desperate, Simão awaited his rival outside the city of Viseu and shot and killed his rival. He turned himself in and was imprisoned at the Cadeia da Relação do Porto, until convicted of exile in India. On the way, and whilst sailing by the Convent, he was able to see the figure of his lover who died seconds later consumed by grief.  After Simão found out about Teresa’s death, he too died. Camilo’s uncle didn’t have such a tragic ending since he made it to exile where he lived until his death. But the story of the tragic love was forever perpetuated in the pages of the book.