Curiosities

Hidden Porto
9 January, 2019 / , , ,

Cities are built over cities. This is an idea that both archeologists and architects notice in the reality of their daily work, which conditions them, motivates them and is at the root of the future of any city.

Since humans became sedentary, that is, since the groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers in search of the best hunting grounds gave rise to permanent settlement in villages whose inhabitants began to live from agriculture and livestock, the type of housing was modified and became stable, with the adoption of materials such as adobe, brick and stone, in addition to wood, which has always been used.

We find this in settlements as old as Çatal Hüyük (Anatolia, southern Turkey) or Jericho (Palestine), perhaps the oldest known towns, built between 8,000 and 7,000 BC, and where constructions have been succeeded, cities grown horizontally, but also at the expense of the overthrows of previous constructions, often taking advantage of their foundations to build new ones.

Porto hasn’t surely been any different. But those who fly over it, who come from the other riverside or who cross their streets and observe their houses, do not have this perception and see only what their eyes catch, the streets, houses, buildings, infrastructures, not remembering that this isn’t just our city, but our grandparents’ and other ancestors’ as well.

Those, their cities, are sometimes buried beneath ours, and at a time when Porto vibrates with its recovery, especially with the recovery of its Historical Center, signs of these “cities” that preceded us are exposed.

Perhaps the earliest ruins are found in the building of the no. 5 in Rua D. Hugo, behind the Porto Cathedral, where it was possible to trace an occupation with signs from the 8th century BC, with round houses. To that, other houses overlap, these ones quadrangular, of the Roman period.

Another fantastic example of how the city was built is provided by the archaeological excavations of Casa do Infante, already in a low part of the city, in which a large and luxurious Roman and late Roman house (IV-VI centuries) are superimposed to the medieval buildings, with the construction of the King’s warehouses, the Royal Customs Building and Casa da Moeda, with its occupation and successive enlargements lasting throughout the Modern and Contemporary Age.

But the example that we’re going to bring up is equally representative: in the works of a building with fronts to Rua de S. Francisco and to Rua Nova da Alfândega, where the former company of transits A. J. Gonçalves de Moraes was located, excavations shown signs of the nineteenth century city, more specifically the old Quarter of Baths.

Landed during the great urban transformation inherent to the construction of the Alfândega Nova building (1860-1870), construction of Rua Nova da Alfândega and Rua Ferreira Borges, which led to the destruction of the Monastery of S. Domingos, the old quarter of Baths was buried under 5 meters of rubble.

The excavations showed another facet of the city, a poorly-known riverfront area, which began at the beach already described by Ranulfo de Granville in 1147 and where some of the city’s bathhouses were located, next to Rua dos Banhos.

It was one of those alleys, still with buildings on both sides, that was exposed. One of the houses, in front of the entrance door flanked by windows with iron bars, had a paved patio.

In a contiguous area, about a meter below, the strong foundation of what may have been the medieval building of the public baths. The diggings stopped there.

But the finding of Roman construction materials may indicate the presence of much older ruins…

 

Marcelo Mendes Pinto, archeologist and CITCEM researcher

Mass of the rooster, a Latin expression
28 December, 2018 / ,

Mass of the Rooster is the name given by Catholics to Mass celebrated on Christmas Eve that begins at midnight from December 24 to 25. The phrase “Mass of the Rooster” is specific to Latin countries and derives from the ancestral tale that at midnight on December 24, a rooster would have sung strongly, as never heard before from another similar animal, announcing the coming of the Messiah, son of God, Jesus Christ.

Another tale, of Spanish origin, says that before hitting the 12 rings of the bell at midnight on December 24, each farmer of the province of Toledo in Spain killed a rooster in memory of the one who sang when St. Peter denied Jesus three times, at the time of his death. The bird was then taken to the Church to be offered to the poor who thus saw their Christmas improve. It was customary, in some Spanish villages, to take the rooster to the church to sing during the Mass, signifying a harbinger of good harvests. But that was formerly because now this is forbidden.

The mass of the rooster is usually celebrated with great joy, as it is told in the text about the tradition of the Mass of the Igreja da Lapa.

Porto, a world of expressions
6 December, 2018 / ,

It never made sense to compare Porto with other cities in the world. The privilege of being able to eat a Francesinha in every corner and drink a beer in a terrace of the river is something that all that live here or visit us have access to. But there are details that distinguish one who is a true tripeiro: the very particular pronunciation and the unrivalled expressions.

If I had to say the first Porto expression I heard in my life, although it is impossible to say that it is true, it would have to be something I heard on the day of my birth. I could swear that the doctor, seeing my father in a state of ecstasy, would have approached, exclaiming, “Look, be careful or you’ll have a badagio.” But what is this, “to have a badagaio”? It’s as simple as saying, “Watch out or you’ll faint.”

But if you’d like another typical expression of Porto and that can help you in your stay: Jecos. It would be offensive to treat a dog, not knowing its name, just by dog. And that’s where the good manners of Porto come in: all dogs have names, they’re all Jecos. You already know if you hear “BE CAREFUL WITH THE JECO”, run.

And since there are not two without three, here’s a fundamental one for your stay in Porto: Fino. Fino is more than just beer. It is an instrument of conversation, an excuse to make plans.

The one who thinks that the people of Porto do not have an ID card of their own, is deceived. The pronunciation and the expressions of the North, are what makes us so unique, so different and at the same time so easily recognized.

 

Gomes Teixeira – The mathematician who could have been a priest
15 October, 2018 / , , ,

Gomes Teixeira, illustrious mathematician who would become the first rector of the University of Porto, only did not study Theology by mere chance.

Born in January 1851 in Armamar, he was soon distinguished by his intelligence and good grades obtained in all subjects. At that time, it was common for boys with good schooling to be referred to the Seminary, but the young man was also brilliant at Mathematics. Thus, when it was time to go to university, the family decided that it would be the good fortune to decide between Theology and Mathematics.

Luck dictated Mathematics and since he arrived at the University of Coimbra, Francisco Gomes Teixeira stood out by the maximum notes obtained. At the age of 20 he published his first work and in 1874 he finished the course with a grade of 20 values. Such a brilliant academic course would, naturally, have to lead him to a teaching career. He excelled at the University of Coimbra and at the Polytechnic Academy of Porto, which he would eventually direct.

In 1911 the University of Porto was founded and Gomes Teixeira was chosen to be its first rector. He died in Porto in 1933. After his death, three busts were made in bronze, later placed in his native land at the University of Porto and at the University of Coimbra.

Source: O Tripeiro 7ª Série Ano XIX nº1 e 7ª Série Ano XXX, Número 12

The Siege of Porto
14 September, 2018 / , ,

It was 13 months that marked the city forever. The Siege of Porto lasted from July of 1832 to August of the following year, but its memory remains in the toponymy and the soul of the city.

The city will always be marked by the months in which it was surrounded: in addition to material damages and loss of human life, this period of history gave Porto the title of  “antiga, Mui Nobre, Sempre Leal e Invicta Cidade do Porto” (old, very noble, always loyal and invicta Porto) attributed by D. Pedro as a form of gratitude for the loyalty and courage with which the Porto residents defended the liberal cause. The king would even offer his heart to the city as a form of giving thanks.

“Bairro do Cerco do Porto”, “Rua do Heroísmo” (Heroism, in memory of a bloody battle that took place there) or “Rua da Firmeza” (Firmness) are names that perpetuate “the dignity and resignation with which the Porto residents valiantly resisted”. They evoke this time and a war between two brothers with opposing convictions.

Porto never accepted the ascendancy of the absolutist D. Miguel to power (1828) and when D. Pedro took command of the Liberal movement, he found in the people of the city a powerful ally. On July 8, 1832, D. Pedro, coming from the Azores, disembarked in Pampelido (Mindelo) to take the city of Porto, arriving at the present Praça da Liberdade at noon. D. Miguel’s troops had been moved to Lisbon so the Liberals had no difficulty entering the city. The next day, the absolutist army, coming from the south, settled in the Serra do Pilar, on the other side of the river, to bombard the city and expel the Liberals. Thus begins the siege: D. Pedro’s supporters remain in the port, surrounded. Food and essential goods became scarce and, as the situation got worse, cholera and typhus became opponents of those fighting for the liberal cause.

In June 1833, the Liberals altered the strategy and resolved to attack from the Algarve. The absolutist troops, convinced that the adversary was weakened, decide to launch a great attack on the Port but end up being defeated. On the 26th July, the Liberals occupied Lisbon but Porto remained surrounded. On the 18th August, under the command of Marechal Saldanha, the Liberal army obtained a decisive victory that two days later lead the supporters of D. Miguel to retreat. The Siege of Porto was finished.

The metro station that is a museum
14 September, 2018 / ,

The metro station Campo 24 de Agosto keeps a real treasure: the ruins of a reservoir of water that existed there.

Besides being designed by the renowned Portuguese architect Souto Moura, this station in the center of the city has other reasons for its significance: it accommodates the archaeological traces of a reservoir that supplied the existent fountain. In the nineteenth century, the river that flowed there was buried along with the bridge that crossed it. Over time, and with the urbanization of the surrounding area, which was formerly rural, the memory of this past was forgotten until progress recovered that memory.

During the construction of the underground station, at the beginning of this century, what was left of the old reservoir was discovered along with other objects, including shoe soles, Portuguese ceramics, Italian glass or Chinese porcelain. To preserve these memories, the ruins were dismantled and then rebuilt in the place where they can be visited today, accompanied by explanations that contextualize the importance of these remains.

The two images of Senhora da Luz
13 August, 2018 / , ,

Before the lighthouse of São Miguel, which was built in 1758 in Foz, there was a chapel dedicated to Senhora da Luz.

According to some studies, in prehistoric times that place would have a special meaning, as evidenced by marks made on rocks. The reference to Senhora da Luz (“Lady of Light”) and its chapel already emerges in 1680. It would be a simple construction, but of great importance for fishermen and sailors.

Bombarded during the liberal wars, the chapel would be destroyed but from its interior, an altar was spared with the image that is today in the Church of São João da Foz do Douro. This image of “Our Lady” invokes the light, so essential for those who sailed the seas. Framed by gilded carving and adorned with images of angels, the “Lady of Light” is still adored today.

In the same church, there is still another image representing Our Lady with Jesus on his lap, measuring 30 cm high and made in ivory. Despite its small size, it stands out for the rarity and beauty of its details, as it is decorated with a mantle embroidered with gold and colored stones. The image was intended to be carried and kissed by its faithful followers on festive days.

Source: O Tripeiro 7th Series, Year XV issue 9 September 1996
A memorial made of wreckage
13 August, 2018 / ,

 

In the Agramonte Cemetery, in the Boavista area, a gigantic ark filled with burnt and twisted irons, reminds us of one of the city’s greatest tragedies.

On the night of March 20, 1888, a violent fire completely destroyed the Teatro Baquet, a building with two entrances (Rua de Sá da Bandeira and Rua de Santo António, currently Rua 31 de janeiro). That fateful night, the room was full and on stage comic opera was on. During a change of scenery, one of the cloths touched the flame of gaslight. Due to the materials, the antiquity of the building and the lack of a security plan, fire has spread rapidly and 120 people died in this tragedy.

The fire led to the redress of security in all the rooms of the city and, so that such misfortune was never forgotten, a memorial was made in the Cemetery of Agramonte. The mausoleum, which still intrigues people who do not know this episode of the history of the city, was made with pieces of iron and has on top a large crown of martyrs, also in iron.

Procession of the paper costume in Foz do Douro
9 August, 2018 / , , , ,

 

From mid-June to mid-September, the União de Freguesias (Union of Parishes) of Aldoar, Foz do Douro and Nevogilde, host the São Bartolomeu parties – a group of activities that liven up the streets and unite populations and visitors.

The procession of the Paper Costume is admittedly the most awaited moment of the festivities, with a history that has already surpassed 100 years and that in the last decade has gained special notoriety in the city.

 

These are months of work and preparation, with a permanent focus on roots, history and stories of the region. The 2nd French Invasion of 1809 and the Liberation of the City of Porto is the theme for the Paper Costume Contest in 2018, which will take place on August 26. There are meters and meters of paper, surgically worked by dedicated hands that keep this festive moment in the city alive.

This year’s edition has 350 extras, from gatherings and associations of the União de Freguesias, who will join the remaining hundreds who visit Foz do Douro to live this unique experience.

The current format is now 75 years old and integrates a route that seeks to reach the main centers of the history of Foz do Douro. The costumes parade begins at 10:30 am and goes through the Cantareira, rich in its fishing tradition.

After the inevitable passage through the charismatic Jardim do Passeio Alegre, a favourite amongst many intellectuals who fill the culture of Foz do Douro and Oporto, the procession continues to Ourigo Beach where the sea baths take place, one of the most noticeable traditions at the São Bartolomeu parties.

These baths are filled with tradition and folktales. Also known as “holy baths”, these dives in the waters of the Atlantic – seven, as tradition says – are a way of thanking São Bartolomeu’s favors in the last year and for banishing malaria over the next twelve months.

The participants of this year’s edition come from Bloco da União de Freguesias de Aldoar, Foz do Douro e Nevogilde, Associação de Moradores do Bairro Social da Pasteleira – Previdência, Associação de Moradores do Bairro Social de Aldoar and Orfeão da Foz do Douro.

People from all different backgrounds and spaces join in this tradition, showing that the city is made of all and with all even in the most popular of its traditions.

The traditional barber shops in Porto
20 July, 2018 / , , ,

These are nine of the traditional barbershops in the city of Porto and all are located between the Hospital Santo António and the São Bento Station.

Also traditional is the decoration of these barbershops, with iron armchairs and brass instruments capable of withstanding decades of use. Professionals also follow this longevity: many are elderly gentlemen with weather-discolored hair and clever fingers wrapped in wrinkles.

  • Barbearia Porto: It was born in 1946 but from that date only the chairs and a shoebox are left. The new owners brought in the rest of the vintage decor. It is two steps from the Avenida dos Aliados.
  • Barbearia Garrett: Since 1979 in the hands of Acácio Branco, this barbershop is just a few meters from the Porto City Hall. With an old-fashioned décor, this establishment only has male guests.
  • Oficina do Cabelo: Formerly known as Tinoco, reopened under this name. From 1929 it maintains the marble washbasins, iron chairs, huge mirrors and floor covered with fan mosaics. It is now considered part of Porto’s heritage.
  • Barbearia Santo António: It is not much bigger than a corridor, but it brings a lot of history in the hands of António Cardoso. There are more than 50 years of cuts at the beginning of Rua 31 de Janeiro.
  • Barbearia Norton: In this barbershop, in the Batalha area, we talk about everything and keep alive the tradition of the neighbourhood barber with leather chairs, beard brush and razors.
  • Salão Veneza: It is almost 90 years old and more than 70 years as a barbershop. Some of the most unforgettable characters of our history have already sat in these red armchairs.
  • Barbearia Sport: It was in 1942 that this barbershop settled in Porto. It happened in an era where one would spend more time embellishing their moustache than cutting hair.
  • Barbearia Invicta: Aventino Silva has been in this barbershop since the age of 10 and despite the arrival of the blades, he has not lost clients.
  • Barbearia Orlando: It already has two spaces in Porto but it is in the Rua Álvaro Castelões that the tradition, the customers and the conversations are kept on point.

Source: “Os bigodes à antiga e a arte de os fazer bem feitos” – Prova de Aptidão Artística (Artistic aptitude test) by Edgar Duarte (Escola Artística Soares dos Reis)