Curiosities

Mouzinho da Silveira Street
17 October, 2017 /

A mark of nineteenth century modernity

It connects Ribeira and Baixa (Downtown) of Porto. It was built in the 19th century, covering a river that divided the city and today is a point of passage for thousands of tourists.

The construction of this street, which honors the liberal politician Mouzinho da Silveira (1780-1849), resulted from the need to connect the area of ​​Ribeira, which until then was the commercial hub of Oporto to the center of the city. The works were financed by the taxes of Wine, levied on the basis of the wine barrels that were unloaded on the Douro River dock.

In contrast to the narrow streets of Ribeira, this new street was already a sign of modernity at a time when Oporto, boosted by burgeoning commerce, grew and gained economic power. The street was built over the Rio da Vila that divided the city; thus obliging the expropriation and demolition of buildings such as the St. Crispim Chapel, St. Roque Chapel and vestiges of the old medieval wall.

The street is 19 meters wide, was opened in 1875. With the construction of São Bento Station (which would be completed in 1916), this road would gain even more importance. The closeness to the station several shops emerged and besides the local consumers they had as clients the residents of Douro and Minho villages that came to the city. In addition to seeds and agricultural implements, these establishments sold products such as corks, scales, or religious items. Some of these stores still exist today and deserve a closer look, since they are a valuable example of the traditional trade of Oporto.

In addition to restaurants, handicraft shops and other places to shop or enjoy a meal, this street has other attractions that are worth seeing. One is a granite fountain that has a curious story: it is a replica of the fountain that existed when the street was built and was demolished to give way to two stores that disappeared overtime and a fountain formed by two spouts and a shell in the center was built according to the original design.

Santa Clara
17 October, 2017 /

The saint who came from Rome

She was born in the Roman Empire, but it is in Porto, specifically in the Igreja do Bonfim, that this saint is worshipped. The festivities in her honor take place in September.

Daughter of pagan parents, Santa Clara was impressed by the suffering of Christians in the arenas of Rome and converted to Christianity. Persecuted by the Roman emperors, she died as a martyr. Initially she was buried in the catacombs of St. Callisto but in the eighteenth century a cardinal asked the Pope to exhibit the relics of the Saint. José Teixeira, a painter from Porto, asked the cardinal to bring the saint to Porto.

In 1779 her body was brought by ship to Portugal, and although the boat was caught in a great storm, the crew and the vessel suffered nothing. In Zaragoza and Lisbon the bishops and priests were supposed to have tried to keep the saint, but eventually she came to Porto. Initially she remained in the Church of Nossa Senhora do Terço and Caridade of Porto, but on the first Sunday of September of 1803 Santa Clara was transferred to the Igreja do Bonfim. She is the patron Saint of sailors, mothers in labor pains and children with speech problems.

The festivities in honor of the Virgin and Martyr Santa Clara is one of the largest in the city and always takes place on the first weekend of September.

Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis
22 August, 2017 /

A museum which was a factory

It is the oldest public museum in the country, but in the past it was a factory and home of a family of merchants.

The building began to be built in 1795 to house a factory and residence for the Moraes e Castro family, the quintessential of the neoclassical architecture that dominated the city of Oporto in that period. The interior decoration is exquisite and was made by the best artists of that epoch.

The then Commonly known Palácio dos Carrancas accommodated – even without  the consent of its owners – dignitaries such  as General Soult (during the French Invasions), the Duke of Wellington, General Beresford, and Prince William of Nassau. It was also the refuge of D. Pedro IV, during the war he fought against his brother.

In 1861 it was transformed into the (Royal Palace) Paço Real, to receive the kings when they visited the north of Portugal. With the establishment of the Republic it lost its purpose, but the last king of Portugal bequeathed it to Misericórdia (Church of Mercy), so that a hospital could be installed in it. Since the former Soares dos Reis National Museum (which had been operating since 1833 in São Lázaro) was in poor condition, it was transferred to the Carrancas Palace. The current museum was inaugurated in 1942.

The origins of the name Castelo do Queijo
10 July, 2017 /

São Francisco Xavier Fort is its original name, but it is known among the Porto residents as Castelo do Queijo, since it was built on top of a granite rock which has a rounded shape resembling a ball-shaped cheese.

This designation came about in the 17th century, when the fort was built to defend the coast from pirate attacks coming from Northern Africa. The idea of ​​erecting the Fort of San Francisco Xavier is most likely to have arisen in the sixteenth century, but since there was not much strategic interest at that time in that area, construction was postponed.

Despite possessing all the features of a military building, tailor made for the defence of the coast – walls, a moat, as well as watchtowers resting on triangular corbels – the truth is that it never truly served for the purpose it was intended. During the Civil War (1828-34) it was occupied by the troops of D. Miguel and as a result part of its structure was destroyed. It was abandoned and plundered for some time, however, after being restored, it is open to the public today, having a small museum and housing exhibitions and other events.

Capela das Almas
26 June, 2017 /

The 15 947 tiles of the Capela das Almas

It is one of the most photographed and well known buildings in Porto. Located in the Baixa, the Capela das Almas draws attention due to the tiles that cover its façade.

Although this eighteenth-century chapel has a rather simple architecture, it is impossible to remain indifferent to its walls, covered with 15 947 tiles covering an area of ​​about 360 m2. In fact, not only were these tiles only laid out in the twentieth century (1929), but were elaborated in a way imitating the original mosaics of the eighteenth century. They were designed by the potter Eduardo Leite and were made in a famous factory in Lisbon.

The tiles represent episodes of the lives of Santa Catarina and São Francisco de Assis. However, it is curious that these panels mix scenes of the lives of two different saints: St. Catherine of Siena and St. Catherine of Alexandria (on the main facade).

In the chapel there is also a bell tower with two floors and the image of Nª Srª das Almas. The altarpiece of the high altar, representing the Ascension of Christ was painted by Joaquim Rafael.

Suggestions by Katty Xiomara
23 April, 2017 / , ,

 

She is one of the most internationally known names in Portuguese fashion. Although born in Venezuela, her career development has been in Porto and it is from here that she designs creations that tread on the catwalks of the whole world.

Katty Xiomara was born in Caracas, Venezuela, having arrived in Porto at the age of 18. It was at this point that she decided to start studying fashion. All the same, it was as a student that she won, at the age of 22, the first prize of Porto de Moda. In 1996 she participated in Portugal Fashion for the first time and since then has been regularly present at this event, also presenting collections at Portugal Fashion Paris.

Since 2005 she has participated in international fairs such as Bread & Butter, Berlin and Barcelona, ​​and Project in Las Vegas among others. Her international career was consolidated in 2013, when she began to attend the New York Fashion Week. In 2014 she received the Silver Winner, awarded by IDA “International Design Awards”, a prize that she won again in 2015.

In 2007 she set up her studio in an old townhouse on Rua da Boavista, although it is possible to find her collections in the United States and Japan. Her creations are elegant and timeless but at the same time joyful and romantic, destined for confident women who prefer a unique individual style.

Katty Xiomara’s career also includes collaborations with several international brands, ranging from sportswear to creation of uniforms. A designer who is also a teacher at the same fashion school where she graduated, Modatex.

Atelier

Rua da Boavista, 795

Phone: +351 220 133 784

 

Suggestions:

  • Bar – I know it’s not really a bar, but I really like the mojito, blackberryfizz and berrygood at Honorato (Baixa)
  • Restaurant – Traditional and unpretentious: Antunes. In another register, I would emphasize the Flow or the Reitoria.
  • Stroll – Palácio de Cristal, the waterfront between Foz and Ribeira
  • Romantic place – The old manor house of Porto wine, in the romantic gardens of the Palácio de Cristal
  • A secret of the city: It is not really a secret, but I really like Passeio das Virtudes, the Portuguese Photography Centre and Soares dos Reis Museum

 

Synagogues of Porto
23 April, 2017 / ,

The Jewish presence in Porto predates the very existence of the city, but the earliest records date back to the 12th century, when many Jewish merchants had settled in Ribeira.

The first known synagogue has appeared on the hill of the Cathedral. Later on, in the 14th century, there was another prayer house in the current Rua do Comércio do Porto, near the Palácio da Bolsa.  Judiaria de Monchique (Monchique Jewish quarter), is part of the city where, even today, the Jewish presence is visible in the name of the place. There also used to be a synagogue of great importance. The sign commemorating its inauguration is in permanent exhibition at Museu do Carmo in Lisbon. The Jewish cemetery would be near the place where Passeio das Virtudes is located.

In the same century, the Judiaria do Olival (Olival Jewish quarter) was  built, which also had a majestic  synagogue that  later on gave way to the Mosteiro São Bento da Vitória (Monastery of St. Benedict of Victory). The Inquisition and the forced conversion of many Jews left their mark in Porto as well. In the seventeenth century many Jews left the city.

In the twentieth century, the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue (at Guerra Junqueiro Street, 340) was built, the largest in the Iberian Peninsula.

Cedofeita: a street with many lives
23 April, 2017 / , ,

It was one of the marks of urban revitalization in the eighteenth century and one of the starting points for the rebirth of Baixa in the 21st century. A large part of this street is used for pedestrians only, which makes it perfect for shopping, sightseeing and for a quiet meal.

The origins of Cedofeita seem to go back to the sixth century and the Church of São Martinho in Cedofeita. However, being away from the medieval walls and the riverine area, it only fully developed in the eighteenth century. At that time, and in view of the economic and demographic growth of the city, it became important to make the connection between the port and the high zone. Rua de Cedofeita was then known as Rua da Estrada and was one of the pillars of the urbanization plans that were then outlined.

Then the houses that still exist today began to be built: buildings with two to four stories, with balconies on the upper floors and shop windows facing the street. The electric tram used to pass in this street, famous for the shops, like the extinct Bazaar of the Three Vinténs (the sign still exists).

Despite being “forgotten” for some time, Cedofeita has become, in recent years, one of the central points of new life of the Port of Porto, taking advantage of the proximity to places such as Rua Miguel Bombarda or Praça Carlos Alberto.

Curiosities:

On Cedofeita street number 395 King D. Pedro used to live, during the siege of Oporto, where the liberal troops, led by D. Pedro, were surrounded by the supporters of his brother, Miguel.

Carolina Michaelis inhabited at number 159; she was an illustrious literary critic and writer, who was the first woman to teach at a Portuguese university

Rua de Cedofeita is 840 meters long: it starts at Carlos Alberto Square and ends at Rua da Boavista.

The Portuguese writer Agustina Bessa-Luís said that Rua de Cedofeita was “the most beautiful” of Porto.

In the first decade of this century, there was a project to cover the Street of Cedofeita with a glass roof canopy.

 

A friendship of centuries
14 March, 2017 /

A friendship of centuries

The influence of the English in the city of Porto and specifically the Port wine is well known, but the relationship between Porto and British is much older.

The first contact took place around June 1147, when the English Crusaders who were going to the Holy Land stayed in Porto for 11 days waiting for the forces commanded by the Count of Areschot and Cristiano de Gistell, who had separated from the fleet due to a tempest at sea . The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, on learning of this fact, tried to establish an agreement with their leaders, convincing them to help in the conquest of Lisbon from the Moors.

The relationship intensified during the middle Ages, with the establishment of commercial relations. Cloths, wine, wood, furs and fish were the products traded between the two countries.

The 2 of February of 1367 the Cathedral of the Porto was stage of the marriage between D. João I and D. Filipa de Lencastre, a union that would offset the support of the British in the fight against Castile. In 1642, two years after the restoration of Portugal’s independence, Porto receives the first British consul, Nicholas Comerforde.

The Duke of the People
2 March, 2017 /

The Duke saved many people from the dangerous waters of the Douro River. Oporto paid him homage with a bust, placed in Ribeira.

Deocleciano Monteiro was his birth name, but his mother began to call him Duke and that was how he became known. The Duke of Ribeira, who died in 1996, was one of the most emblematic figures of the city. At the tender age of 11 he saved a man from drowning in the Douro River. Throughout his life as a ferryman he carried out many other rescues, having also collected the bodies of those who could not resist the treacherous waters of the river he knew like no one else.

He became one of the most famous personas in the history of Porto and met illustrious figures like Queen Isabel II and other heads of State. The city did not forget him and paid him homage in the place that was the scene of his heroism. In Rua da Lada, next to D. Luís I Bridge, a tombstone with a bust by José Rodrigues was placed.