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One of the darker periods in Lagos’ history is the time when in the 15th century the town sported a market at which slaves, imported from North Africa, were sold on a market. The first African slaves entered post-medieval Europe through this small building that dates back to 1444 although most of it dates to 1691 by request of the 2nd Marquis of Niza, D. Francisco Luis da Gama, who built the Guards Mess over the building where the slaves used to be sold.
The main facade is divided into two parts, with a wide porch and double arches. On the ground floor a large room has been converted into an art gallery. The second floor was used as the Lagos Customs office until 1820. Over the years it has been used for different purposes such as an Inspection Office.
- Historical Travel
The first slave market in Europe.
When Portugal started to explore the coast of Africa they first imported a few africans as they wanted tö educate them as translators and then take them back to further explorations of the african continent.
They were very short of labour at that time though as many young men were out colonising the world and they soon turned many of the africasn in to slaves and the first place in Europe where slaves were traded was in Lagos where you still have the market building standing as a reminder of this sad part of portugese history.
It´s a rather small building that is sometimes used for exhebitions of local art, but most of the times it is standing empty, but it´s worth checking out simply because of the history it carries.
- Historical Travel
Old Slave Market
In one corner of The Praca da Republica, under the arches of the old customs house is what was Europes first Slave Market. (mercado de escravos). The market opened in 1444 and it is said that within a hundred years up to 10,000 slaves were being shipped from Africa every year just to meet Portugusese demand alone. the customs House now serves as an art Gallery.
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Slave Market - Coat of arms
This coat with the Portuguese royal arms is on the façade of the first slave market in Portugal. Although we had the first slave market in Europe we were also one of the first to abolish slavery in all world.
This building located on Rua da Senhora da Graça was the first slave market in Europe. The first slaves were brought to Portugal from the Sahara in 1441 by Henry's explorer Nuno Tristão.
The first slave market in Europe was in Lagos
It was from Lagos that Prince Henry the Navigator, sponsored missions of exploration along the West Coast of Africa. This resulted in the opening of the sea route from Europe to India and the subsequent development of the empires of not only Portugal, but also the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Spain and Belgium.
So Lagos came to be the major port from which explorers set out to discover lands in Africa and Asia and build the trade routes that made Portugal rich. Many seamen on the voyages of exploration originated from Lagos, which resultantly turned it into a commercial and naval port of consequence. It was from Lagos that the caravels, developed by Portuguese shipwrights, sailed to encounter new worlds in Africa and America and subsequently brought back gold, ivory and, sadly, slaves, all of which greatly contributed to the wealth of both the city and nation.
At that time in history, no trade was richer than that of trade in slaves and the first slave market opened in Europe to accommodate this trade still stands here in central Lagos.
Situated on the Praca do Infante Dom Henrique in Lagos, the building with four arches, shown in the picture, was the site where the first slaves brought from Africa were sold beginning in 1444 AD. On the walls, one can see a stone bearing the coat of arms of the Marques de Nisa, dating from the 17th Century, and on one wall a window dating from the 15th Century, which originally was a door.
Today this building has a much nobler use as it is now used as an art gallery where local artists exhibit their works.
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Lagos Travel Guide
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