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Arco do Bandeira
Linking the Rossio and the Rua dos Sapateiros (at the southern end of the square), this archway was built in the late 18th century, according to a design by Manuel Reinaldo dos Santos. Financed by Pires Bandeira, from who it received its name, the arch was intended as a copy of another existing across the square, where the National Theatre of Dona Maria II is located. With its ornamental motives, it is considered one of the finest pieces of Pombaline architecture.
- Historical Travel
National Theatre of Dona Maria II
Located at the northern end of Rossio Square, this magnificent looking building was built on the site of the old Estaus Palace, built around 1450 as lodging for foreign dignitaries and noblemen visiting Lisbon. In the 16th century, when the Inquisition was installed in Portugal, the Estaus Palace became the seat of the Inquisition. The palace survived the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, but was destroyed by fire in 1836.
Thanks to the intensive efforts of Romantic poet and dramatist Almeida Garrett, it was decided to replace the old palace by a modern theatre, dedicated to Queen Mary II of Portugal. The building was constructed between 1842 and 1846 to a neoclassical design by Italian architect Fortunato Lodi. The building is the best representative of neoclassical architecture of Palladian influence in Lisbon. The main feature of the façade is a portico (hexastyle) with six Ionic columns reused from the Saint Francis Convent of Lisbon and a triangular pediment decorated with a sculpted relief showing Apollo and the Muses.
- Historical Travel
- Theater Travel
Rossio Train Station
This centrally located train station is located between Praca dos Restauradores and Praça de Dom Pedro IV. The station was formerly known as Estação Central (Central Station) and that designation still appears in its magnificent Neo-Manueline façade which dominates the northwest side of the square and is a Romantic recreation of the exuberant Manueline style, typical of early 16th century Portugal. The Station was commissioned by the Portuguese Royal Railway Company and was designed between 1886 and 1887 by Portuguese architect José Luís Monteiro. It was built in one the most important squares of Lisbon, the Rossio, and connected the city to the region of Sintra, from where I took a train to one morning. Tickets to Sintra only cost €4 and trains leave every 10 minutes or so and take about 40 minutes.
- Historical Travel
Former Eden Cinema
This wonderful Art Deco building was one of Lisbon's major cinema/theatre buildings and its imposing facade still dominates the main city square Praca dos Restauradores. It opened in 1931 and was designed by architects Cassiano Branco and Carlo Florencio Dias.
Across the top of the huge facade is a stone frieze depicting stylised actors performing before a film crew and cameras. Its facade also features intriguing vegetation in the former of palm trees and such like which is a little unusual.
Sadly this magnificent cinema closed in 1989 and lay unused for many years. It was used as a location in the Wim Wenders movie "Until the End of the World" (1991). In 2001 it was converted into a 134 room apartment hotel known as the Orion Eden Hotel.
- Historical Travel
Rossio station: The most beautiful station I know
Train stations are either humdrum looking or downright ugly but functional, or pretty but inefficient, very rarely pretty and functional at the same time. Rossio station in the heart of the old part of Lisbon is a rare exception.
This magnificent and fairytale-like structure was constructed in the late 19th century by Jose Luis Monteiro in what is called the neo-Manueline style, a sumptuous architectural style that came out during the reign of D. Manuel in the 15th-16th century celebrating the Discoveries (evoking objects associated with this period -- e.g. ropes (important in ships). Construction of the station, with the tunnel and connection to the Largo do Carmo, began in 1886 and completed in 1890, and was considered the most ambitious construction project in Lisbon in that period. Until 1957, Rossio was the central station of Lisbon, with both national and international connections.
The facade is exuberant and romantic, with an interesting main door under two intertwined horseshoe portals, and decorative sculptures. Inside, it has been renovated and now sports a modern, sleek look, with covered ramps in the train level. On the walls of the hall where the trains are very interesting and beautiful tiles adorning their entire length. However, these cannot be easily seen now by people, unless they buy a train ticket, as automatic ticket gates have been placed close to the start of the rail.
The station closed in 2004 until 2008 due to extensive excavation work in the tunnels. Today, it is the station for suburban lines, including the line going to Sintra. There is an underground pedestrian connection now that goes to the Metro station of Rossio. On one wing of this building are restaurants and bars with tables outside, and it is a fantastic for city watching. As these are at upper levels, it affords a good view of the old areas of Lisbon.
- Historical Travel
April 25th bridge
The bridge was originally called the Ponte Salazar, after the dictator who built it in 1966, but was renamed to commemorate the revolution of 1974. It was inspired by the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, and stretches for 1km.
This statue is modeled after the more famous one in Rio, and stands on the south bank of the Tagus. The figure of Christ is 28 m tall and was built by Francisco Franco from 1949-1959. You can get to the top of the 82m monument with a lift, plus some steps, and enjoy a beautiful view of Lisbon.
The theatre is named after Dom Pedro’s daughter, Dona Maria, and was built in the 1840’s. It sits on the north side of Rossio. The interior was destroyed by fire in 1964, and was re-built in the 1970’s. On top of the pediment is Gil Vincente, the founder of Portuguese theatre.
Gateway to Rua Augusta
The gateway from Praca do Comercio to Rua Augusta is an impressive arch. The view from Rua Augusta through the arch, which frames the statue of King Jose I is beautiful, and one of the best pictures I took in Lisbon. It is also like a gateway from one world to the next, as the chaos of Praca do Comercio turns into the café lined Rua Augusta.
Monument of Discoveries
This monument sits prominently on the Belem waterfront and is an easy walk from the Torre de Belem. It was built in 1960, to commemorate the 500 anniversay of the death of Henry the Navigator, who sits at the tip of the monument, followed by many other famous Portuguese explorers. The central map shows the routes of the 15th and 16th century discoveries. The monument makes a great backdrop for pictures and I found myself examining the different designs for quite some time.
A peculiar-looking house
The Casa dos Bicos (literally translated House of Beaks) is one of Lisbon's highly peculiar house/building. This very conspicuous building is thoroughly encrusted with diamond-shaped stones or bosses looking as tho a cinematic backdrop or a vessel with an entire side thoroughly emblazoned with enormous spikes. Better yet, in accordance with its literal name, a house studded with several hundred giant beaks of some pre-historic birds. It's an oddity but also one which architecturally falls into a class by itself. That said, not one definitive description has so far been made to fully encapsulate Casa dos Bicos's enigmatic appearance except to describe it as part of the overall canon of Portuguese Manueline style.
Casa dos Bicos was built in 1523 as a residence of the illustrious Albuquerque family, intended specifically for an illegitimate son of Afonso de Albuquerque, conqueror of Goa and the Malaccas and Viceroy of India during the reign of King Manuel.
The strange-looking structure is believed to be an adaptation of the Mediterranean style houses fashionable in the 1500's. If so, then why was the Albuquerque family the only household in all of Lisbon ever to erect a house of this kind? Were they all wiped out without a trace with the exception of Casa dos Bicos by the great earthquake of 1755?
Heavily damaged by the great earthquake, this house went thru several restorations over the centuries and only during the 1980's did the two top floors were fully restored and recreated.
Casa dos Bicos nowadays serve as a fitting site for artistic exhibitions.
Impressive entrance to a great city
Our first glimpse of our new destination so often is the capital city and the first impression we get from this first glimpse is as important and lasting as the final hours of the trip.
Not very many cities in the world offers a grandiose overview of its layout and topography upon one's initial approach or descent to its territory by all means - from a flight, on a ship entering its harbor, via a sinuous train ride or even from a straightforward bus ride - and then you feel so exceedingly exhilarated that a beautiful beginning to a trip can very well be an indicator as well of a grand journey and experience of a place.
One such city is Lisbon. Approached by any means, the city opens up and pops into your senses like a coy apparition. And one eye-fetching arrival to this most astonishing city is by boat or ferry when one is coming from the Alentejo region or from the suburbs just across the estuary of the River Tejo and to be deposited right at the steps of Praca do Comercio the handsome broad wide square in the lower part of the city called Baixa.
Upon arrival this way, the first thing that grabs the visitor's eye right away is the impressive monumental arch gateway to the heart of the city. It's a massive structure built in the mid-1800's as part of the overall re-design of lower Lisbon totally devastated by the big earthquake of 1755. The triumphal arch is Pombal's (Marquis de Pombal) piece de resistance and the culmination of the grand exhaustive rebuilding of the city.
The arch which took more than a decade to complete is very much neo-classical in design and is populated with figures as the graceful deities and some of Portugal's important players in its glorious history such as Vasco da Gama, the poet Luis de Camoes, King Manuel I and of course the Marquis de Pombal himself, the very practical and unsentimental prime minister at the time of the horrific earthquake.
So when you're down in this area - the Baixa - make sure to extend your stroll all the way towards the river front at Praca do Comercio and marvel at this arch which is a supreme symbol of Lisbon's resurrection.
The builder and his legacy of buildings
Next time you're in Lisbon, don't rush to take as much of her sights in no time by ignoring others, the little things that are easily bypassed because of their indirectness or insignificance.
Look up at her buildings, tenements of apartments, shops that line mostly the old city, structures ordered built by the Marquez of Pombal to resurrect Lisbon from her ashes into a new uniquely human style of architecture: simple, elegant and warm and definitely, Pombaline.
The Pombaline style of houses are such direct contrast but nevertheless complimentary to the flamboyant Manueline style which represents the lasting signature of Portugal's powerful past.
These houses, very many in need of extensive repairs, built in the later part of the 1700's into 1800's after the devastating earthquake of 1755, are rectilinear in dimensions. They are burly and squat-looking in their several storeys of closely-spaced windows, balconies and rooms stretched lengthwise to keep the exquisite tiles breathe which most of them are beautifully decorated with.
The Marquez de Pombal was Lisbon's all-powerful Minister during the reign of King Jose I. Pombal was practical, unsentimental and unforgiving who swiftly ordered to bury the thousands of dead from the earthquake and went ahead to formulate based on his own ideals the rapid rebuilding of the city generally demolished by the unprecedented catastrophe.
So, the Baixa, Lisbon's lower town and the area levelled to dust by the great earthquake, is Europe's first urban landscape designed in the grid-like layout or system and one that is purely Pombaline.
Doorway that defied extinction
There are not very many grand structures and monuments in Lisbon that survived the epic devastation of the 1755 earthquake to this wonderful place, a city which prior to the earthquake was considered and much heralded as the most beautiful and serene of all cities in Europe. Much of central Lisbon was reduced to rubble following the immediate after effects by way of a tsunami, conflagration and more tremors, killing over 40,000 of her ciitizens, a tremulous magnitude which was felt as far as Scotland and Jamaica that so disturbed even the French writer Voltaire to include an episode of it in his 'Candide'.
One such structure which miraculously survived the hellish event, tho only a fragment remained but a most beautiful chunk nevertheless is the central doorway of the church Igreja Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Velha (Church of Our Lady of Conception). The elaborate doorway is a precursor of Manueline style of architecture - one that is importantly and uniquely Portuguese - which then became the coda of subsequent adaptations starting in Belem's Mosteiro dos Jeronimos among others.
The portal is decorated with a profusion of carved objects from angels, beasts, floral details, armillary spheres and the cross of the Order of Christ (the religious order which took over the Crusaders in Portugal). And in its tympanum, a central figure of the Virgin Mary with outstretched protective mantle over carved images of ecclesiastics and royalty associated with the original church itself which was an alms house (original name of the church was Nossa Senhora da Misericordia): Pope Leo X, King Manuel the first and his sister Queen Leonor (widow of King Joao the second) who founded the first Misericordia church dedicated to the poor.
When one stands before this doorway today and look up to examine its stupendous Manueline flourishes, it is hard to imagine that this is all that was left of the original structure and that the body of the church itself is no more connected to this splendid doorway. There is a regular church attached to it nowadays and is a functioning one but it is a gloomy kind which somehow serves to reinforce the sad fate of the past.
The enjoyment of this magnificent doorway however is hampered by the constant flow of traffic and the parked cars right in front which is the ultra busy street of Rua da Alfandega. So, get up close and stand right by its doorsteps and go ahead crane your neck up to admire its glory.
- Arts and Culture
Lisbon's Aqueduct: quenching the city's thirst
The Aqueduto das Aguas Livres (literally Aqueduct of Free Water) is Lisbon's grand and massive main water supplier which continues to be in remarkable service to this day. Built in 1729 and fully functional since 1748, this towering structure is an engineering marvel. Marvel it is that is truly short of being miraculous considering that it withstood firm from the devastating 1755 earthquake that destroyed most of Lisbon.
The aqueduct is reputed to be 20 kilometers long which strides across Lisbon's neighborhoods up the valley with its gigantic arches - 109 all in all - from the upper part of the city ending up in the main reservoir called Mae de Aguas (Mother of Water) near the Largo do Rato in the city's Rato neighborhood.
To see the Aguas Livres is to experience Lisbon in the most unusual and unforgettable way. There are arranged tours to go up to the aqueduct's catwalk on Thursdays and Saturdays. Reservations are made at Museu de Agua and the actual tour starts out in Mae de Agua (reservoir)located on Rua das Amoreiras near Largo do Rato. On the grounds of Mae de Aguas (reservoir) is also a very pleasant garden where one would find a tiny church built into one of the aqueduct's arches.
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