ALFAMA NEIGHBORHOOD

Visiting the area to the strains of a Fado song: very romantic, isn’t it? From Baixa we move towards Alfama, the oldest part of the Portuguese capital. This is the part of the city full of crumbling old buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and endless opportunities to enjoy a panoramic view from one of the several miradouros – means viewpointslocated at the highest points of each hill. One of the most famous (and crowded at the sunset) is Miradouro das Portas do Sol, with stunning views over red roofs out to the Tagus river. Nearby, you can reach a second viewpoint, called Santa Luzia, a panoramic colonnated terrace.

Originally, Alfama was situated outside of the city walls, where only the poor and disadvantaged resided. As Lisbon grew into an important port, the district retained its lowly status as the tough and deprived district where sailors and dock workers lived. Today, Alfama has shrugged off its grim reputation, being transformed into a fashionable artisan district, while still retaining its character and dilapidated charm.

One of Lisbon’s must-visit attractions, is the Sao Jorge Castle, visible from almost anywhere in the old town. Sao Jorge is a Moorish Castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre, dating back to Middle Ages. It’s a solid climb up through Alfama’s winding streets to get there, or ride the number 28 Tram to the Largo da Graca, if You want to take it easy (but it’s incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike, so wait patiently to take it). Once there, you’ll have unrivaled 360-degree views on the city, plus the chance to wander the old castle walls, still provided with the old cannons on display.

The castle’s plan is roughly square, and it was originally encircled by a wall, to form a citadel. The castle complex consists of the castle itself (the castelejo), some ancillary buildings (including the ruins of the Royal Palace), gardens, and a large terraced square where You can enjoy the impressive panorama. The main entrance to the citadel is a 19th-century gate surmounted by the coat of arms of Portugal. This gate permits access to the main square (Praça d’Armas), which is decorated with old cannons and a bronze statue of Afonso Henriques, the Portuguese monarch who took the castle from the Moors.

Another monument to see in the area is the Lisbon’s cathedral (): the oldest church in the city, with construction starting in the 1100’s on the site of an even older Moorish mosque. The exterior of the old church resembles more that of a fortification than religious centre, with massive solid walls and two imposing clock towers.
The word Sé derives its name from the initials of Sedes Episcopalis which when translated means bishop’s seat. Interestingly the first bishop of Lisbon to have his seat here had no roots or ties to the region but was actually an English crusader named Gilbert.

to be continued ..

LISBON STORY

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I love Lisbon. It was love at first sight last summer when we went to Portugal for visiting Lisbon and Algarve region. Portogueses are wonderful people, they’ll make You feel at home really easily. We spent such lovely days in this sunny, lazy country. Portugal is rather small, easy to visit, and I would like to share the tale of our most significant moments here.

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We stayed in Arroios area, really close to Baixa and Chiado quarters: this is the heart of the citylife, near Rossio Square: a stimulating area, full both of museum and shops and coffee in the lively streets of the old town. Walking aimlessy far and wide, You’ll come across some of the most famous monuments of the city.

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Baixa is located between the hills of Alfama (Castle Area) and Chiado. We start the visit from two symbols of Lisbon: the Elevador de Santa Justa and the ruins of Convento do Carmo.
Situated at the end of Rua de Santa Justa, it connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo (Carmo Square). Since its construction the Lift has become a tourist attraction for Lisbon as, among the urban lifts in the city, Santa Justa is the only remaining vertical (conventional) one. Others are actually only funicular railways.

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The Carmo Convent and its Church were built between 1389 and 1423 in the plain gothic style, typical for the mendicant religious orders. The church has a Latin cross floorplan. The main facade has a portal with several archivolts and capitals decorated with vegetal and anthropomorphic motifs. The rose window over the portal is partially destroyed. The stone roof over the nave collapsed after the earthquake in 1755 and was never rebuilt, and only the pointed arches between the pillars have survived. Even so, it’s not difficult to imagine how imposing its architecture must have been.

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The Rua Augusta Arch is a stone, triunphal arch-like, historical building on Praça do Comércio. It was built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. It has six columns and is adorned with statues of various historical figures. Significant height from the arch crown to the frame imparts an appearance of heaviness to the structure. The associated space is filled with the coat of arms of Portugal. The allegorical group at the top, made by French sculptor Célestin Anatole Calmels, represents Glory rewarding Valor and Genius. Originally designed as a bell tower, the building was ultimately transformed into an elaborate arch.

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Urban development of the banks of the Tagus river, to Praça do Comércio was given a definitive impulse in the early 16th century, when King Manuel I built a new royal residence – the RibeiraPalace – by the river, outside the city walls. The area was further developed with the building of a port, shipbuilding facilities, and other administrative buildings that regulated the commerce between Portugal and other parts of Europe and its colonies.
On 1 November 1755, a great earthquake, followed by a tsunami destroyed most of Lisbon, including the Ribeira Palace and other buildings by the river. José I’s Prime Minister, the Marquis of Pombal, coordinated a massive rebuilding effort led by Portuguese architect Eugénio dos Santos, which designed a large, rectangular square in the shape of a “U”, open towards the Tagus.

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The square was named Praça do Comércio, to indicate its new function in the economy of Lisbon. The symmetrical buildings of the square were filled again with government bureaux. The centrepiece of square was the equestrian statue of King José I. This bronze statue, the first monumental statue dedicated to a king in Lisbon, was designed by Joaquin Machado de Castro, Portugal’s foremost sculptor of the time.

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In the end, we’re back to Praça Dom Pedro IV, simply called Rossio. The Portuguese take pride in their great square with its stone paving, designed to resemble the oceans, big fountains and statue of -supposedly- Dom Pedro IV. Lisbon revolves around Rossio, where the students come to sing, workers to protest and tourists to enjoy the atmosphere sitting at the bar tables. This name has its roots well before the big earthquake, when the area of Praça dom Pedro IV was the capital’s central open area accessible to all common people. The rough translation of Rossio means “common land” and it was here that the old city of Lisbon centered around during the 13th century: here public shows, bull fights and royal proclamations occurred. During the era of the Inquisitions Rossio was also the public executions ground.

to be continued…