When the Jardim Zoológico Metro station in Lisbon was expanded in 1995, the Portuguese artist Júlio Resende (1917-2011) was invited to decorate the walls of the platforms. He was inspired by the nearby Lisbon Zoo (Jardim Zoológico de Lisboa) to create large-scale hand-painted murals on the glazed tiles, depicting exotic animals and plants in tones of blue, green and yellow, so that the traveller is immersed in a lush Expressionist-style tropical forest.
The Siege of Lisbon (also known as the Conquest of Lisbon), which took place in 1147, is a significant event in Portuguese history. That year the newly crowned King Afonso I of Portugal formed an army made up of Crusaders from Northern Europe to overthrow the Moorish presence in Lisbon, promising them the spoil. Despite the attacks on St George’s castle, which enclosed the Moorish city, the Moors held King Afonso’s army off for four months, but eventually the Christian army gained entry, overpowering the Moors, and then going on to ransack the city and murder anyone who got in their way. There is a legend that a knight called Martim Moniz, who was fighting in King Afonso’s army, lay down in the doorway so that the Moors couldn’t shut it, thus allowing the Christian army to enter. Despite being badly injured, the legend goes on to say that he got up and continued fighting until he finally died of his injuries. He is considered a hero in Lisbon and there is a small bust of him on a wall in the castle and he even has a square and the adjacent Metro station named after him in Lisbon.
In the Metro station the story of the Siege of Lisbon is told on the walls of the platforms through stylised minimalist cartoon-like characters created in marble by the sculptor José João Brito (b.1941) in 1997. Characters include two horses; the two bishops, D. João Peculiar (who successfully negotiated with the King of León and Castile for Portuguese independence in 1143) and D. Pedro Pitões (who persuaded the Crusaders to join King Afonso I in his attack on Lisbon); Crusaders, represented by Hervey de Glanvill (the leader of the Crusaders) and Simon of Dover (the leader of the Anglo-Norman forces); D. Afonso Henriques (King Afonso I of Portugal); and, of course, Martim Moniz, shown throwing himself between the doors.
As travellers leave Restauradores Metro station at the Avenida da Liberdade exit they come face-to-face with a large colourful tiled mural by the Brazilian artist Luiz Ventura (b. 1930) called ‘Brasil-Portugal: 500 anos – A Chegança’ (which roughly translates to ‘Brazil-Portugal: 500 years – The Historical Folk Play’). It was completed in 1994 and added to the station to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s discovery of Brazil in 1500. It is a depiction of a symbolic reenactment of the Portuguese explorers landing in Brazil and comments on the impact of the Age of Discovery. The Portuguese colonialists are shown aboard a caravel wearing expensive clothes and holding the navigational tools associated with the 15th– and 16th-century explorations, including a map, a compass and an armillary sphere, as well as one holding a book and pen and another, a soldier, holding a spear. They represent science, culture and military power. Also on board the caravel is a man in religious robes holding an open Bible and looking up to Heaven, representing the Catholic religion that the Portuguese brought to Brazil. Beside him is an angel and in front of her is a devil, symbolizing good and evil. In front of the devil is a chest containing chains and restraints, which disturbingly reminds us of the slave trade. On the left-hand side of the mural, outside of the caravel, are exotic fruits, flowers, plants, a bird, decorative pots and a mask, all representing the differences between the newly discovered Brazil and the old world Portugal. In the background is a caravel sailing towards the Brazilian coast, about to bring major changes to the indigenous societies. Look closely and you will see a ghostly figure on the far left of the group of Portuguese explorers, giving rise to a sense of uneasiness and foreboding.
Travellers using the Metro station at Cais do Sodré are greeted by a series of floor-to-ceiling-high rabbits painted in blue on the white tiles. On one wall the rabbits are running towards the trains and on the other they are running towards the exit. The rabbits, all wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch, are based on the John Tenniel illustration of the White Rabbit character from the children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865), who famously runs down the rabbit hole saying, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ The paintings were done by Pedro Morais (1944-2018) in 1998 when the Metro station first opened, but they were based on sketches that the Surrealist painter António Dacosta (1914-1990) had done for the station before he died. The White Rabbit seems very a fitting image for a busy commuter station, where, like Alice, we follow him down the rabbit hole into the bowels of the station!
The Lisbon Metro was extended as far as the airport in 2012 when an additional section was added to the red line, finally offering a quick and easy link between the airport and the centre of Lisbon. The artwork on the walls of this station, which was added at the same time, shows caricatures of 50 famous Portuguese men and woman from the late-nineteenth century to the present day, ranging from the worlds of literature, art, music and film to science, politics and sport. Most are unknown outside of Portugal, but they are there as familiar faces to welcome returning Portuguese travellers and also to introduce themselves to curious tourists. The caricatures, which are made of white and black stone, were created by the cartoonist António Antunes and depict: Francisco Sá Carneiro (politician (Social Democratic Party) and former Prime Minister of Portugal, 1934-1980), Álvaro Cunhal (Communist politician who fought against the Dictatorship, 1913-2005), Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (artist and ceramicist, depicted with his most famous creation, Zé Povinho, 1846-1905), Carlos Lopes (former long-distance runner, b. 1947), Paula Rego (artist, b. 1935), Mário Cesariny (surrealist poet, 1923-2006), Duarte Pacheco (engineer and politician who is associated with a number of public works, 1900-1943),
Carlos Paredes (composer and accomplished Portuguese guitar player, 1925-2004),
João Abel Manta (artist, b. 1928),
Vitorino Nemésio (writer, 1901-1978),
Aquilino Ribeiro (writer, 1885-1963), Júlio Pomar (artist, 1926-2018), Luís de Freitas Branco (composer, 1890-1955), Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (Abstract Expressionist artist, 1908-1992), Maria João Pires (pianist, b. 1944), Virgílio Ferreira (Existentialist writer, 1916-1996), Amália Rodrigues (Fado singer, 1920-1999),
Raul Solnado (comedian, 1929-2009), João Villaret (actor, 1913-1961), António Silva (actor, 1886-1971), Vasco Santana (actor, 1898-1958), Beatriz Costa (actress, 1907-1996), António Sérgio (philosopher, 1883-1969), José Saramago (Nobel Prize-winning writer, 1922-2010), António Egas Moniz (Nobel Prize-winning neurologist, 1874-1955), António Lobo Antunes (writer, b. 1942), Stuart Carvalhais (artist, 1887-1961), Amadeo Souza-Cardoso (artist, 1887-1918), Fernando Pessoa (writer, 1888-1935), Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro (artist, 1857-1929), José Cardoso Pires (writer, 1925-1998), Alexandre O’Neil (Surrealist poet, 1924-1986), Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (poet, 1919-2004), Fernando Lopes-Graça (composer and conductor, 1906-1994), Cassiano Branco (architect, 1897-1970), Porfírio Pardal Monteiro (architect, 1897-1957), David Mourão-Ferreira (writer, 1927-1996), Leopoldo de Almeida (sculptor, 1898-1975), José de Almada Negreiros (Modernist artist and writer, 1893-1970), Carlos Gago Coutinho (1869-1959) and Artur Sacadura Cabral (1881-1924) (aviators who made the first aerial crossing of the South Atlantic in 1922), Natália Correira (writer, 1923-1993), José Viana da Motta (pianist and composer, 1868-1948), Ferreira de Castro (writer, 1898-1974), Calouste Gulbenkian (businessman and philanthropist, he created the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, 1869-1955), Agostinho da Silva (philosopher, 1906-1994),
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (football player, 1942-2014), Diogo Freitas do Amaral (politician (Social Democratic Centre Party) and former Prime Minister of Portugal, 1941-2019), Eça de Queiroz (writer, 1845-1900), and Mário Soares (politician (Socialist Party) and former Prime Minister and President of Portugal, 1924-2017).
Opposite the lively Time Out Market on Avenida 24 de Julho in Lisbon is the busy Cais do Sodré station, where passengers arrive and leave by train, metro or ferry throughout the day. Commuters and tourists alike travel to and from places such as Belém, Estoril and Cascais by train and Cacilhas, Seixal and Montijo by ferry.
As people hurry through the station concourse, few stop to notice the beautiful Art Deco design of the original parts of the building, which were built in 1928 by the architect Porfírio Pardal Monteiro, to replace the basic station that had been there since 1895. The original features of the Art Deco station include the main facade of white concrete, glass and iron. The top of central section of the facade, which is the main entrance to the station, is curved and at ground level there are large rectangular glass doors in iron frames topped by a large glass arched window decorated with Art Deco features in blue, black and gold, all of which allow light to flood into the station. Over the main entrance is a large steamlined unsupported portico. This central section is flanked by two rectangular sections with decorative bronze columns running down the sides, symbolic bronze Bas-reliefs depicting naked muscular men holding industrial tools and modernist mosaics.
The original entrance hall which leads into the modern main concourse is a clean light space with a light-reflecting marble floor and angular marble columns and marble walls with entryways to the main station. Covering the entire back wall of the upper level is another window which mirrors the one on the facade, but (reminding people that this is station and time is of the essence) this one has a clock in the middle of it. The walls are decorated with panels of blue geometric-patterned tiles and the arched ceiling is decorated with black, grey and white square tiles within larger black rectangles, with a border of coloured semi-circles below. An Art Deco-style wrought-iron balcony surrounds the upper level.
The design of this part of the station creates a clean, streamlined, stylish, modern effect which symbolised train travel in the 1920s. Unfortunately this design doesn’t extend to the main concourse where you are transported back to the 21st century with a jolt!
The Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar (Monument to the Overseas Combatants) is an important war memorial which pays homage to all those who died in the Portuguese Colonial War which ran from 1961 to 1974 and it is the Portuguese equivalent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. (both honour the people who died in controversial wars). The Colonial War (also known as the Overseas War) was a dark time in recent Portuguese history in which the right-wing dictatorship led by António de Oliveira Salazar (who was Prime Minister from 1932 to 1968) wanted to maintain Portuguese control of the African colonies, namely Angola, Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) and Mozambique, against the growing independence movements in these countries. Salazar’s reason was two-fold: the income from the colonies helped to support a financially impoverished Portugal; and through the idea of the Empire he aimed to remind people of Portugal’s glorious past and divert attention away from the difficult situation at home where his economic policies had left many people in poverty. In order to suppress the rising African nationalist movements Salazar embarked on a bloody and expensive war that would involve, at its height, approximately 217,000 members of the armed forces (mainly young men who were conscripted for three years military service, totalling over the 13 years of the the war almost 1 million conscriptees) and resulted in the death of around 10,000 of them (the large majority of whom were in the Army). There was a growing opposition to the war, but any signs of dissent were met with arrest, torture and often deportation. Portugal was also being sanctioned by other countries that opposed the war (and in some cases even supported the nationalist movements). The war finally came to an end in April 1974 when a group of army rebels comprised of left-wing officers from the MFA (Armed Forces Movement) held an almost bloodless revolution that overthrew the dictatorship. The new government almost immediately withdrew the military from the African territories and agreed to give these countries independence.
The Monument to the Overseas Combatants, which was inaugurated in 1994, is located next to the Combatant Museum at the Forte do Bom Sucesso in Belém. It was designed by a team of architects led by Francisco Guedes de Carvalho and is marked by its peacefulness and simplicity. The main focus is a striking abstract triangular sculpture made of stone, metal and mirrored glass, which sits over a pool of water and in the centre of the sculpture is a burning flame. There are two small guard huts in front of the sculpture which are manned by various sectors of the armed forces. At six o’clock every evening there is a simple but moving changing of the guard where the guards honour the dead servicemen. In 2000, plaques with the 10,000 names of all the people who died in the conflict were added to the walls that surround the monument, separated out into year and alphabetical order within each year. It is quite sobering to see how many people died as the names continue around the three sides of the Monument. The memorial wall also includes names of people who died in peace and humanitarian operations and there is also a separate sculpture commemorating these people to one side of the Monument. On Portugal Day (10th June) former combatants of the Colonial War gather at the monument to remember their fallen comrades.
Behind the Monument is the Capela do Combatente (Combatant’s Chapel), a small chapel which is accessed through a doorway in the memorial wall. The chapel has a simple marble altar, above which is the ‘Mutilated Christ’, a wooden sculpture that survived a battle of 1916 in France and on the back wall there is a replica of the maimed ‘Christ of the Trenches’ crucifix in which Christ has lost a hand and the bottom half of both legs (this watches over the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Batalha Monastery and the symbolic importance of this crucifix to Portuguese soldiers dates back to the First World War, as it is all that remains of the crucifix from Neuve-Chapelle which was destroyed in a battle of 1918 and was later donated to Portugal by the French Government in recognition of the Portuguese soldiers’ bravery in the battle). A small passageway leads to a room lit by natural light from a skylight. This room houses the tomb of an unknown soldier whose body was brought back from the Colonial War in Portuguese Guinea and over the tomb is a suspended Christ, symbolically risen from the dead.
The Monument is surprisingly close to the very popular Belém Tower, where large groups of tourists gather all day long, but thankfully they don’t tend walk as far as the Monument to the Overseas Combatants and it remains a tranquil place to pay homage to the 10,000 people who died in a war that should never have happened.
Monumento aos Combatentes do Ultramar, Forte do Bom Sucesso, Avenida de Brasília, Belém
Open daily, free access.
Public transport: Tram 15; Buses 714, 727, 729, 751
One of the most iconic sights in Lisbon is the distinctive 25 April Bridge which crosses the River Tejo linking Lisbon with Almada on the South Bank. As it is a road and rail bridge it is not possible to cross it on foot, but a relatively new visitors’ centre, opened in 2017 to (belatedly) celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bridge, means that it is now possible to go up one of the pillars and come face to face with the traffic on the top deck of the bridge from the safety of a glass platform that hangs over the road below (although, I must say that on the day we visited, the glass could have done with a clean!).
Pilar 7 (Pillar 7) is located on the riverfront road, Avenida da Índia, in the Alcântara district of Lisbon (not far from the LX Factory shopping and restaurant complex). The visitors’ centre is state of the art, including an airport-type security check.
Large information discs embedded into the ground contain information about the project and lead to various sections of the visitors’ centre, which include an area with a scale model of the bridge, showing its entry and exit roads, and with information about its history (the bridge opened on 6 August 1966 and was originally called the Salazar Bridge).
There are also lots of bite-sized facts that fans of engineering might enjoy, such as the fact that the bridge is 2277 metres long; it is composed of 82,000 tons of steel; there are 11,248 steel wires per main cable; and there are 600,000 square metres of painted surface. On the first stop of the lift we got out into a large, dimly lit warehouse-sized space (known as the Workers’ Room) with bare concrete walls onto which photographs and videos of the construction of the bridge were projected on all four walls, along with more bite-sized facts. From there we went into an area where we got an intimate view of the main moorings of the support cables.
We were then whisked up in a glass lift to the viewing platform on the 26th floor at the top of the pillar, 66 metres above ground level.
The viewing platform has joined the list of Lisbon’s famous miradouros (scenic viewpoints), with views towards Belém to the west, Ajuda to the north-west, Monsanto to the north and along the south bank of the river, where there is another iconic structure, the monument of Cristo Rei. Information of what was in our eyeline was marked on the safety glass panels. However, we were visiting it on a sunny but misty day in late December and the views were somewhat compromised.
There was something futuristic about the site, from the scale of the white concrete, geometric-shaped buildings that seemed to engulf us as we walked from the entrance to the lift, to the eerie darkness inside the Workers’ Room, the stomach-churning depth of the lift shaft and the proximity of the traffic on the bridge, making it a slightly uncomfortable experience. It probably wasn’t worth €6 for the view alone, as there are better free panoramic views from other parts of Lisbon, but it was a unique opportunity to get an insight into this famous bridge.
Entrance costs €6. Open daily (except Christmas Day): May to September 10am-8pm; October to April 10am-6pm.
Tram 15; buses 714, 727, 732, 751 (nearest stop Rua da Junqueira e Alcântara); train from Cais do Sodré or Cascais (Alcântara station)
The Chafariz D’El Rei is a fountain in the Alfama quarter of the Santa Maria Maior district of Lisbon (on Rua de Cais de Santarém, halfway between the Casa dos Bicos and the Fado Museum) that is intrinsically linked with the social history of the city. It is a large limestone structure which was originally built in the 13th century to supply spring water from the Alfama to the boats in the nearby harbour. It was renovated under the orders of King Dinis in 1308, when its name was changed from the São João da Praça dos Canos Fountain to Chafariz d’El-Rei (The King’s Fountain). A plaque next to the fountain summarizes the history of the fountain:
‘CHAFARIZ D’EL REY EDIFICADO NO SECULO XIII
FOI REFORMADO PELO REI D. DINIS
RECONSTRUIDO NO ANO DE 1747
REPARADO DEPOIS DE 1755
E MELHORADO NOS MEADOS DO SECULO XIX’
(‘D’EL REY FOUNTAIN BUILT IN THE 13TH CENTURY
IT WAS RENOVATED BY KING DINIS
RECONSTRUCTED IN THE YEAR 1747
REPAIRED AFTER 1755
AND ENHANCED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY’)
By the 16th century it was the main source of drinking water in the city, but in the 1740s part of it collapsed necessitating it being rebuilt in 1747 and again in 1755 after the famous earthquake that destroyed Lisbon. The structure of the current fountain was completed in the 19th century, including the addition of a second level and the enhancement of the decor on the façade of the fountain with decorative stone vases and three stonework friezes depiciting the Portuguese coat-of-arms in the centre and, to the left and right of this, the Lisbon coat-of-arms (two ravens on a ship).
Although nowadays there are only holes where the three remaining water spouts along the bottom of the fountain were, in the sixteenth-century there were six spouts, the use of which was regulated by a bylaw of 1551 that separated various ethnic and social groups, arguably to stop fights breaking out. The first spout was for male African slaves and non-white freemen, the second was for North African galley slaves from the ships, the third and fourth were for white working-class men and servants, the fifth was for female African slaves and non-white freewomen and the sixth was for white working-class women and girls and female servants (the wealthy people did not collect their own water). Despite this segregation, I like to think the area around the fountain must have been a lively melting pot of the different groups that made up Lisbon society, an estimated 10 percent of which by the mid-16th century was black. A 16th-century painting by an anonymous Flemish artist c.1570-80, entitled Chafariz d’El Rey (which is part of the Berardo Collection), captures this melting pot in front of the fountain, as it appeared then, in an everyday scene which includes people from different races and classes, including a black nobleman on a horse and what appears to be a black man dancing with a white woman.
In the 18th century three more spouts were added to deal with demand for water. The fountain is attached to the former Palácio das Ratas (now the Neo-Moorish-style hotel Palacete Chafariz D’El Rei), which can be clearly seen rising above the fountain. The hotel is located on Travessa do Chafariz d’El Rei, the street behind the fountain, from where the water tank was accessed, although the fountain is now dry. Despite it no longer being used to supply water to the city, it is considered an important historical building and in 2012 the fountain was given the status of Monument of Public Interest.
A small unassuming monument in Largo São Domingos is a memorial to a tragic series of events committed against the Jewish population in Lisbon in the early-sixteenth century. The events are known as the Lisbon Massacre and, what in effect was a pogrom, has its roots in Portugal’s relationship with Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries.
In 1492, during the reign of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain (and during the period of rule of the notorious Dominican friar and Inquisitor General, Tomás de Torquemada), thousands of Jews who refused to convert to Christianity had been expelled from Spain and many had taken refuge in Portugal. By the late 15th-century it is estimated that up to 100,000 Spanish Jews had fled to Portugal. The Portuguese King, João II (who reigned from 1481-95), promised to allow the Jewish refugees to stay in Portugal for eight months in return for a payment and also agreed to provide ships for them to continue their journey to other parts of Europe. Unfortunately João II failed to keep his promise to provide ships within the agreed timeframe and those who were unable to leave the country were forced into slavery, while their children were taken from them and shipped (those who survived the journey) to the island of São Tomé off the West African coast.
Things initially seemed to improve for the Jews during the reign of King Manuel I. He restored their freedom when he came to the throne in 1495 and acknowledged the importance of the Jewish families that worked in the area of finance, medicine and print, offering them protection. Several Jewish areas (Judaria) were already established in Lisbon: in the area around Largo do Carmo, near the Praça do Comércio in the Baixa and, in 1457, a third Jewish quarter was created in the Alfama district. However, when it was arranged that Manuel would marry the extremely anti-Semitic Isabella, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, she only agreed to the marriage if he expelled all the Jews from Portugal. As a result, from December 1496 all Jews in Portugal had to either convert to Christianity and become ‘New Christians’ (known as conversos) or leave the country. It is estimated that 20,000 agreed to convert to Catholicism, although many of the ‘New Christians’ continued to practice Judaism in secret.
The Portuguese Catholics distrusted the ‘New Christians’ and in 1506 things were made worse by the fact that there was a drought in the country and the plague was rife. People wanted someone to blame and the Jews, as so often in history, became the scapegoats. In April 1506 things came to a head. It began in the São Domingos de Lisboa Convent on Easter Sunday when a ‘New Christian’ in the congregation questioned a miracle involving a candle giving the appearance of the face of Jesus. The doubter was taken outside and beaten to death. This paved the way for more acts of anti-Semitic violence led by two Dominican friars who promised absolution of sins for anyone who killed the ‘heretics’. A mob (which included foreign sailors from the ships in the harbour) rounded up any Jews they could find, killed them and burnt their bodies or even burnt them alive, while looting their houses. This massacre continued over the following two days, until the King sent the royal guard to stop it. It is estimated that between 1000 and 4000 converted Jews died over the three days.
King Manuel later issued punishments to those involved, including burning the two Dominican friars at the stake. However, the seeds of anti-Semitism had been sown and continued to grow, resulting in the Portuguese Inquisition being set up in 1536 (under King João III). The Inquisition lasted until 1821 (although the last public auto-da-fé took place in 1765) and I would recommend reading the wonderful 1982 novel Memorial do Convento (or to give it its English title, Baltasar and Blimunda) by José Saramago, in which the threat of the Inquisition is ever present. During this time many Jews were forced to flee Portugal going to countries like England, Germany and the Netherlands. The impressive Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam is a testament to the thriving Sephardic Jewish community that lived there, before the horrors that occurred in the first half of the twentieth century that decimated the Jewish population.
The Memorial to the Victims of the Jewish Massacre of 1506 in front of the São Domingos church was inaugurated in 2008 (around the time of the 500th anniversary of the massacre), marking the spot where the violence began. It is a semi-spherical shape sculpted in stone by Graça Bachmann with a large Star of David in the centre. The inscription on the Star reads:
Em memória dos milhares de Judeus vítimas da intolerância e do fanatismo religioso assassinados no massacre iniciado a 19 de Abril de 1506 neste largo.’
(‘In memory of the thousands of Jewish victims of intolerance and religious fanaticism murdered in the massacre which started on 19 April 1506 in this square.’)
Underneath are the Hebrew years (1506-2006): 5266-5766
On the base of the monument is a quotation from the Book of Job 16.18
‘Ó terra, não ocultes o meu sangue e não sufoques o meu clamor!’
(‘O earth, cover not thou my blood and let my cry have no place!’)