Praça do Comércio in Lisbon History of the City

Praça do Comércio in Lisbon and the History of the City

Praça do Comércio, known as Terreiro do Paço or Paço da Ribeira in royal times, is a square along the Tagus River in downtown Lisbon. The history of Lisbon is inseparable from Terreiro do Paço and Praça do Comércio, a name adopted after the earthquake of 1755.

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The Phoenicians in Lisbon

Terreiro do Paço, initially known as Ribeira das Naus, was a submerged area when the city was founded by the Phoenicians.

It was a safe haven for the Phoenicians to trade.

Archaeological evidence was recently discovered during the works carried out in the Palace of the Counts of Coculim, very close to Praça do Comércio in Lisbon or Terreiro do Paço.

In the Museum existing in the hotel, now open in this former Palace, there is a stele 73 centimeters high, with a funerary text in Phoenician.

A proof of the settlement of Lisbon between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries before Christ.

Phoenician Civilization, the legacy of Phoenician writing
Phoenician Civilization, stele, the legacy of Phoenician writing

Moving from the Royal House to Ribeira das Naus

Over time, Ribeira das Naus was no longer submerged and became a beach.

It acquired its current configuration when, in 1498, King Manuel I decided to build a new Palace in the Ribeira das Naus area.

The Court would thus leave the Paço da Alcáçova, in the Castelo de S. Jorge, where the Portuguese kings lived for about 250 years.

The former Palace of Alcáçova was almost entirely destroyed in an earthquake that occurred in 1531. There are still some traces of this Palace inside the walls of the Castle.

Former Alcáçova Palace São Jorge Castle Lisbon Fonte Roque Gameiro, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons wiki
Former Palace of Alcáçova, Castle of São Jorge Lisbon. Source: Roque Gameiro, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The main Portuguese shipyards, called thirds at that time, they operated in Ribeira das Naus.

Ribeira das Naus Tile Museum Source RickMorais, CC BY-SA 4.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby-sa4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ribeira das Naus, Tile Museum. Source: RickMorais, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For the new Paço da Ribeira to be located in the place where D. Manuel I stands today, he also decides to move these thirds to the adjacent area to the west of the Palace, with the objective of building a new, more functional and more capable shipyard.

New buildings were created to house all the naval administration and logistics, including the Navy Arsenal and Customs.

These days you can see the location of these shipyards, next to the Ministry of the Navy, a little west of Paço da Ribeira.

The Paço da Ribeira was thus erected on top of those old Lisbon tercenas.

Two streams, that of Valverde and that of Arroios, flow into a Tagus stream. It was necessary to channel these two streams in order to build the Palace. This structure still exists today, far from our eyes, in the subsoil of Baixa Pombalina.

The discovery of the sea route to India and the increase in the spice trade from the East to Europe turned out to be a strategic decision for the Crown to be closer and better to control the maritime trade.

Paço da Ribeira is defended by a tower over the river, the Torreão designed by Terzi.

In this Tower, the Court could more easily monitor the entry and exit of ships from the port of Lisbon.

On the first floor of the Torreão there was the Casa da Índia, an institution created around 1503, which ensured the Royal monopoly of navigation and the trade developed with the new territories discovered in the XNUMXth century.

Palacio da Ribeira Lisbon 18th century Source Unknown author Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ribeira Palace, Lisbon XNUMXth century. Source: Unknown Author Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The goods and spices stored and auctioned by merchants from all over Europe were controlled so that the Crown could withdraw what is now called a tax.

It was also in this Tower that there was the Sala dos Tudescos, where the most important banquets and festivities of the Portuguese Court were held.

Palácio da Ribeira 1598 Source Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Palácio da Ribeira, 1598. Source: Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

With its economic and mercantile status strengthened, Terreiro do Paço incorporates new Customs structures, the Navy Arsenal, the Casa da Índia, the Mint and the Tejo Opera Theatre, inaugurated shortly before the earthquake.

The 1755 Earthquake

Paço da Ribeira was completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and the devastating tsunami that followed.

The artistic treasures that had been accumulated there during the two hundred and fifty years that the Court lived there, which coincided with the entire period of the discoveries, were lost then, and forever.

In this destruction the approximately 70.000 volumes of the Biblioteca do Paço were lost, a cultural loss comparable to the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.

Also the real archive with documents related to the exploration of the oceans, discoveries of places, including the discovery of Brazil were lost.

King José I reigned at the time, who had to move along with the Court to Alto da Ajuda, to a palace made of wood and canvas, a place that came to be known by the name of Real Barraca.

The 1755 Earthquake, painted between 1756-1792 by João Glama National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon, Fonte GualdimG, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The 1755 Earthquake, painted between 1756-1792 by João Glama, National Museum of Ancient Art, Lisbon. Source: Gualdim G, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The reconstruction and transformation of Praça do Comércio in Lisbon

He was Secretary of State for the Kingdom (Prime Minister) of D. José I, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, future Marquis of Pombal.

The latter takes on the task of rebuilding Lisbon, forming the Casa do Risco das Obras Públicas, where Manuel da Maia, the main engineer of the Kingdom, is appointed as coordinator. Eugénio dos Santos and Carlos Mardel were two of his direct collaborators.

This team presented three reconstruction projects to the future Marquês de Pombal for the area from Terreiro do Paço to Rossio.

The Minister of the King opts for the most radical solution: to raze the downtown area of ​​Lisbon and rebuild its neighbourhoods.

The plan designed by Eugénio dos Santos presents a new city, with eight streets in the north-south direction and intersected by nine streets in the east-west direction.

The construction of houses is subject to a clear harmony between the width of the streets and the width and height of the buildings.

As the Bolsa do Comércio would move to this location, mentioned in a permit dated 1759, it was renamed Praça do Comércio, the central space of the mercantile bourgeoisie and the new center of the country's government. of Lisbon merchants.

Paço da Ribeira in 1755 Source Zuzarte, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Paço da Ribeira in 1755. Source: Zuzarte, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the center of Praça do Comércio, in 1775, the equestrian statue of D. José I was installed.

Major events associated with Paço da Ribeira and Praça do Comércio in Lisbon

Paço da Ribeira was associated with some events, among the most remarkable in the history of Lisbon and Portugal.

restoration of independence

On December 1, 1640, before the people who flocked to Terreiro do Paço, forty Portuguese noblemen dethrone the Habsburg dynasty and acclaim the Bragança dynasty.

The Duchess of Mantua is arrested and the Secretary of State Miguel de Vasconcelos is killed and thrown from a window in the Palace to the Terreiro.

Death of Miguel de Vasconcelos Source Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons wiki
Death of Miguel de Vasconcelos. Source: Unknown Author, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Death of King Carlos

King D. Carlos and his son D. Luis Filipe were murdered on February 1, 1908.

They passed through the west side of the square, with the Queen Dª Amélia and the Principe Manuel, coming from Vila Viçosa and on their way to Paço das Necessidades.

The Regicide Fonte Alberto de Sousa Illustração Portugueza, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Regicide. Source: Alberto de Sousa, Portuguese Illustration, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Revolution of 1910

Praça do Comércio witnessed the arrival of the Navy at Cais das Colunas to occupy strategic places in the city.

The Republic was proclaimed on October 5, 1910, in Praça do Município, also next to Terreiro do Paço and named Praça do Comércio de Lisboa after the Pombal's reconstruction.

Portuguese Republic Proclamation Source Joshua Benoliel, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Proclamation of the Portuguese Republic. Source: Joshua Benoliel, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

25 April 1974

On April 25, 1974, it was in this square that one of the most dramatic and decisive episodes of the fall of the Estado Novo regime took place.

Captain Salgueiro Maia, at the command of the Santarém Cavalry Regiment, occupies Terreiro do Paço and successfully faces the attempt to reoccupy forces loyal to the regime.

Terreiro do Paço 25 April 1974
Terreiro do Paço Lisbon, 25 April 1974

You can see in this video a recreation of the 1755 earthquake.

See too

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