Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, former Terreiro do Paço, History of the City

Praça do Comércio or Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon, History

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

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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, a safe haven for them to do their trade.

Recently, archaeological remains were 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 existing Museum 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 VIII and VII centuries before Christ.

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

The Moving of the Royal House to Ribeira das Naus

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As time went by, Ribeira das Naus was no longer submerged and became a beach. It acquired its current configuration when, in 1498, King D. 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 Fonte Roque Gameiro, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The main Portuguese shipyards, called "tercenas" 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, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

For the new Paço da Ribeira to be installed in the place where it is today, King Manuel I also decided to move these third parties to the adjacent area to the west of the Palace, with the aim of building a new shipyard, more functional and with greater capacity. .

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

Nowadays, you can see the site of these shipyards, next to the Ministry of the Navy, a little west of Paço da Ribeira.

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

Two streams, Valverde and Arroios, flow into a estuary of the Tagus. It was necessary to pipe these two streams in order to build the Palace. That structure still exists today, far from our eyes, in the basement of Baixa Pombalina.

The discovery of the maritime route to India and the increase in the trade of spices from the East to Europe proved to be a strategic decision for the Crown to be closer and, therefore, better able to control 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 XVI century.

Ribeira Palace, Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon 18th Century Source Unknown Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ribeira Palace, Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon 18th Century Source Author unknown Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The goods and spices stored and auctioned by merchants across Europe were duly 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.

Ribeira Palace | Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon 1598 Source Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ribeira Palace | Terreiro do Paço, Lisbon 1598 Source Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg, Public Domain, 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.

Then, and forever, the artistic treasures that were accumulated during the two hundred and fifty years that the Court lived there and that coincided with the entire period of the Discoveries were lost.

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 the 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, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Reconstruction and Transformation in 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.

He takes charge of the reconstruction of Lisbon, forming the Casa do Risco das Obras Públicas, where he places the chief engineer of the Kingdom, Manuel da Maia, 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.

Ribeira Palace | Terreiro do Paço, current Praça do Comércio in 1755 Fonte Zuzarte, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ribeira Palace | Terreiro do Paço, current Praça do Comércio in 1755 Fonte Zuzarte, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

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

Great Events

Praça do Comércio, formerly Paço da Ribeira, was associated with some of the most important events 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 nobles dethroned the Habsburg dynasty and acclaimed that of Bragança.

The Duchess of Mantua and the Secretary of State Miguel de Vasconcelos are arrested, killed and thrown from a window of 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, 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, Praça do Comércio, Lisbon Fonte Alberto de Sousa Portuguese illustration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The Regicide, Praça do Comércio, Lisbon Fonte Alberto de Sousa Portuguese illustration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The 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 is proclaimed on October 5, 1910, in Praça do Município, also next to Terreiro do Paço and baptized as Praça do Comércio de Lisboa, after the Pombaline reconstruction.

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

25 April 1974

On April 25, 1974, Praça do Comércio witnessed one of the most dramatic and decisive episodes of the fall of the Estado Novo.

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 current Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, 25 April 1974
Terreiro do Paço, now Praça do Comércio, Lisbon, 25 April 1974

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

Learn what to do in Lisbon, in addition to Praça do Comércio.

See too

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