Historical Centre Tour: Sé, Clérigos, Ribeira

Porto's Historical Centre
Photo:  Fernando Mendes PedroCC BY-NC-SA - Some Rights Reserved

Porto’s Historical Centre features as scenery depicting the evolution of the city and the communities settled here, from the first boroughs in the bronze age to the current days. This urban core, bearing UNESCO’s World Heritage designation since 1996, registers within its classified area 95 monuments that represent, as unique points or altogether, references of interpretation of the city’s history and the way it developed in form and function.

From bishop’s borough in the twelfth century to its opening to modernity and contemporaneity, Porto features as a succession of occurrences that have determined its urbanism:

The city developed from the Pena Ventosa Hill as a primitive core and its housing increases along the banks of the River Douro. In the fourteenth century the Ribeira area gains relevance owing to the enhancement of trade activities that led to the construction of the Customs building. Porto was a strong shipyard and a departure point for many people from Porto travelling to the “new” ultramarine destinations, and assumes, therefore, a relevant role for the diaspora of Portuguese discoveries. The new urban flow of the city from the first half of the 16th century is associated with economic prosperity, leading to the opening of Rua de Santa Catarina das Flores, by order of D. Manuel I, a street that becomes one of the most active for businesses. The settlement of convents and buildings belonging to congregations, along the entire sixteenth century, is a sign of the boroughs vitality. Porto’s economic peak in the eighteenth century is related with the auriferous exploitation in Brasil, the sea port dynamics and the trade of the Douro wines. The transformation conducted by the “Junta Obras Públicas” (Public Works Department) (1762), directed by João de Almada e Melo, introduces new settings and functionalities in the city, by creating streets and squares and sets of buildings. Porto plays a relevant role in the country’s political change with the Liberal revolution, in 1820, and the revolution that takes place on 31 January 1891, inspired by Republican ideals. By the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century, during the industrialization era, long range communications are strengthened with the railway and the D. Luís I and D. Maria Pia metal bridges. The reforming impulse of the twentieth century is clear on the construction of the S. Bento railway station, the creation of the Avenida dos Aliados and the intervention works on buildings, displaying an Art-Nouveau language. Reaching the contemporary era, the city explores other functional bounds that sustain its evolution and result in the creation of new communication channels and new buildings.

The suggested one-day tour departs from the old City Council, first headquarters of local government, a building dated from the 14th century and recovered in 2000 by the architect Fernando Távora, and ends by the D. Luís I Bridge, inaugurated in 1886 and completely made of iron, accordin gto the project of Teófilo Seyrig, Eiffel’s follower.

Special mention goes to the following monuments that can be found along this tour:


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Published 05-12-2014