This post is by Linda (Washington and Lee)
One of the classes offered to CIEE and Erasmus students covers Lisbon’s birth, growth, and reconstruction after the earthquake in 1755. The course is aptly named: Lisbon: City and Architecture, wherein we delve into Lisbon’s history, from Roman times to present day—from Alis-Ubbo to Lissabona to Lisboa. After learning about Lisbon’s development in the classroom, it was only right to experience it first-hand.
For our class’s first visit, we took off on a little history-packed jaunt through Lisbon’s cobbled and tiled downtown. Our first stop required us to descend Rua de Alecrim to Largo Barão do Quintela where we saw the monument of writer Eça de Queirós. Largo Barão do Quintela itself is a wee garden situated not far from Rio Tejo. The statue in the garden is an homage of sorts to Eça de Queirós, who is recognized as one of the greatest Portuguese writers, among others such as Luis de Camões and Fernando Pessoa. The statue depicts a nude, but cloaked, woman leaning against de Queirós. The nude female figure, covered only by a cloak of fantasy, represents the undeniable truth found in art (ergo, her nakedness).
Just a hop, skip, and jump away from the jardim we were introduced to another figure—Luis de Camões, Portugal’s prized poet. His statue is found in what is rightfully named “Largo do Camões” or “Camões Square.” His statue, which is sculpted grandly and resolutely, is surrounded by smaller sculpted figures of different prominent intellectual people of the 16th century—mathematicians even. His monument is considered to be one of the most representative sculptures of the Romanticism movement.
Well within walking distance of his statue are breath-taking churches of the Late-Baroque period—Igreja do Loreto (above) and Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação, both of which are highly adorned and contain a plethora of paintings disguised to resemble 3D sculptures. Rather than consisting of tiles and gilded wood (talha dourada) as was most typical, the churches are constructed out of stone and marble. Igreja do Loreto is known especially for it’s Lady of Conception at the altar, who is agreeing to birth the Son of God from not one but two angels on either of her sides. These churches not only house chilling design and aura, but they themselves are art forms on their own.
Afterward, we weaved our way down to the waters of Rio Tejo to get a better front- view of Praça do Comérçio, what was once Terreiro do Paço. From this vantage point, to our left we saw what was once the royal palace. In the center of the square is the statue of King Jose I, who reigned during the time of the 1755 earthquake. The sculpture depicts the horse treading on snakes, a symbol of power that is based on French culture.
We meandered our way up the transformed strip of shopping stores, something to which we students were probably all already accustomed, but this time, we gave heed to all the tiles and renovations we had previously missed. Our first class and formal visit to the downtown area was an insightful sampling of Lisbon’s many delights. We eagerly await our next opportunity to roam and learn together.