Medieval architecture

D. Fernando Wall
Photo:  Município do PortoCC BY-NC-SA - Some Rights Reserved

The origin of Porto is linked to the Morro da Sé (Cathedral Hill), overlooking the Douro river, where traces of an ancient settlement have been identified. The Romans brought a great boom to a city, which was elevated to diocese status during the Visigothic period. The city suffered great setbacks after the Moorish invasions, with is territory being recaptured by Vímara Peres at the end of the 9th century. D. Teresa, mother of the first King of Portugal, donated the land of Porto to Bishop D. Hugo, who bestowed its first charter in 1123.

The development of commercial activity led to the progressive urbanisation of the riverbank area and in the second half of the 14th century the borough is encircled by a second city wall. Commerce with the exterior grew, not only in the direction of the northern ports, but also to the Mediterranean. The control of the resources of the city, specifically the profits from the port, led to a conflict between the Bishop and the Crown. The construction of the Custom-House in 1324 represented a severe blow to the interests of the Bishop. In 1405, D. João transferred the jurisdiction of the borough to the Crown. This was a period that consolidated local power with the support of the bourgeois merchants.

The opening of Rua Nova marked a new phase in the urbanisation of the city and its localisation reflected the importance given to the downtown area, which was until this century the main commercial area of the city. Medieval Porto was home to Afonso Martins Alho (negotiator of the Treaty with England), Henry the Navigator and Pero Vaz de Caminha (author of the “Chart of the Discovery of Brazil”).

The architectural civil and military examples of this time are the following:

  • Medieval Tower;
  • Old City Hall;
  • House of Beco dos Redemoinhos;
  • Primitive Wall;
  • D. Fernando Wall: Guindais section;
  • Barredo Tower;
  • Wall of Cobertos da Ribeira;
  • Postigo do Carvão (wall entrance);
  • Casa do Infante;
  • Stock Exchange House;
  • House at Rua da Reboleira;
  • D. Fernando Wall: Caminho Novo section;
  • Hospital of Confraria do Espírito Santo;
  • Pedro Sem Tower.

From the medieval religious architecture the following examples remain:

  • Cathedral;
  • Church of Santa Clara;
  • Church of São Francisco;
  • Church of Cedofeita.

Published 10-09-2013
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