It was a meeting with a dear friend for a long overdue catch up, that brought me to Martim Moniz Square, with its multicultural spaces and distinctive fountains. The square gets its name from a noble man who, according to legend, during the siege of Lisbon in 1147, wedged his body in the doors of São Jorge Castle as the Moors were trying to close them. His actions gave the soldiers time to get to the castle and reclaim it. Unfortunately for Martim Moniz, this was the cause of his death, they are quite big doors.
On the morning of the 1 November 1755, one of Europe’s most powerful earthquakes struck Lisbon. Tsunamis hit Lisbon after the earthquake had subsided and then fires burned continuously for five days throughout the city. It’s estimated that a third of the population, around seventy-five thousand people, died, and ninety percent of the buildings were destroyed, the event has shaped Lisbon’s history ever since.
In the National Azulejo Museum there is a twenty three meter long tile panel, The Bairro do Mocambo, depicting fourteen meters of the coastline of Lisbon. It was painted in the early eighteenth century and is iconic because it is the most complete view of the city before the earthquake of 1755. It shows some of the most important buildings of Lisbon at that time, which were subsequently destroyed by the earthquake, such as the 70,000-volume royal library and the royal Ribeira Palace.
The museum’s collection is the only one of its kind in the world, displaying azulejo from the early 15th Century to the present day. The museum is in the monastic buildings of the Madre de Deus Convent, which was renovated after the earthquake, and also appears on the Bairro do Mocambo. It is the building on the far right of the following photo.
The following is a selection of the azulejo on display at the museum.
Madre de Deus Convent is richly decorated with every surface covered in either paintings or azulejo. The azulejo panels are not just decorative, they depict historic events, or stories about daily life in Portugal.
I went to one of the many theatres here in Lisbon, the Teatro da Trindade opened in 1867, located in Chiado, it is one of the oldest theatres in Lisbon. Extensive renovations were undertaken in the 1920s, and the biggest names in Portuguese theatre have performed here. The buildings adjacent to the theatre are just as colourful.
Orange trees are in fruit now and can be seen dotted around the city streets.