I’m back with another series of photographs from my three week father/daughter trip to Portugal back in December 2022 – January 2023. And yes, I know we’re in July now but I’ve been a busy little bee since my return and these posts take time to put together (not to mention having to go through several hundred photographs). Excuses, I know.
In my last post in this series, we explored the city of Coimbra and its Sé Velha (Old Cathedral). Our next stop was an hour drive north to Portugal’s “Second City”, Porto. We checked into the lovely Se Catedral Hotel Porto located in the heart of Porto and walking distance to most of the city’s main attractions.
Porto is located in the North of Portugal, on the north bank of the Douro River and 175 miles (280 km) north of Lisbon. World-famous for its port wine, it’s the second largest city in the country, in an urban area with more than 1.3 million inhabitants. Archaeological findings reveal that there were human settlements at the mouth of the Douro River as early as 8th century BC. After that, it pretty much follows the same script as a good portion of Europe: Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Christians, Moors (again), then back to the Christians.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, Porto’s shipyards contributed to the development of Portuguese shipbuilding. Also from the port of Porto, in 1415, Prince Henry the Navigator embarked on the conquest of the Moorish port of Ceuta, in northern Morocco. This expedition was followed by navigation and exploration along the western coast of Africa, initiating the Portuguese Age of Discovery (a period from approximately the 15th century to the 17th century, during which seafarers from a number of European countries explored, colonized, and conquered regions across the globe).
Porto is one of the oldest European centers, and its core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Our two days in Porto began with a visit to one of its main attractions, the Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos (Clerigos Church and Tower), a Baroque church featuring a towering bell tower.
Construction of the church began in 1732 and was finished in 1750, while the bell tower and the divided stairway in front of the church were completed in 1763. The church was built for the Brotherhood of the Clérigos (established in 1666 to help members of the clergy in situations of sickness, poverty and death) by Nicolau Nasoni, an Italian architect and painter who left an extensive body of work in the north of Portugal during the 18th century. The monumental tower of the church, dedicated to the Apostle Peter, was built between 1754 and 1763.
The impressive altarpiece of the main chapel, made of polychromed marble, was executed by Manuel dos Santos Porto.
The 75-meter-tall bell tower, constructed in granite protruding out of the top of the western side of the church, is the highly distinctive landmark of Porto. It was dedicated to the Apostle Peter and built between 1754 and 1763. 240 steps lead you up to the top of its six floors where you can gain access to one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Porto.
Porto’s São Bento Train Station (estação ferroviária de São Bento) is considered the most visually appealing Train Station in Portugal. The building was constructed over a number of years, starting in 1904, based on plans by architect José Marques da Silva.
The beautiful station was named after a Benedictine monastery that once occupied its space back in the 16th century (the English translation of São Bento is Saint Benedict). Destroyed by fire in 1783, the house of worship was rebuilt but by the 19th century was torn down to make way for the expanding railway system. The very first stone was laid by King Carlos I himself.
The French Beaux-Arts structure holds within 20,000 magnificent azulejo tin-glazed ceramic tiles depicting Portugal’s past. The blue and white tiles were placed over a period of 11 years (1905–1916) by Portuguese artist Jorge Colaço, who specialized in designing and painting azulejo panels to decorate large surfaces. His work can also be found in England (Windsor Castle), Geneva (Centre William Rappard) and Brazil.
The first train arrived at the station in São Bento in 1896 and it was inaugurated on 5 October 1916. Porto São Bento is not only a beautiful monument, but also the western terminus of the line that makes the impressive and picturesque route between the Douro wine valley and Porto.
Founded in 1833, the Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis ranks as the oldest public museum in Portugal. Housed in a former royal residence, the museum features much of the work of its namesake, Antonio Soares dos Reis, including his famous marble sculpture, “O Desterrado” (“The Exile”)
Assorted self-portraits by Portuguese painter Aurélia de Souza, from her “Vida e Segredo” exhibition. Souza was one of the few women whose work was exhibited in galleries alongside Portugal’s great 19th century painters. Her enigmatic, androgynous and provocative self-portraits in which she depicts herself wearing a distinctive red coat (top center) or disguised as St. Anthony (top left), are a historical example of a female artist asserting her identity as a creator(*).
Souza, who struggled with her health, died at her home in Quinta da China, Porto, on May 26, 1922, at the age of 55. On June 13, 2021, Google celebrated her 155th birthday with a Google Doodle.
The Igreja do Carmo and Igreja dos Carmelitas are two churches that stand almost side by side. They are separated by a very narrow (1 meter wide!) house that was inhabited until the 1980’s. The three storey Casa Escondida (“Hidden House”) was, according to legend, built so that the two churches would not share a common wall and to prevent any relations between the nuns of Igreja dos Carmelitas and the monks of Igreja do Carmo. The house served as a residence for chaplains and it also housed the artists who worked on the interior and exterior decoration of the churches as well as doctors serving at the Igreja do Carmo’s hospital. The Igreja dos Carmelitas next door (on the left side) is the earlier of the two churches and was built in the mid-17th century with the exterior completed in 1628.
The Igreja do Carmo (Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) was built between 1756 and 1768 in the rococo or late Baroque, style by a disciple of Nicolau Nasoni, Jose de Figueiredo Seixas. The Igreja do Carmo has an outstanding azulejo-covered exterior with the azulejos added in 1912. The tiles were made locally in Vila Nova de Gaia (a town across the Ponte Luis I Bridge from Ribeira in Porto) and designed by the artist Silvestro Silvestri.
The interior of the Igreja dos Carmelitas has a single nave with six ornately decorated side chapels. The main altarpiece was designed by Joaquim Teixeira de Guimarães and executed by José Teixeira Guimarães.
This unique pair of churches really deserve their own gallery so CLICK HERE TO VIEW
We’ll stay in Porto for our next post where we visit possibly the most beautiful bookstore in the world(?) the Livraria Lello.
SUBSCRIBE HERE to not miss it…
Photographs taken with the Sony a7RIII using the travel friendly Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G lens, Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 lens, Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 lens, Samyang 14mm f/2.8 lens and, in some cases, the very capable iPhone 13 Pro
Planning a trip to Portugal? Check out visitportugal.com