Facts You Didn't Know About Porto (Part 1)

Copyright © 2017 Bridging Portugal. All Rights Reserved.
Porto is a small city in an urban dense area. It's situated near the coast, on top of a low surface. The temperature is temperate, there aren't any long dry seasons. It has good, deep soil and a good climate for agriculture.

"To understand the history, you have to understand the space" - José Alberto Vieira Rio Fernandes

Porto became the center of the region because of the highly populated Douro River. The river was important for transporting goods. However, the city has always been central not only because of the river but also because of the routes to the ocean, to other cities, to the south and to the north. Porto's position locality kept it in history.


Before 1120, Porto was a city without the condition of a city. Even in 1500 Porto was still a restricted city. It was the grandfather of the first king who built the first wall (muralha) around small settlements near the river. The wall has proven to be good in the times of instability. It's called the romantic wall which has to do with the Roman period, not romanticism. It was the time where the war was Islam vs Christianity. That's why the Muslims never lived in that part of Porto. The first city owner was a French bishop Vendôme. After the wall was built, settlements began with the connection to the river.

Paço Episcopal do Porto or the bishops' palace. Photo: Holidays Portugal
The nobles were not allowed to live in the city, or even sleep. Porto was strictly religious. Why? Because it was a trade city, full of merchants. It was believed that because women stayed alone without their men - nobles were a danger to the family's' structure. Even the king needed permission from the bishop to come to Porto. That's why you don't see a lot of palaces in Porto. Only the bishop palace. And it was small villages that created what is now known as the Municipality of Porto.

Facts You Didn't Know About Porto (Part 1)
Porto was a religious city even the famous Sao Bento Station used to be a convent. Photo: Monumentos Desaparecidos
In the middle ages, between the 13th and 14th century, cities became more important. They were more secure thanks to the king building castles, courts and prisons. There were better administration and more trade. Porto was flourishing. It was strong in two aspects,. The first being trade near the river. The second was religious power combined with good defense. However, the economy was always near the river.

During the 14th century, another wall was built. Because the first romantic wall couldn't contain the growing city.

There were still people settled outside the wall and a lot of space inside the wall wasn't urbanized.

Fonte da Porta do Olival is situated where the Porta da Olival Gate was. Copyright © 2017 Bridging Portugal. All Rights Reserved.
Fonte da Porta do Olival is situated where the Porta da Olival Gate was. Copyright © 2017 Bridging Portugal. All Rights Reserved.
Porta do Olival was the city's exit gate where the olive trees were.

The first relevant road constructed was a road from one gate to another, connecting the Sé Cathedral to the western part and it also goes north to Valongo and Vila Real.

The city was organized based on professions. Shoemakers were in one street while people that worked in iron were in another.

Porto became important and the taxes were going to the church, not to the king. The king wasn't happy about that and decided to discuss areas taken over by the bishop.

Facts You Didn't Know About Porto (Part 1)
1813 Porto map. Photo: Monumentos Desaparecidos
1813 map included Ribeira, River Douro, Praça da Liberdade, Rua Santa Catarina, Reitoria do U.Porto and Majestic Café. The area where Palácio de Cristal is was still rural. Outside of that was just farms.

Facts You Didn't Know About Porto (Part 1)
Reitoria of the University of Porto in the 19th century. Photo: FCUP
Porto was very small and only became relevant politically and economically in the 18th century and especially in the 19th century.

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