Oporto - Encyclopedia

GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese

OPORTO (i.e.' o Porto, " the port"), the second city of the kingdom of Portugal, the capital of the district of Oporto and formerly of Entre-Douro-e-Minho; on both banks of the river Douro, about 3 m. from its mouth, in 41° 8' N. and 8° 37' W. Pop. (1900) 167,955. In Portuguese the definite article is uncompounded in the name of the city, which in strict accuracy should always be written Porto; the form Oporto has, however, been stereotyped by long usage in English and in some other European languages. The part of the city south of the Douro is known as Villa Nova de Gaia. Oporto is the see of a bishop, in the archiepiscopal province of Braga. It is the true capital of northern Portugal, and the commercial and political rival of Lisbon, in much the same way as Barcelona is the rival of Madrid. Three main railway lines meet here - from Lisbon, from Valença do Minho on the northern frontier, and from Barca d'Alva on the north-western frontier. The Valença line has branches to Guimarães and Braga, and affords access to Corunha and other cities of north-western Spain; the Barca d'Alva line has a branch to Mirandela and communicates with Madrid via Salamanca. Oporto is built chiefly on the north or right bank of the Douro; its principal suburbs are Bonfim on the E., Monte Pedral and Paranhos on the N., Villar Bicalho, Lordello and Sao Joao da Foz on the W., Ramalde, Villarinha, Matosinhos, Leça da Palmeira and the port of Leixoes on the N.W. The mouth of the river is obstructed by a sandy spit of land which has been enlarged by the deposits of silt constantly washed down by the swift current; on the north side of this bar is a narrow channel varying in depth from 16 ft. to 19 ft. A fort in Sao João da Foz protects the entrance, and there is a lighthouse on a rock outside the bar. As large vessels cannot enter the river, a harbour of refuge has been constructed at Leixões (q.v.).

The approach to Oporto up the winding and fjord-like estuary is one of singular beauty. On the north the streets rise in terraces up the steep bank, built in many cases of granite overlaid with plaster, so that white is the prevailing colour of the city; on the south are the hamlets of Gaia and Afurada, and the red-tiled wine lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia, in which vast quantities of "port" are manufactured and stored. The architecture of the houses and public buildings is often rather Oriental than European in appearance. There are numerous parks and gardens, especially on the outskirts of the city, in which palms, oranges and aloes grow side by side with the flowers and fruits of northern Europe, for the climate is mild and very equable, the mean temperatures for January and July - the coldest and the hottest months - being respectively about 50° and 70°. The Douro is at all seasons crowded with shipping, chiefly small steamers and large sailing vessels. The design of some of the native craft is peculiar - among them may be mentioned the highprowed canoe-like fishing boats, the rascas with their three lateen sails, and the barcos rabelos, flat-bottomed barges with huge rudders, used for the conveyance of wine down stream. Two remarkable iron bridges, the Maria Pia and the Dom Luiz I., span the river. The first was built by Messers Eiffel & Company of Paris in 1876-1877; it rests on a granite substructure and carries the Lisbon railway line across the Douro ravine at a height of 200 ft. The second, constructed in1881-1885by a Belgian firm, has two decks or roadways, one 33 ft., the other 200 ft. above the usual water-level; its arch, one of the largest in Europe, has a span of 560 ft. and is supported by two massive granite towers. The Douro is liable in winter to sudden and violent floods; in1909-1910the water rose 40 ft. at Oporto, where it is confined in a deep and narrow bed.

Though parts of the city are modern or have been modernized, the older quarters in the east are extremely picturesque, with. their steep and narrow lanes overshadowed by lofty balconied houses. Overcrowding and dirt are common, for the density of. population is nearly 13,000 per sq. m., or greater than in any other city of Portugal. Until the early years of the 20th century, when xx. 5 a a proper system of sewerage was installed, the condition of Oporto was most insanitary. Electric lighting and tramways were introduced a little before this, but the completion of the tramway system was long delayed, and in the hilly districts cars drawn by ten mules were not an uncommon sight. Ox-carts are used for the conveyance of heavy goods, and until late in the 19th century sedan-chairs were still occasionally used. A painful feature of the street-life of Oporto is the great number of the diseased and mutilated beggars who frequent the busiest thoroughfares. As a rule, however, the natives of Oporto are strong and of fine physique; they also show fewer signs of negro descent than the people of Lisbon. Their numbers tend to increase very rapidly; in 1864 the population of Oporto was 86,751, but in 1878 it rose to 105,838, in 1890 to 138,860, and in 1900 to 167,955. Many of the men emigrate to South America, where their industry usually enables them to prosper, and ultimately to return with considerable savings. The local dialect is broader than the Portuguese of the educated classes, from which it differs more in pronunciation than in idiom. The poverty of the people is very great. Out of the 597,935 inhabitants of the district of Oporto (893 sq. m.), 422,320 were returned at the census of 1900 as unable to read or write. Much had been done, however, to remedy this defect, and besides numerous primary schools there are in the city two schools for teachers, a medical academy, polytechnic, art, trade and naval schools, and industrial institute, a commercial athenaeum, a lyceum for secondary education, an ecclesiastical seminary, and a meteorological observatory.

The cathedral, which stands at the highest point of eastern Oporto, on the site of the Visigothic citadel, was originally a Romanesque building of the 12th century; its cloisters are Gothic of the 14th century, but the greater part of the fabric was modernized in the 17th and 18th centuries. The interior of the cloisters is adorned with blue and white tiles, painted to represent scenes from the Song of Solomon. The bishop's palace is a large and lofty building conspicuously placed on a high rock; the interior contains a fine marble staircase. The Romanesque' and early Gothic church of Sao Martinho de Cedo Feita is the most interesting ecclesiastical building in Oporto, especially noteworthy being the curiously carved capitals of its pillars. Though the present structure is not older, except in details, than the 12th century, the church is said to have been "hastily built" (cedo feita, cito facia) by Theodomir, king of the Visigoths, in 559, to receive the relics of St Martin of Tours, which were then on their way hither from France. The Torre dos Clerigos is a granite tower 246 ft. high, built in the middle of the 18th century at the expense of the local clergy (clerigos); it stands on a hill and forms a conspicuous landmark for sailors. Nossa Senhora da Lapa is a fine 18th-century church, Corinthian in style; Sao Francisco is a Gothic basilica dating from 1410; Nossa Senhora da Serra do Pilar is a secularized Augustinian convent used as artillery barracks, and marks the spot at which Wellington forced the passage of the Douro in 1809. The exchange (lonja) is another secularized convent, decorated with coloured marbles. Parts of the interior are floored and panelled with polished native-coloured woods from Brazil, which are inlaid in elaborate patterns; there is a very handsome staircase, and the fittings of one large room are an excellent modern copy of Moorish ornamentation.

Other noteworthy public buildings are the museum, library, opera-house, bull-ring, hospital and quarantine station. The crystal palace is a large glass and iron structure built for the industrial exhibition of 1865; its garden commands a fine view of the city and river, and contains a small menagerie. The English factory, built in 1790, has been converted into a club for the British residents - a large and important community -whose members are chiefly connected with the wine and shipping trades. Lawn tennis, cricket, boat-racing on the Douro, and other British sports have been successfully introduced, and there is keen competition between the Oporto clubs and those of Lisbon and Carcavellos. The English club gave its name to the Rua Nova dos Inglezes, one of the busiest streets, which contains many banks, warehouses and steamship offices. The Rua da Alfandega, skirting the right bank of the Douro and passing the custom house (alfandega), is of similar character; here may be seen characteristic types of the fishermen and peasants of northern Portugal. The Rua das Flores contains, on its eastern side, the shops of the cloth-dealers; on the west are the jewellers' shops, with a remarkable display of gold and silver filigree-work and enamelled gold. Oporto is famous for these ornaments, which are often very artistic, and are largely worn on holidays by women of the poorer classes, whose savings or dowries are often kept in this readily marketable form.

Oporto is chiefly famous for the export of the wine which bears its name. An act passed on the 29th of January 1906 defined "port" as a wine grown in the Douro district, exported from Oporto, and containing more than 16.5% of alcoholic strength. The vines from which it is made grow in the Paiz do Vinho, a hilly region about 60 m. up the river, and having an area of 27 m. in length by 5 or 6 in breadth, cut off from the sea, and shut in from the north-east by mountains. The trade was established in 1678, but the shipments for some years did not exceed 600 pipes (of 115 gallons each). In 1703 the British government concluded the Methuen treaty with Portugal, under which Portuguese wines were admitted on easier terms than French or German, and henceforward "port" began to be drunk (see Portugal: History). In 1747 the export reached 17,000 pipes. In 1754 the great wine monopoly company of Oporto originated, under which the shipments rose to 33,000 pipes. At the beginning of the 19th century the policy of the government more and more favoured port wine, besides which the vintages from 1802 to 1815 were splendid both in Portugal and in Madeira - that of 1815 has, in fact, never been excelled. For the next few years the grape crop was not at all good, but the 1820 vintage was the most remarkable of any. It was singularly sweet and black, besides being equal in quality to that of 1815. This was long regarded as the standard in taste and colour for true port, and to keep up the vintage of following years to this exceptional standard adulteration by elder berries, &c., was resorted to. This practice did not long continue, for it was cheaper to adulterate the best wines with inferior sorts of port wine itself. In 1852 the Oidium which spread over Europe destroyed many of the Portuguese vineyards. In 1865 Phylloxera did much damage, and in 1867 the second monopoly company was abolished. From this time the exports again increased. (See Wine.) A third of the population is engaged in the manufacture of cottons, woollens, leather, silk, gloves, hats, pottery, corks, tobacco, spirits, beer, aerated waters, preserved foods, soap or jewelry. Oporto gloves and hats are highly esteemed in Portugal. Cotton piece goods are sent to the African colonies, and, in small quantities, to Brazil; their value in 1905 was £120,360, but a larger quantity was retained for the home market. The fisheries - chiefly of hake, bream and sardines - are extensive. Steamtrawling, though unsuccessful in the 19th century, was resumed in 1904, and in 1906 there were 136 British, 10 Dutch and 3 Portuguese steamers thus engaged. The innovation was much resented by the owners of more than 350 small sailing boats, and protective legislation was demanded. In 1905 the combined port of Oporto and Leixões was entered by 1734 vessels of 1,562,724 tons, but in this total some vessels were counted twice over - i.e. once at each port. Nearly three-fourths of the tonnage was entered at Leixões. About the close of the 19th century there was an important development of tourist traffic from Liverpool and Southampton via Havre. Reduced railway rates and improved hotel accommodation have facilitated the growth of this traffic. Many tourists land at Oporto and visit Braga (q.v.), Bussaco and other places of interest, on their way to Lisbon. There is also a large tourist traffic from Germany. The exports of Oporto include wine, cottons, wood, pitwood, stone, cork, salt, sumach, onions, oranges, olives and beans. American competition has destroyed the export trade in live cattle for which Great Britain was the principal market. Dried codfish (bacalhau) is imported in great quantities from Newfoundland and Norway; other noteworthy imports are coal, iron, steel, machinery and textiles. The total yearly value of the foreign trade exceeds 5,000,000.

The history of Oporto dates from an early period. Before the Roman invasion, under the name of Portus Cale, Gaia or Cago, it was a town on the south bank of the Douro with a good trade; the Alani subsequently founded a city on the north bank, calling it Castrum Novum. About A.D. 540 the Visigoths under Leovigild obtained possession, but yielded place in 716 to the Moors. The Christians, however, recaptured Oporto in 997, and it became the capital of the counts of Portucalia for part of the period during which the Moors ruled in the southern provinces of Portugal. (See Portugal: History.) The Moors once more became its masters for a short period, till in 1092 it was brought finally under Christian domination. The citizens rebelled in 1628 against an unpopular tax, in 1661 for a similar reason, in 1757 against the wine monopoly, and in 1808 against the French. The town is renowned in British military annals from the duke of Wellington's passage of the Douro, by which he surprised and put to flight the French army under Marshal Soult, capturing the city on the 12th of May 1809. Oporto sustained a severe siege in 1832-1833, being bravely defended against the Miguelites by Dom Pedro with 7000 soldiers; 16,000 of its inhabitants perished. In the constitutional crises of 1820, 1826, 1836, 1842, 1846-1847, 1891 and1907-1908the action of Oporto, as the capital of northern Portugal, was always of the utmost importance.

Encyclopedia Alphabetically

A * B * C * D * E * F * G * H * I * J * K * L * M * N * O * P * Q * R * S * T * U * V * W * X * Y * Z

Advertise Here


- Please bookmark this page (add it to your favorites)
- If you wish to link to this page, you can do so by referring to the URL address below.


This page was last modified 29-SEP-18
Copyright © 2021 ITA all rights reserved.