1902 Encyclopedia > Lisbon


LISBON (Portuguese, Lisboa), the capital of the kingdom of Portugal, is situated in 38° 42' N. lat. and 9° 5' W. long., on the northern bank of the Tagus (Tejo), at the spot where the river broadens to a width of 9 miles, some 8 or 9 miles from the point where it enters the Atlantic. Standing on a range of low hills, backed by the lofty granite range of Cintra, and extending along the margin of the wide Tagus, Lisbon wears a very noble aspect to those who approach it from the sea. In regard to beauty of position it may rightly claim to be the third of European cities, Constantinople and Naples alone ranking before it. The river affords secure anchorage for a very large number of vessels, and the bar at the mouth is easily crossed even in rough weather. Like London, Paris, and Vienna, Lisbon stands in a geological basin of Tertiary formation. The upper portion consists of loose sand and gravel destitute of organic remains, below which is a series of beds termed by Mr Daniel Sharpe the Almada beds, composed of yellow sand, calcareous sandstone, and blue clay, rich in marine remains. The greater part of Lisbon stands on those beds which belong to the older Miocene epoch, and are nearly of the same age as those of Bordeaux. Next comes a conglomerate without fossils. These Tertiary deposits, which cover altogether an area of more than 2000 square miles, are separated, near Lisbon, from rocks of the secondary epoch by a great sheet of basalt which covered the Secondary rocks before any of the Tertiary strata were in existence. The uppermost of the Secondary deposits is the Hippurite Limestone, which corresponds to a part of the Upper Chalk of northern Europe. The narrow valley of Alcantara, in the immediate neighbourhood of Lisbon, has been excavated in this deposit ; and here there are extensive quarries, where abundance of its peculiar shells may be collected.5 Lisbon stretches along the margin of the river for 4 or 5 miles, and extends northward over the hills for nearly 3 miles, but much of it is scattered amongst gardens and fields. In the older parts the streets are very irregular, but that portion which was rebuilt after the great earthquake of 1755 consists of lofty houses arranged in long straight streets. Here are the four principal squares, the handsomest of which, the Praca do Commercio, is open on one side to the river, and on the other three is surrounded by the custom-house and Government offices, with a spacious arcade beneath. In the middle is a bronze equestrian statue of Joseph I., in whose reign the earthquake and restoration of the city took place. At the middle of the north side is a grand triumphal arch, under which is a street leading to another handsome square, the llocio or Praca do Dom Pedro (built on the site of the Inquisition palace and prisons), where stands the theatre of D. Maria II. The houses are for the most part well built, and are divided into flats for the accommodation of several families. The streets had formerly a bad reputation in regard to cleanliness, but of late years great improvement has taken place in this respect, although no general system of drainage has yet been adopted. They are lighted with gas made from British coal. The public gardens, five in number, are small, but are much frequented in the evenings. The city contains seven theatres and a bull ring. The hotels of Lisbon offer but indifferent accommodation to strangers ; the shops present little display, and are ill furnished with wares. The markets are tolerably well supplied with meat, fish, and country produce. A large quantity of excellent fruit is brought in for sale during the season.

The king usually resides at the palace of Ajuda, situate on a hill above the suburb of Belem. It is in the Italian style, and was intended to be one of the largest palaces in Europe, but it has been left incomplete. It contains a large library, a collection of pictures, and a numismatic cabinet. There is another royal palace at Lisbon (that of the Necessidades), where former monarchs were wont to reside ; and in the neighbourhood of the city are numerous others. Several of the nobility have good and spacious houses in the city, which are dignified with the name of palaces.

The houses of the British residents are mostly to be found in the elevated district called Buenos Ayres.

Two or three small forts, one on a rock at the mouth of the Tagus, afford a very inadequate defence against the attacks of a hostile fleet. In ascending the river the picturesque Tower of Belem, built about the end of the 15th century, is seen on the north bank close to the water's edge. On a rocky hill stands the citadel of St George, surrounded by the most ancient part of Lisbon, composed of narrow tortuous streets, still retaining its old Moorish name, Alfama. The chief naval and military arsenals of the kingdom are at Lisbon. Attached to the former are a naval school and a hydrographical office. Here also is a museum of colonial products. In various parts of the city are barracks for the accommodation of the LISBON troops and for the municipal guard. The churches are numerous, but are nearly all in the same tasteless Italian style ; the interiors, overlaid by heavy ornament, contain pictures utterly devoid of merit. The cathedral is gloomy without being grand, but the oldest part behind the high altar may deserve inspection. The largest church in the city is St Vincent's, 222 feet by 82. The large adjacent convent is now the residence of the cardinal patriarch. In a modern chapel attached to the church the coffined corpses of the monarchs of the house of Braganza are deposited, and the public are admitted to see them on certain days in the year. Perhaps the most striking church in Lisbon itself is that of the Estrella, with a dome commanding an extensive view, and two towers, the whole design reminding the visitor of St Paul's, London. At St Roque is the famous chapel of St John the Baptist, designed by Vanvitelli, and made at Rome for King John V., who had been enriched by the discovery of the gold and diamond mines in Brazil. Before being sent to Portugal it was set up in St Peter's, and Benedict XIV. celebrated the first mass in it. It is composed of precious marbles with mosaics and ornaments in silver and bronze, and is said to have cost upwards of £120,000. By far the most interesting architectural object at Lisbon is, however, the unfinished Hieronymite church and monastery at Belem. The church was begun in 1500 near the spot where Vasco da Gama had embarked three years before on his famous voyage to India. The style is a curious mixture of Moorish Gothic and Renaissance, with beautiful details. The English college was founded in 1628 for the education of British Roman Catholics ; and the Irish Dominicans have a church and convent originally established for the educe.- tion of youths intended for the priesthood. Ecclesiastically Lisbon is a patriarchate, the holder of the dignity being at the head of the clergy of the kingdom, and president of the chamber of peers. Ile is usually made a cardinal.

The two chambers of parliament hold their sittings in a huge building, formerly the monastery of St Bento, to which a handsome façade has been added. New and ornamental buildings have been erected for the courts of justice and the municipal chamber. The mint is fitted up with steam machinery on a small scale for coining gold, silver, and copper. Postage stamps and inland revenue stamps are printed at this establishment. The national astronomical observatory is near the Ajuda palace, and the meteorological observatory is at the Polytechnic school, which also contains the national museum of natural history. Here is a good collection of the birds of Portugal, with collections in other branches of the zoology of Portugal and the Portuguese possessions in Africa - minerals, fossils, &c. The fossils collected by the Geological Commission to illustrate the geology of the kingdom are preserved in the sequestrated Convento do Jesus.

Lisbon is singularly destitute of works of high art. The gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts contains only a few pictures worth notice. In the custody of the academy is an interesting assemblage of gold and silver plate taken from suppressed monasteries. There is also a collection of pictures at the Ajuda palace. At the Carmo church is an archieological museum. The great national library consists for the most part of old theological works and ecclesiastical histories swept out of various suppressed monasteries, and has a collection of 24,000 coins with some Roman bronzes. The Portuguese take little interest in literature, art, or science, and almost everything connected with them is in a neglected state. Literary and scientific societies are few in number and badly supported, the principal one being the Royal Academy of Sciences, founded in 1779. The national printing office, a Government establishment, turns out creditable work, but the booksellers' shops are few and ill-stocked. Eight or ten daily journals are published in Lisbon, and there are a few weekly newspapers, besides periodicals appearing at longer intervals, and chiefly devoted to special interests.

Several cemeteries have been constructed of late years near Lisbon, the practice of interring in churches having been abandoned. In the English cemetery lies the English novelist Fielding, who died here in 1754 ; a marble sarcophagus with a long Latin inscription covers his remains. The British residents maintain a chaplain who performs service regularly in an adjacent chapel, and the Scottish Presbyterians have also a place of meeting. The great hospital of S. Jose contains beds for nine hundred patients, and the large lunatic asylum has accommodation for four hundred patients. The Foundling Hospital takes in more than two thousand children annually. At Belem is an excellent establishment where a large number of male orphans and foundlings are fed, clothed, educated, and taught various trades. The Lazaretto is a vast building on the south side of the Tagus, where one thousand inmates can be received at one time.

Lisbon is connected by railway with Madrid, and there is also a line northward to Coimbra and Oporto, as well as lines southward to Setubal, Evora, and Beja. Submarine cables connect it with England and with Brazil. There is communication by regular lines of steamers with the Portuguese islands in the Atlantic and the colonies in Africa, and with a great number of ports in Britain, continental Europe, and other parts of the world. Lisbon is the largest port in the kingdom, and its custom-house is a spacious and very substantial fire-proof building worthy of any capital in Europe, in which merchants are allowed to deposit their goods free of duty for a year, or for two years in the case of Brazilian produce. The duties annually collected here exceed £1,150,000, tobacco alone producing .t400,000. Upwards of 1400 foreign vessels, and about 1100 Portuguese ships, including coasters, enter the port annually. The annual imports amount to about £5,600,000, and the exports to £4,500,000. A considerable number of foreign merchants reside in Lisbon, and there are about fifty British firms. The most active commerce is carried on with Brazil and Great Britain, tropical produce being 9 imported from the one, and manufactured goods from the other, while wine and oil are sent to both in return. The wine for exportation is all made and stored outside the city bounds, so as not to be subject to the octroi duty. There are several joint-stock banks, one of them being British (the New London and Brazilian Bank), as well as private bankers. Manufactures are carried on only to a limited extent. The largest establishment by far is the tobacco manufactory, where 1600 persons are employed, and three millions of pounds are annually manufactured.

The chief supply of water, for the use of the city is brought by an aqueduct 9 miles in length, from springs situated on the north-west. This work, one of the boasts of Lisbon, was completed in 1738, and was so well executed that the great earthquake did it no injury. It crosses the Alcantara valley on thirty-five arches, the principal one being 263 feet above its base, with a span of 110 feet.. On reaching the city the water is conducted into a covered massive stone reservoir, which an inscription styles " urbis ornamentum orbis miraculum," and thence it flows to the fountains, thirty-one in number, distributed throughout the city. From these fountains it is removed in barrels to the houses by "Gallegos," men from Galicia, who do the principal part of the hard work in Lisbon. Although there are two other reservoirs near the city, the supply of water is insufficient for the requirements of the place during the warm season.

For municipal purposes the city is divided into four districts (barros), the whole under one municipal chamber, and two suburban districts under separate chambers. The city chamber consists of twelve members elected by the burgesses every two years. Its revenue is about £75,000. The octroi duties, levied on provisions and fuel entering the city, are 'collected on account of the Government, and exceed £270,000 a year. The police force is paid by the Government, and consists of the municipal guard, a military force of cavalry and infantry under the orders of the home secretary, and a body of ordinary policemen at the orders of the civil governor, an official appointed by Government. According to the census of 1878 the population in the thirty-nine parishes of the city and suburbs was 253,000.

C/intate. - Notwitlistancling the mildness of the climate, Lisbon is not considered a healthy place of residence, owing chiefly to the defective sanitary arrangements. The annual death-rate is 36 per thousand. The deaths are said to exceed the births, and the population would therefore decrease were the city not continually recruited from the country. To chest invalids it is not by any means to be recommended as a winter resort, on account of the frequent and rapid changes of temperature to which it is subject. These changes, and the great difference between the temperature of sun and shade during the winter and spring, are dangerous to the delicate. In summer the heat is great, and all who have the means betake themselves during that season to Cintra or to the seaside. The following data, deduced from twenty years' observations (1856 to 1875) taken at the Meteorological Observatory, a well-managed institution which stands 335 feet above the level of the sea, will afford the means of judging the climate in its principal features. Mean annual temperature of shade, 600.37 Fahr. ; mean annual range, 61°.2 ; mean daily range, 12'.6 ; highest and lowest registered during the whole period, 980.8 and 300.3. Mean annual quantity of rain, 28.84 inches ; greatest and least annual quantity during the period, 33.3 inches (1865) and 17'22 inches (1874). The rainfall of 1876, however, amounted to 45 inches, more than one-third of which fell in the month of December. The mean annual number of days on which rain fell was one hundred and twelve, whilst snow fell only three times during the twenty years. The mean atmospheric moisture (100 - saturation) was 70.89. The mean annual height of the barometer was 29.8 inches, and its mean annual range 1'3 inches. The prevailing winds of the winter and autumn are from the north, of the spring and summer from the north-north-west.

History. - The name Lisbon (Portuguese, Lisboa) is a modification of the ancient name Olisipo, also written Ulyssippo under the influence of a mythical story of a city founded by Ulysses in Iberia, which, however, according to Strabo, was placed by ancient tradition rather in the mountains: of Turdetania. Under the Romans Olisipo became a municipium with the epithet of Felieitas Julia, but was inferior in importance to the less ancient Emerita Augusta (Merida), After the Romans the Goths and the Moslems successively became masters of the town and district. Under the latter the town bore in Arabic the name of Lashbfina or Oshbfina. It was the first point of Moslem Spain attacked by the Normans in the invasion of 844. When Alphonso I. of Portugal took advantage of the decline and fall of the Almoravid dynast.), to incorporate the provinces of Estremadura and Alemtejo in his new kingdom, Lisbon was the last city of Portugal to fall into his hands, and yielded only after a siege of several months (21st October 1147), with the aid of English and Flemish crusaders who were on their way to Syria. In 1184 the city was again attacked by the Moslems under the powerful caliph Abu Ya'kub, but the enterprise failed. In the reign of Ferdinand I., the'greater part of the town was burned by the Castilian army under Henry II. (1373), and in 1384 the Castilians again beseiged Lisbon, but without success. Lisbon became the seat of an archbishop in 1390, the seat of government in 1422. It gained much in wealth and splendour from the maritime enterprises that began with the voyage of Vasco da Gams (1497). The patriarchate dates from 1716. From 1586 to 1640 Lisbon was a provincial town under Spain, and it was from this port that the Spanish Armada sailed in 1588. In 1640 the town was captured by the duke of Braganza, and the independence of the kingdom restored. For many centuries the city had suffered from earthquakes, of more or less violence, but these had been almost forgotten when, on the 1st of November 1755, it was reduced almost in an instant to a heap of ruins. A fire broke out to complete the work of destruction, and between 30,000 and 40,000 persons lost their lives. Pomba], an unscrupulous minister, but a man of great talent, applied himself with unremitting energy both to the protection of the rights of property (for the place was infested by bands of robbers) and to the reconstruction of the buildings. The handsomest part of the present city was erected under his direction, but even to this day there are edifices which speak forcibly of the great earthquake. In 1807 Napoleon proclaimed that the house of Braganza had ceased to reign in Europe, whereupon the regent Don John (his mother the reigning queen Maria I. having become insane) thought it prudent to quit the country for Brazil, and next day a French army under Junot entered the city, possession of which he retained for ten months. He then quietly embarked his army under the protection of the inexplicable convention of Cintra so dis.graceful to the English generals. In 1859 Lisbon was stricken 'by yellow fever, and many thousands were carried off before the plague was stayed. Lisbon boasts of having been the birthplace of St Anthony, surnamed of Padua, of Camoens, the national epic poet (to whose honour a bronze statue has been placed in one of the squares), and of Pope John XXI. (J. Y. J.)

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