Internacional

CATHEDRAL

The Sé Cathedral’s surrounding area is the birthplace of the Porto's city and it's also the heart of this World Heritage Site. Dominated by the powerful towers' granitic grandeur, of a huge monumentality and buildings of great architectural value, it is also a place with privileged views over the city and the Douro River.

The Porto's Cathedral, of paramount importance, dominates the space. The tour can start from here, by one of the main and oldest Monuments of Portugal, a medieval temple of the 12th century filled with treasures. The involving Terreiro da Sé as it stands today has only emerged in the last century's 30s and 40s, when the area around the Cathedral was targeted for demolitions and urbanistic adjustment: many buildings were demolished and the Terreiro da Sé was widely enlarged.

Beside the Cathedral lies the Paço Episcopal (Episcopal Palace), a baroque building that was ordered to be built in the 17th century. The front's elevation dates from the 18th century, and it was designed by Nicolau Nasoni, jutting out in the west and south façades. It is an imposing and majestic building, but graceful and elegant at the same time, with dozens of baroque windows.

Next, still in Terreiro da Sé, is the Rua Escura's Fountain, on the Pena Ventosa Street, to where it has been transferred, in 1940. Ahead, a few steps below, stands the São Lourenço Church and College, popularly known as Grilos' Church. It's a set of buildings built by the Jesuits, in 1577, in a mannerist style.

Returning to the Terreiro da Sé, rises, majestic and granitic, the Medieval Tower or the Tower of the City. It’s a medieval tower-house rebuilt under the architect Rogério de Azevedo's orientation, who have it added a gothic feature's balcony in stone. It’s currently located on Dom Pedro Pitões Street, but it was hidden for centuries until the Terreiro do Paço has been opened.

Still next to the Sé Cathedral, you can see the Casa dos 24 (24's House), so called because it was the place where the 24 representatives of the various Porto's businesses gathered. It’s a contemporary building, designed by the architect Fernando Távora, built in 2002 on the missing Antiga Casa da Câmara's foundations.

Across is the Calçada da Vandoma, near the Sé, where students used to gather, in the 70s, to sell books and used clothes. In the 1980s, the Vandoma's Fair was moved to the Alameda das Fontainhas, where even today it takes place, every Saturday’s mornings. It's one of the most popular Porto's fairs, where you can find second-handed real bargains as china, clothes, furniture, books, discs and craftworks.

Beside stands the Senhor dos Passos Chapel or the São Sebastião Chapel's Oratory, on São Sebastião Street. Following through the Vandoma’s Sidewalk, you can see the Anjo Fountain or São Miguel Fountain, on the D. Pedro Pitões Sidewalk, after being in the limelight in the Largo da Sé. It is also a Nicolau Nasoni's work.

Behind the Sé Cathedral stands the Museum-House of Guerra Junqueiro, today a cultural center created in memory of the poet and writer. Born in 1850, Guerra Junqueiro died in 1923, with the dream of a house where all the objects that he collected as well as his literary estate, could be exposed. Between 1994 and 1997, the Museum-House was object of a major redevelopment, with a project of the architect Alcino Soutinho, and it currently disposes of a temporary exhibitions' room, a small auditorium, a cafeteria and a shop.

On D. Hugo Street, next to the Escadas da Verdade (Truths' Stairs), lies the Verdades' Chapel. Built in the 14th century, it houses the Virgin's image, which topped the Porta das Verdades, one of the doors of the Primitive Wall, torn down in the 19th century.

A little further on, on Largo 1º de Dezembro, in the 1º Dezembro Square, next to the Fernandina Walls' most visible path, stands the Santa Clara Church, a National Monument whose magnificent interior is a baroque's gilded woodcarving’s exemplar of the 18th century's first half and that makes of it, along with the S. Francisco Church, one of the best examples of lined with gold churches. The altarpiece has an exuberant decoration and also the images of S. Francisco and Santa Clara, and the choirs are decorated with beautiful tiles. In a door beside the Church, is the entrance to access the Fernandina Wall's remainder.

Ahead, in Actor Dias Square, the Alfaiates Chapel can be daily visited (in the afternoon). This chapel marks the transition from the late gothic style to the mannerist style, in Northern Portugal, and it was classified as a National Monument in 1927. Its dome is a unique exemplar of the baroque style, and the eight panels' 16th century paintings of the main chapel's mannerist altarpiece, in gilded woodcarving, are attributed to Francisco Correia.

From here you can follow to Ribeira, through the Escadas dos Guindais or the Funicular dos Guindais, in an extraordinary experience of the Porto's riverside landscape's enjoyment. This funicular connects the Augusto Rosa Street to the Gustavo Eiffel Avenue and it has been working since 2004, operated by the Porto's Subway. Also known as Ribeira's Elevator, it was designed by Raul Mesnier and inaugurated in 1891, but it was closed in 1891 only two years later, due to a serious accident. Fully re-projected by the same engineer, it has never functioned again until 2004. It was reestablished by a project of the architect Adalberto Dias.

If you are satisfied with the small tour, take time to rest or to eat in one of the Ribeira's many bars or restaurants and then, if you feel reinvigorated and want to continue the visit, you can follow the Ribeira's Itinerary up to the Foz. Or, if you want a more complete visit of the Sé Cathedral's area, you can return to the Cathedral and follow in the opposite direction towards the São Bento Station, one of the most beautiful of the world, due to its tiles' splendor, located in the Almeida Garret Square. Beside, you can see the Congregados Church, from the early 18th century. The façade's tiles were designed by Jorge Colaço. From there you can go to Praça da Liberdade and Avenida dos Aliados, dominated at the top by the Town Hall's building.

On Cima da Vila Street, stands the Ordem do Terço Church, which construction was begun in 1759. The façade has rococo elements and the interior is decorated with stuccoes and woodcarving. The main chapel's altarpiece, from 1776, is authored by José Correia Guimarães. Just above, in the Batalha's Square, stands out the S. João National Theatre, one of the most important cultural institutions of the city, that plans the classic or contemporary great dramaturgical repertories.

After the short tour, nothing better than going down to the Square and have lunch or a snack in one of the many dining areas of the Avenida dos Aliados or of the Downtown's streets, re-strengthening yourself to, if desired, do a new itinerary. Why not walk around the Clerigos' area, just beside? Or, if dinner time is approaching, you can enjoy one of the several restaurants for all tastes and pockets, and enjoy later of the Porto Downtown's liveliness, so eclectic and vibrant.

 

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