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I stood in the centre of a daring bridge, spanning with one bold arch of nigh six hundred feet a winding rocky gorge. Far, far below me ran a chocolate-coloured river crowded with quaint craft, some with high-raised sheltered poops and crescent-peaked prows, some low and long astern with bows like gondolas and bright red lateen sails, upon which the fierce sun blazed sanguinely. On the right side thickly, and on the left more sparsely, climbing up the stony sides of the gorge, were piled hundreds of houses, pink, pale-blue, buff, and white, all with glowing red-tiled roofs, and each set amidst a riot of verdure which trailed and waved upon every nook and angle uncovered by buildings. Trellised vines clustered and flowers flaunted in tiny back-yards 2and square-enclosed courts by the score, all on different levels, but all open to the down-gazing eyes of the spectator on the bridge high above them. Here and there a tall palm waved its plumes as in unquiet slumber, but everywhere else was the impression of ardent, throbbing, exuberant life, such as all organic creation feels under the spur of stinging sunshine and the salt twang of the sea-breeze. The river gorge winds and turns so tortuously that the view forward and backward is not extensive, but as far as the eye reaches on each side of the umber stream the hills of houses and far-spread terraced vineyards beyond rise precipitously, with just a quayside at foot on the banks of the stream, thronged now with folk who swarm, gather, and separate like gaudy ants, and apparently no bigger, as seen from the coign of vantage on the bridge. To my left, as I stand looking towards the west, there crowns the summit of the ridge close by a vast white monastery against a green background; a monastery now, alas! like all others in this Catholic land, profanated and turned to purposes of war instead of peace, but, withal, there still rears its modest rood aloft upon the crest one poor little round chapel where the 3sainted image of Pilar of the Ridge stolidly receives the devotion of the faithful. To the right, the height is crowned by a vast square episcopal palace, and near it, over all, is the glittering golden cross that shines upon the city from the summit of the square cathedral towers. This is Oporto, The Port par excellence, which gives its name to Portugal, seen from the double-decked iron bridge of Dom Luis over the Douro.

For days I had been striving in vain to get into touch with the psychic principle of this strange city. I had mixed with the motley multitudes that lounge and labour upon the quays, I had lingered in the gilded churches where worshippers were ominously few, and stood for hours observant in chaffering marketplaces and amidst the crowds of sauntering citizens in the inevitable Pra?a de Dom Pedro; but till the revelatory moment came to me in one enlightening flash upon the Bridge of Dom Luis, I had always been alone in a foreign throng whose composite inner soul I could not read. But now all was changed. Thenceforward I saw Oporto whole and not in disintegrated fragments as before; for I had learnt the secret of 4putting the pieces of the puzzle together and the heart of the city was bared to me, a stranger.

Every large, enduring community comes to attain a distinct character of its own, which the outlander can only know by long association or sympathetic insight, sometimes not at all. I had looked for a people exuberant and gay in outward seeming with an underlying spirit of bitter mockery, such as I had known in so many other Iberian cities; but somehow these Oporto people were quite different. Grave and quiet, with introspective eyes, even the children seemed to take their play soberly. Look at the slim slip of a boy who gravely walks at the head of this team of enormous fawn-coloured oxen, toilsomely dragging their ponderous load up a hill so steep as almost to need a ladder to ascend. The urchin cannot be more than ten or eleven, and in any other country would alternately skip and idle, or at least allow his attention to wander with every fresh object that struck his fancy. Here he stalks along for hours at a time, without lingering or straying, always calm and patient, whilst his soiled and hardened bare feet plod on, heedless both of the white mire and sharp stones of the way. Over his shoulder he carries a long 5lithe wand, double as tall as himself, with which he directs the course of the great wide-horned bullocks. A mere turn of the wand is sufficient to indicate the way, and with low bowed heads beneath the heavy yoke the dull beasts plod slowly onward as long-suffering as their guide. The whole equipage might belong to the times when the world itself was young, so idyllic is it in form. The wain is narrow and high-set upon two wheels, like an ancient chariot, with boards or high rods to form its sides; the wheels are built up ponderously of solid wood, the two thick spokes that connect the heavy tire with the hub filling up most of the circle, and the axle, a heavy log of wood, itself turns with the wheels. In this part of Portugal there stands erect upon the neck of the team an adornment which is usually the pride of the owner’s heart, and the one superfluous article of luxury he possesses. It is a thick board of hardwood, about eighteen inches high and some five feet broad, intricately and beautifully carved in fretted open-work arabesques. The patterns are traditional, handed down from time immemorial, and usually consist of involved geometrical and curvilinear designs; sometimes, but not often, with a cross introduced 6in the centre, and with a row of little bristle brushes as an extra adornment along the top. A glance at this elaborate piece of ox furniture will show that its decoration is of Moorish origin, and the canga itself may be the survival of the high ox yoke still seen in some oriental countries. To complete the quaint picture of the universal ox team, for this part of Portugal is not a country of horses or mules, the dress of the small teamster must be described. The boy’s breeches usually do not reach below the knee, the rest of the legs and feet being bare; a jacket of brown homespun is slung upon one shoulder, except at night or during the cold winter days of December and January, when it is worn, and the shirt, open at the neck and breast, leaves much of the upper part of the body exposed. The headgear is peculiar. It is nearly always a knitted stocking bag cap, something like an old-fashioned nightcap, with a tassel at the end of the bag which hangs down the back or upon the shoulder of the wearer, its colour being sometimes green and red, but more frequently black.

The boy, like his similarly garbed elders, takes life very seriously, but neither he nor they seem sad or depressed. There is here none of the 7squalid misery or whining mendicancy that are so distressing to strangers in Spain and Southern Italy, for the Portuguese of the north is a sturdy, self-respecting peasant, who works hard and lives frugally upon his three testoons (1s. 3d.) per day; and so long as he can earn his dried stockfish, his beans, bread, and grapes, with a little red wine to drink, he scorns to beg for the indulgence of his idleness.

These are the people, and their social betters of the same race, whom a sudden flash of sympathy brought closer to me, as in the pellucid golden sunlight all Oporto was spread before and beneath me, palpitating with life. The absence of vociferation and vehemence in the people did not mean sulkiness or stupidity, but was the result of the intense earnestness with which their daily life was faced; their unregarding aloofness towards strangers was not rudeness, but the highest courtesy which bade them avoid obtrusive curiosity; and soon I learnt to know that their cold exterior barely concealed a disinterested desire to extend in fullest measure aid and sympathy to those who needed them. In all my wanderings I have never met, except perhaps in Norway, a peasantry so full of willingness to 8show courtesy to strangers without thought of gain to themselves as these people of north Portugal, almost pure Celts as they are, with the Celtic innate kindliness of heart and ready sympathy, though, of course, with the Celtic shortcomings of jealousy, inconstancy, and distrust.

I know few more characteristic thoroughfares than the road by the river-side at Oporto, called the Ribeira, which is the centre of maritime activity of the port. The path runs beneath what was the ancient river-wall, now pierced or burrowed out to form caverns of shops, where wine and food, cordage and clothing are sold to sailor men. Many of the open doors have vine trellises before them, in the shade of which quaintly garbed groups forgather, and a constant tide of men and women flows along the path, eddying into and out of the cavernous recesses in the ancient wall. Colour, flaring and fierce in the sun, flaunts everywhere; for the multi-tinted rags of the south festoon and flutter from every door and window and deck the persons of all the womankind. Swinging along, with peculiar and ungainly gait, go the women with prodigious burdens upon their heads. Everything, from babies to bales of merchandise, is borne upon the female head in Portugal; and these women of the north wear a peculiar headgear adapted to this custom. It is a round, soft, pork-pie hat of black cloth or velveteen, fitting well upon the top of the head, the upper rim being adorned with a sort of standing silk fringe. Such a hat, especially when surmounted by a knot, suffers no damage from a burden placed upon it; but the constant carrying of tremendous weights upon the head of females, even of little girls, quite spoils the figures of the women, thrusting the hips and pelvis forward inordinately, and rendering the movements in walking most ungraceful. The women and girls almost invariably go barefooted, whilst the men, except the fishermen, usually are shod; and the females of a family share to the full the work and hardships which are the common lot.


9Along the shore of the busy Ribeira lie ships unloading, small craft they usually are, for the bar of the Douro is a terrible one, and the big ships now enter the harbour of Leix?es, a league away. In a constant stream the men and women pass across the planks from ship to shore, carrying the cargo upon their heads or shoulders in peculiar boat-shaped baskets, which are the 10inseparable companion of the Oporto workers. Here is a smart schooner hailing from the Cornish port of Fowey, from which stockfish from Newfoundland is being landed on the heads of women, flat salt slabs as hard and dry as wood, but good nutritious food for all that; and farther along, with their prows to the shore, rest a dozen un-ladened wine and fruit boats from up the Douro, and flat-bottomed passenger skiffs into which women and men with baskets and bundles, representing their week’s supplies purchased in Oporto, are crowding to be carried back to their homes in the rich vineyard villages miles up the river. One by one the quaint craft hoist their crimson sails, and struggle out from the tangle of the bank, until the breeze catches them, and in a shimmer of red gold from the setting sun they hustle through the brown tide until a projecting corner hides them from view. It is a scene never to be forgotten.

The centre of the Ribeira is the Pra?a called after it, where a sloping square facing the water opens out. The scene is picturesque in the extreme. The space is thronged by men, either sleeping in their baskets or carrying them filled with fish or merchandise upon their heads: a 11motley, water-side crowd, men of all nations, pass to and fro, or gossip under the vine trellis before the wine shop overlooking the square, and as the observer casts his eyes upwards he sees the gaily coloured houses piled apparently on the top of one another, until at the top of all, as if overhead, is the glaring white palace of the bishop, and the glittering cathedral cross, standing out hard and clear against a sky of fathomless indigo.

This busy river-side way of the Ribeira is, so to speak, a street of two storeys. Below is the walk I have described, with the cavernous shops in the face of the old river-wall, and on the top of the wall is another path reached by occasional flights of steps, and also bordered by the squalid medley of dark shops in which strange savoury-odoured victuals are washed down by strong red wine, and quiet brown men and women, and grave-eyed swarthy babies are inextricably mixed up with brown merchandise in the gloom beyond the glaring sunlight. Unexpected steep alleys, arched and mysterious, lead to the thoroughfares higher up the precipitous slope, and the next storey, a parallel narrow street, the Rua do Robelleiro, narrow, 12dark, and ancient, is almost as picturesque as the Ribeira itself.

A slab let into the river-wall by the beach commemorates one of the most terrible days in Oporto’s history. The English army had been chased to its ships at Corunna, and the Spanish levies scattered: the Peninsula seemed to be at the mercy of the French legions, which, under Napoleon’s greatest marshals, held the richest provinces of Spain in the name of King Joseph Bonaparte. But 9000 English troops remained in Lisbon, and with Portugal in the hands of his enemies Napoleon knew that he would never be master of Spain. So the word went forth that Soult was to march down with a great army from Galicia, and sweep the English out of Portugal. It seemed easy, and authorities even in England believed that Portugal was untenable and should be evacuated. All but one man, Arthur Wellesley, whose victory at Vimeiro in the previous year had been wasted by the inept old women who were his superior officers. With 20,000 men, said Wellesley, he would hold Portugal against 100,000 French, the marshals notwithstanding; and the great Englishman had his way. Beresford was sent out to reorganise 13the scattered Portuguese fighting men, and Arthur Wellesley sailed from England with his little army to face Soult in Portugal. Before he arrived in Lisbon the French had swept down from Galicia, and on the 27th March 1809, Soult summoned Oporto to surrender. The warlike Bishop of Oporto was heading the hastily organised defence; his forces were undisciplined and badly armed, but their hearts were stout, and behind their poor earthworks the citizens of Oporto and their bishop bade defiance to Soult and his invading army.

On the 29th March at dawn the devoted city was stormed by Napoleon’s veterans, who swept all before them. There was no quarter, no mercy, and the steep streets of the city were turned to blood-smeared shambles. Down to the river bank flocked the affrighted people, falling as they ran under the rain of bullets that pursued them. Over the river from the Ribeira was a bridge of boats, and upon this the crowd of panic-stricken fugitives poured. The weight sank it, and thousands were drowned in the Douro, or struggled ashore only to be despatched by the French, whilst many of those who had been in arms deliberately drowned themselves rather 14than surrender. Eighteen thousand Portuguese perished on that awful day, without counting the drowned who were never recovered; whilst of the whole Portuguese host only two hundred live prisoners were taken.

Six weeks afterwards the tables were turned; six weeks spent by Soult in intrigues for his own advancement, and by his officers in discontented idleness. On the 12th May Wellesley and his army from Lisbon surprised him at Oporto in broad daylight, crossing the river a few miles above the city by a brilliant piece of daring, and Soult ignominiously fled north, leaving impedimenta and baggage behind him, harassed and scattered by the Portuguese peasants in arms, until a mere remnant of his force finally found refuge in Spain. The very dinner to which he was about to sit down at Oporto when he was surprised regaled Sir Arthur Wellesley instead, and the victor took up his residence in that big white monastery on the Serra de Pilar, which from the height on the left of the bridge affords a panorama of unequalled beauty of the city opposite on its amphitheatre of hills, shining white and stately against the dark background of the sky.

15However you go from the lower level by the river-side to the main streets of the city the climb is a severe one, for in this town of precipitous hills the gradients are startling, even for the electric trams which of late years have completely taken possession of the streets. But we will leave the electric trams on this peregrination, and face the ascent on foot from the lower level of the bridge on the Ribeira itself to the upper town. First some toilsome flights of steps which have taken the place of the lower end of a precipitous alley, cut away to make the approach to the bridge, lead you up about two hundred feet to an ancient winding lane which itself is almost a flight of steps. Quaint foreign interiors are disclosed through the open doors of the dark humble abodes that line the way, and poor little home industries are carried on coram populo; half-way up the ladder-like ascent there is a ruined church, and by-and-by on the right we skirt the great battlemented wall of the vast disestablished monastery of Santa Clara. At a turn in the wall the corner of the grim old edifice itself appears, fortress-like and looming here as built for defence in the fierce times of long ago. Through the doubly-grated windows, a few feet 16above our heads, brown paws are thrust out, and a hoarse murmur from within takes form, by-and-by, as a demand for alms in the name of God. A glance inside makes one start back in horror, almost in disgust, though the sorry spectacle unfortunately soon becomes familiar to those who sojourn in any large Portuguese town. Huddled in squalor and filth together are half-naked, savage-looking criminals, old men, sturdy vagabonds, and youths almost children, staring out from the gloom of the prison-house through the unglazed barred windows, with whining prayer for charity, ribald jest, or explosive curses. These gaol-birds, herded publicly in their unutterable degradation behind the gratings, form the blackest spot visible in Portuguese life. Even Spain for the most part has brought her prisons into some semblance of civilised order, but Portugal in this one respect lags inexplicably behind.


A few yards distant, through a little maze of medi?val streets, is the cathedral, the Sé, with a quiet little courtyard before it, from the parapet of which the red roofs and abundant verdure of the city spread downward in waves to the water-side. These north Portuguese cathedrals are marvellously alike; sharing the early beauties and 17later barbarities of their successive generations of masters. This of Oporto is a good specimen. The sturdy warrior kings who wrested Portugal, bit by bit, from Castilian and from Moor, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were true crusaders. Where they set their foot sprang up the Christian church, to testify for ever their gratitude for victory vouchsafed to the Cross that symbolised their faith. Solid and staidly devotional were the edifices they raised; and wherever their work remains unconcealed by the scrolly banalities of a later age, it bears still the impress of simple faith and unostentatious grandeur. Here on the hill crest at Oporto stand two massive low towers, one still crowned by the pointed Morisco machicolations of the twelfth century, whilst its fellow, partly rebuilt, is spoilt by the addition of a trivial eighteenth-century parapet, with urns as an adornment. Still, the massive solidity of the towers remains, which is something to be thankful for when we regard the hideous top-heavy early eighteenth-century fa?ade that connects them. The south door, of majestic romanesque, is similarly marred. Around it has been built a barbarous porch, overloaded with meaningless ornament, which not only obscures 18the serious work of the early builder, but half covers and cuts in two a lovely old round window above the door which lights the transept inside. But, however much these curly horrors of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries may distract the eye, they do not destroy what is still visible of the old edifice. The double flight of low steps, for instance, which leads to this south door has for handrails two ancient stone serpents, so simple in design, yet so effective and perfectly adapted for their purpose, as to prove the unaffected but consummate artistry of the designer, whose taste must have been formed whilst yet the Byzantine traditions were strong in the stern romanesque.

One is struck at once in entering any of these cathedrals, and more particularly that of Oporto and its close congener Braga, with the vast difference between them and the pompous, splendid Spanish cathedrals. In the latter the span of the nave is usually tremendous, the church is plunged in tinted gloom, and the whole of the centre of the nave is blocked by an immense choir. Here in North Portugal the note struck in the cathedrals is not mystery richly dight, as in Spain, but sincere austerity, and a simple faith so essential in 19the edifice that the grave granite columns and arches appear as unaffected by the heaps, and piles, and masses of curly carved gilt wood around them as a monolith might be by the lizards that bask and slither round its base. Here in Oporto, for instance, the low, massive, granite pillars that line the narrow nave, and support the round romanesque arches, seem sullenly to bid defiance to time and decay; such is their prodigious solidity. And yet even these a later age has surmounted, if not adorned, with curly Corinthian capitals of carved gilt wood! Every altar here, and indeed nearly all over Portugal, is an overloaded mass of this particular barbaric style of decoration dear to the Portuguese since the seventeenth century. The skill in its production is undeniably great, especially in the chapel of St. Vincent in Oporto Cathedral; and in moderation the employment of richly painted, carved, and gilded wood generally may be advantageous where the light is low and the architectural style ornate. But here, where the simple romanesque prevails and the churches are flooded with light, it overwhelms one. In this low, old, plain Sé, either gilded wood or high-relief designs in beaten gold or silver in endless intricacy strike the eye unmercifully 20at every turn. On one of these ornate altars, screened by a curtain which a fee will raise, stands the ancient effigy, which those who still hold the simple faith of their fathers venerate so devoutly—Our Lady of Alem. Ages ago, so the story runs, when this old fane was yet a-building in the twelfth century, some Douro fishermen found their nets heavy with an unusual burden, and raising them, found this image, a miraculous gift vouchsafed them from the sea. Since then the prayers of those who win their living on the deep have been ceaselessly offered to the Lady of Alem for safety and good luck, and simple offerings of gratitude for boons thus gained—for sickness healed or safe return—hang thickly round the shrine.

The beautiful little cloisters of the cathedral are of a later date than the church—grave and simple Gothic of the late fourteenth century, with three small pointed lancet arches in each span, and a plain round light in the tympanum above. But even here the eighteenth century has done some damage by building out highly ornamental buttresses between the main spans. All around on the inner wall of the cloister is a decoration which abounds in nearly every Portuguese church that 21has lived through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—namely, large pictorial representations in blue and white tiles, like those commonly connected with the town of Delft. In the churches these tile pictures usually represent scenes from Scripture history, with a large admixture of heathen mythology or ordinary emblematic fancies, as here in Oporto, and the effect is quaint and not unpleasing. One of the things indeed which most strongly strike a stranger in Portugal, in the north especially, is the almost universal employment of glazed tiles, azulejos, both inside and outside buildings of all kinds, the majority of the better sort of dwelling-houses being entirely covered outside by tile designs in colours, sometimes very elaborate and beautiful. The custom exists to some extent in Spain, but is not so common there as in Portugal. In each case, however, the taste and original manufacture, like the name of these tiles, are clearly Moorish, and in some of the older edifices, to be mentioned later, the tiles themselves date from a period when Moors or Mudejares produced them.

In the sacristy of Oporto Cathedral they will show you a painting on terra-cotta of the Virgin and Child, backed by St. Joseph and 22angels bearing a cross, which is asserted to be a Raphael. The composition and drawing are clearly the work of a disciple of his school, but the colouring is dull and grey, such as the great one of Urbino would never have produced. Not this so-called Raphael, but another picture of the highest interest and beauty, is the principal artistic treasure of the city. In the board-room of Oporto’s most cherished and beneficent institution, the vast charitable organisation called the Misericordia, there hangs a painting that has few, if any, equals in Portugal. It is claimed for Jan Van Eyck, who is known to have been in Portugal for two years at about the period (1520) represented by the work, though personally I could see but slight traces of the peculiar quality of either of the brothers Van Eyck. Certainly it is broader in style than anything I have seen from the brush of the younger brother Jan, and may well be the work of Hubert Van der Goes or Hans Memling. But, whoever may be the painter, the picture is a magnificent one. Against a background representing a typical Flemish landscape and walled town, such as Memling loved to paint, 23there is a highly ornamented font filled with a pool of blood replenished from the stream that issues from the Saviour’s side, as He hangs upon the cross rising from the centre of the pool. Upon the edge of the font, on each side of the cross, in attitudes of prayer, stand two lovely life-size figures of the Virgin and St. John, whilst in the foreground there kneel, in regal robes of crimson, ermine, and gold brocade, the figures of the founder of the Misericordia in 1499, King Manuel the Fortunate and his wife. Kneeling behind them in decreasing size are members of their family, and on the farther side beyond the font are groups of ecclesiastics and laymen, all evidently life-like portraits of prominent courtiers, or benefactors of the institution. The colouring of the picture is glowing and gorgeous in the extreme, and the loving care expended upon the details is such as only the early Flemings had patience to exercise, accompanied by a breadth and boldness unusual in most of them. Fons Vit?, as the painting is called, from an inscription on the edge of the font, is emblematical of the foundation of the home of mercy it adorns. Nor is it the only art 24treasure the Misericordia possesses, apart from the hundreds of awful daubs representing dead and gone benefactors that crowd every inch of wall-space. There is to be seen a beautiful Gothic gold chalice of fifteenth-century Portuguese work, some fifteen inches high, a specimen of the famous handicraft of the city, of great interest, the work being of the most intricate and elaborate description, and the condition of the jewel perfect.

Away from the river-side and the immediate surroundings of the cathedral, Oporto has little to show in the form of architectural quaintness. A busy, bustling place of modern-looking houses for the most part, the streets dominated by the indispensable electric tramways, casting scorn upon the lumbering ox wains that alone compete with them. Yet the city has some striking points that should not be missed. The view is very fine, for instance, from the top of the main modern shopping thoroughfare, the Rua de S. Antonio, which swoops down suddenly like a giant switchback to the Pra?a de Dom Pedro, the centre of the city, and then as the Rua dos Clerigos soars aloft again as suddenly to another eminence crowned by the extraordinary 25tower of the Church of the Clerigos, one of the loftiest spires in Portugal. The effect, looking up on either side from the Pra?a de Dom Pedro, is as curious as any streetscape of its kind in Europe. The Pra?a de Dom Pedro itself, crowded almost day and night with people, busy and idle, is a typical Portuguese “place,” paved, as most of them are, by the strange wave pattern in black and white stone mosaic that gives to the Pra?a de Dom Pedro in Lisbon (the Rocio) the English name of “rolling motion square.”

From the Pra?a de Dom Pedro in Oporto, leading downward towards the river-side, is the famous street of the old city called Rua das Flores, where now, as for centuries past, the gold and silver filigree jewelry for which Oporto is famous is made and sold in a score of dark old-fashioned little shops; and still farther down is the Pra?a do Comercio, with a striking statue amidst the flower-beds of Portugal’s national hero, Prince Henry the Navigator. In this square stands, too, the principal architectural boast of modern Oporto, the Exchange, of which the interior is really grandiose in the florid style so beloved by the 26Portuguese. The elaborate high-relief carvings prevalent in Portugal are usually executed in soft marble-like limestone, which hardens with exposure to the air; but here in the Bolsa of Oporto the intricate festoons and ingenious caprices that stand out everywhere in relief on walls, pillars, and staircases are carved out of the solid grey granite of which the edifice is built, as if out of defiance the most difficult material had been sought. Some of the fine apartments, especially the Tribunal of commerce, are beautifully decorated in frescoes by Salgado, in style much resembling those of Lord Leighton; and the great ballroom is a gorgeous hall in the brilliant gold and coloured arabesques of the Alhambra.

The Exchange is built upon the site of a disestablished Franciscan monastery, and cowering under the shadow of its modern magnificence there still stands the convent Church of St. Francis. The seventeenth century has left little of the original fifteenth-century church standing, and the interior is a mass of extravagantly rococo carved and gilt wood and other monstrosities; but in an ancient south transept chapel there is an altar-piece of interest in the style of Mantegna, 27though the sacristan ascribes it to some impossible artist of another school and century. Nothing, indeed, can equal the ignorance of, and apparent indifference to, antique and artistic objects in Portugal by the persons in charge of them. Even in national museums and historic buildings belonging to the Government, the guardians appear to have been chosen without the slightest regard to their fitness for understanding or describing the objects in their care, and the demeanour of the Portuguese people generally towards such objects is such as to force the conviction that, however proud they may be that their country has produced gems of art admired by strangers, they themselves have but a vague appreciation of their beauties or their merit.

The precipitous street leading up from the Pra?a de Dom Pedro to the conspicuous Church of the Clerigos is gay with a line of the drapers’ shops, with the gaudy wares aflaunt, which appeal specially to the country folk who flock in with their produce to the picturesque market of the Anjo behind the church. Red and yellow, blue and green, strive for mastery from street kerb to parapet, for the stock is as much outside 28the shops as in; and under the blazing sun, with the eternally deep azure sky overhead, the feast of colour in the clear air is so lavish as to dazzle eyes accustomed to the low tones and soft outlines of England. But relief is near. Through the chaffering market, with its piles of luscious fruit and all the bounteous gifts of earth and sea spread temptingly before brightly clad country wenches with flashing black eyes, the wayfarer may pass but need not tarry; nor is it worth his while to penetrate into the over-florid eighteenth-century churches of the Clerigos and the Carmo, which lie in his way—for just beyond them is a beautiful sub-tropical garden where shady groves of palms invite to repose, and towering planes temper the glare with a soft haze of sea-green. Seated in a quiet nook, with leisure now to watch the passers-by closely, one is struck by the prosperous busy look of the working people. There is no undue noise, and a stranger is allowed to go his way without unwelcome attention; above all, marvellous to relate, beggars are rare, whilst the persistent, offensive, mendicancy, amounting often to sheer blackmail, which is a perfect plague in Spain, is here quite unknown.


29The manners of these people of North Portugal, indeed, are irreproachable. So courteous are they that it seems almost rude of the stranger to note too closely the quaint garb of the working people around him. The peasant women especially keep their ancient costume unchanged. Barefoot they go, old and young, with their heavy burdens piled in their boat-shaped baskets upon the black, pork-pie hats they wear. Their skirts, usually black but often with a broad horizontal stripe of colour round the bottom, are very short, and gathered with great fulness at the waist and over the hips. Upon the shoulders there is almost invariably a brilliantly coloured handkerchief, and sometimes another upon the head beneath the hat; and long, pendant, gold earrings shine against their coarse jet-black hair. It is evident that for the most part they work quite as hard as the men, but they have no appearance of privation or ill-treatment, except that their habit of carrying heavy weights upon their heads has the effect of ruining their figures in the manner already described. There are no indications anywhere of excessive drinking, and even smoking is not conspicuous amongst the 30working men and boys in the streets; they seem, indeed, too seriously busy for that, except on some feast day, when, with their best clothes on, they are gay enough, though not vociferous even then, as most southern peoples are.

There is an ancient little church in the northern suburb of Oporto, which will be of some interest to students of architecture. It is little more than a fragment now, but represents the earliest orthodox Catholic foundation in the city, and indeed in this part of the Peninsula. In the clashing of creeds in the early centuries of Christianity, Visigothic Spain had been officially Arian, whilst orthodox trinitarianism was the creed of the great churchmen, and the majority of the Romanised people. In 559 Mir, King of the Suevians, who ruled in the north-west corner of the Peninsula, was distracted by the imminent danger of his son, who was ill apparently to death. He was an Arian, but the priests of the orthodox Church assured him that safety to his son might be gained by the aid of certain relics of St. Martin of Tours, and Mir swore that if the relics worked the miracle he and all his people would join the Catholic communion, and he would build a 31church to St. Martin within a year in his capital city. The prince recovered, and Mir was as good as his word. To the dismay of the Gothic monarchs of Spain, Suevia joined the orthodox fold, and in hot haste this Church of St. Martin was built; “Cedofeita,” “soon done,” being its name to this day. The upper part of the little cruciform church has been restored and the inner walls have been lined with the universal blue and white picture tiles; but the pillars and arches are pure romanesque, with capricious carvings on the capitals, and the charming little cloister is entered by a romanesque doorway of great beauty. The capitals, too, of the north doorway of the church are very curious, though apparently later than the cloister door, one of the carvings representing a man in a long gown being devoured by an animal’s head, doubtless an allegory of which the significance is lost to us.

Another church of some interest is that of Mattosinhos, a large and prosperous village adjoining the harbour of Leix?es, where those who come by sea to Oporto land. The way thither from the city by the electric tramway lies along the river-side, and past the charming tropical-looking 32public gardens at the Foz de Douro, where in the summer heat the citizens of Oporto idle, flirt, and disport themselves in the surf that breaks upon the sandy beach. The Church of Mattosinhos is a great place of pilgrimage, for it possesses amongst other attractions a miraculous image of Christ, which is venerated throughout Portugal, and the shrine is a famous one. The church lies on a gentle eminence, and is approached by a beautiful, wide, mosaic pavement, bordered by avenues of planes and cork trees, under the shadow of which are six chapels containing life-sized groups representing scenes in the passion of Our Lord. The soft warm air from the sea comes heavy-laden with the scent of flowers, and on one side of the church a grove of orange trees shelters a merry school of boys, who do not even pause in their games to glance at the curious stranger peering about amongst them. The outside of the church, somewhat squat and solid eighteenth-century work, presents a fair specimen of a style of which we shall see much later; a style not at all ineffective, although its description may not sound attractive. Its peculiarity consists in the admixture of brownish-grey granite, of which all the architectural lines and salient points consist, 33with panels or spaces of snow-white plaster between. In this pure air, under a brilliant sun, the subdued colour of the granite softens the outlines, whilst the white spaces prevent an appearance of gloom or heaviness. Inside, the Church of Mattosinhos is grave and simple in its architectural features, but, as usual, the altars, and especially the chancel, are a riotous mass of gilt wood carving, without repose or restraint.

Down by the shore the great Atlantic rollers are thundering upon the beach, as if hungering to devour the crescent-shaped sardine boats drawn higher up for safety; and a long mail steamer, in the little harbour of Leix?es, has its blue peter flying and its funnel smoking ready to sail for England. It is autumn there, no doubt, for the calendar tells us so and cannot lie; but here it is glorious summer still, for the palms and planes wave softly green in the languorous air, and the flowers, in great white and purple masses, hang over every wall and wrestle with the blue-black grapes that deck the trellises before the cottage doors. Everywhere is vivid colour and sharp outline in an atmosphere of marvellous clarity, and as we are carried rapidly through the balmy, voluptuous breeze to the city, we feel that life under such conditions is indeed worth living.

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