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VIII LISBON
No capital city in Europe, with the exception of Constantinople, can compare with Lisbon in beauty of situation. On approaching the city up the Tagus from the sea the panorama presented is most striking; although the un?sthetic Portuguese have done their best to mar it by fringing the foreshore with possibly profitable, but certainly hideous and offensive, industrial and commercial excrescences, from the noble and historic tower of Belem at the mouth of the river, almost hidden in the midst of defiling gasometers, to where the city merges into the country at Po?o do Bispo three miles away. Piled up upon a grand amphitheatre of hills, the city rises tier over tier, the river opening out before it in the form of an extensive bay. Away above Belem the vast square Ajuda palace stands conspicuously upon a hill-top backed afar off by the huge mass of Cintra; whilst at the other 230end of the panorama towards the east the ancient citadel-palace of St. Jorge looks down from its height upon the busy river-bank and the central valley running inland, in which the rectangular main streets are cramped.[5]

The noble Pra?a do Comercio, Black Horse Square, as English visitors call it, fronts the river in the foreground, the most imposing public square in Europe, with the exception perhaps of the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Previous to the great earthquake of 1755 a royal palace stood upon a portion of this site, and the valley behind it was a closely crowded congeries of narrow and filthy lanes. In my manuscript already referred to of Lord Strathmore’s travels in the country, an interesting account is given 231of the condition of things in 1760, when he saw the ruined city; and a quotation from his description of the plans then existing for rebuilding the portion destroyed will give a good idea of the present aspect, since the plans were executed precisely.

“The prospect,” writes Lord Strathmore, “of this great city rising from its ruins is still distant, as besides ye arsenal there are but three houses built upon the intended plan. The plan of the streets and squares is extremely well imagin’d. There is a pretty broad valley between two hills, running down to ye Tagus in ye part where ye palace stood. Thro’ this they intend to make their principal street, all ye houses regularly built after one model and tirés au cordon, terminating in a noble square open in front to ye river, which is of great breadth here, with old Lisbon upon high ground opposite. The other three sides [of the square] will be surrounded by a very handsome, narrow arcade, with public buildings above and an equestrian statue of ye King in ye centre. The other streets will likewise be regular, and will lead at right angles into ye great street from ye hills on each side. Tho’ ye design is extremely noble ye architecture is as bad [i.e. as before] except in ye square already described. They seem to consider ye front of a house only as a high wall with holes larger or smaller to admit light as occasion requires.”

This exactly pictures Lisbon as it stands to-day. From Black Horse Square on the Tagus bank run the Rua Augusta and two other parallel streets, called respectively the streets of “gold” and “silver,” straight as a line to the busy centre 232of Lisbon, the fine parallelogram, called the Pra?a de Dom Pedro, or the Rocio, paved with its inevitable mosaic of black and white waves, at the end of which is the theatre of Donna Maria, the central railway station, and the entrance to the handsome Avenida da Libertade, a garden and tree-shaded drive of good houses occupying the whole of the narrow valley for nearly two miles into the suburbs. On either side of the Avenida and the principal rectangular streets in the valley the hills rise precipitously, and when the tops of these have been surmounted a series of sudden dips and rapid ascents succeed east and west. The city is, therefore, a most fatiguing one to explore, as to go anywhere away from the river-bank, which with the exception of Black Horse Square is irretrievably ugly and squalid, and from the streets “tirés au cordon” in the central valley, formidable hills have to be faced. This of late years has been much relieved by a complete system of electric trams, which practically cover the city, and by the instalment of funicular railways and lifts up some of the more difficult ascents.

The city, on the whole, is decidedly disappointing at close quarters. The straight 233principal streets and rectangular cross thoroughfares, with their flat, prosaic architecture, the high white houses all alike, are the antipodes of picturesqueness, whilst the authorities seem perversely to have done their utmost to make the river-side as ugly as Rotherhithe or Wapping. This is the more to be regretted, as since I first knew the city many years ago, great tracts of land have been reclaimed from the sludge and ooze of the foreshore which might well have been treated with some regard for public amenity. The large strip reclaimed from the river, however, almost as far as Belem, has for the most part been turned into untidy deserts of dust, shabby-looking docks, and dumping-places for débris. The utter lack of ?sthetic taste is observable on all hands. The terrace before the king’s residence, the palace of the Necesidades, for instance, is upon the brow of a low hill, and commands a splendid view of the river and the opposite shore for many miles on either hand; and yet even here, between the palace and the river factory chimneys belch black smoke day and night, hopelessly ugly industrial buildings block the prospect, and the reclaimed foreshore and docks are as desolate as elsewhere.

234Of the pure picturesque, indeed, little remains in Lisbon; but what still exists must be sought amongst the fisher folk on the river-side, and especially in the markets that have been built on the reclaimed land of the Ribeira Nova, not far from the centre of the city and close to the Hotel Central. It was pleasant to turn into the cool, spacious, covered fish-market out of the brilliant sunlight, which even quite early in the day drove people to welcome shade. The air was clear, crisp, and elastic, and every object seemed to sparkle with light and colour. Inside the market hundreds of people were bargaining quietly, for even here the absence of vociferation was remarkable; servants buying their stocks of provisions for the day, housewives of the humbler class doing their own marketing, baskets on their arms, and women fish hawkers by the score laying in their stocks. They were all shoeless, as usual, wearing under their vast head burden black pork-pie hats over red or yellow kerchiefs, and they have girdles below the hips into which the upper portion of their pleated skirts is drawn to relieve the waist of their weight. Upon the ground, spread around the women sellers, were great heaps of glistening fish; cod, dory, skate, whiting, and large quantities of squids or cuttlefish, which are much liked by the Portuguese poor.

ON THE QUAY, LISBON.

235The male fish-sellers of Lisbon are for a wonder even more picturesque than the women; for here on the Tagus the seafarers of the south are first noticeable, quite distinct in racial characteristics as they are from those of the north. These Lisbon fishermen go barefooted, which the poorest men of the north never do, they wear breeches only to the knee, girt by a crimson sash, and the hanging tasselled bag-cap falls and waves over their shoulder as they loup along with a peculiar springing gait under a long flexible pole balanced transversely across the shoulders, at each end of which a flat, shallow basket of fish is suspended. The vegetable market adjoining that devoted to fish is a brilliant sight in this favoured land. Heaps of scarlet pimentos and tomatoes are flanked by enormous yellow gourds, and mountains of purple grapes incredibly cheap, pomegranates, and big luscious pears jostle piles of humbler vegetables of the kitchen, and some of the groups of bright-coloured produce seem to reproduce the old pictures of the mythical cornucopia 236overflowing with all the best fruits of the earth.

It is a long and tiring walk from here to Belem, but two lines of electric trams go thither, one along the river-bank and the other by the parallel route past Alcantara, and either will serve our turn. Belem is now but a suburb of Lisbon, continuous lines of houses covering the two miles of the route. There still remains, however, something of distinction in this royal village, full of memories as it is of Portugal’s great day of power and wealth. For here it was that at length the dream came true, and those long vigils of the Fortunate King on the savage peak of Cintra were rewarded by the coming of Vasco da Gama to the squat, sturdy old tower of Belem, that had been in his yearning thoughts through so many trials and dangers. King Manuel greeted his great subject, who had brought to his native land the potentiality of wealth illimitable, here in the village of Belem, at the mouth of the Tagus; and as the explorer stepped ashore, the king, overjoyed at his coming, swore to build upon that very spot a Jeronomite monastery splendid enough to be worthy even of that great occasion. And he kept his word; for 237two years afterwards, in 1500, the first course was laid of a building which surpasses all others in its particular style, and in some respects is one of the most remarkable ecclesiastical structures in the world.

A long line of church and monastery adjoining runs parallel with the sea, the conventual portion partly in ruins but now in course of reconstruction, and the eye is at first perfectly bewildered by the richness of the details of the doors and windows of the edifice. Here Manueline architecture is at its earliest and best, before extravagance like that of the unfinished chapels at Batalha overwhelmed it. Here the orthodox florid Gothic and Renaissance styles are leavened, but not obliterated, by the new spirit of expansion and aspiration that found its national expression in what is called Manueline. The west door of the church, where the monastic buildings join it, is extremely beautiful. On each side are rich canopies under which kneel the king and queen with their patron saints, and smaller figures exquisitely carved surround the rest of the door, which is surmounted by flamboyant pinnacles in the Manueline taste. The general idea of the windows, which are 238very large and high, is of a round-topped arch three or four courses or orders deep, each course being set with bosses of a different, but always elaborate, pattern, an outer moulding representing a twisted cable or twined branches in infinite variety, ending in a series of pinnacles, surrounding the window on the surface of the wall.

The great south doorway facing the road and the Tagus, the principal door of entrance, almost defies description by its richness and complexity of ornament, this and the cloisters of the church being perhaps the best specimen of Gothic Manueline in Portugal. Between the two doorways into which the entrance is divided there is a pillar or column, upon which, under a rich Gothic canopy, stands a large figure of a man wearing a tabard. The scheme of decoration is carried up by a series of flamboyant pinnacles and canopied figures beautifully interlaced to the top of the aisle wall. The two great windows flanking this gorgeous doorway match it in magnificence, and one feels on turning away from this monument of human skill and ingenuity that here the short-lived art of the Portuguese Renaissance has reached its highest flight.

The South Door at Belem

239The impression, however, hardly survives the moment when you cross the threshold and enter the church itself; for here you see an interior unlike any other great temple. The first impression is one of immense unencumbered spaciousness. The ordinary arrangement of nave and aisles does not exist, but from the floor there spring straight up to a height that seems prodigious six slender isolated marble pillars, three on each side. They form no continued arcade, although, of course, they are aligned, and each pillar is decorated lavishly in high relief with Renaissance ornamentation in panels, with canopied niches half-way up their height. From the top of each column spring a series of branches like the fronds of a palm-leaf, which, meeting in beautiful graceful curves, form the intricate series of bossed groins which compose the vaulted marble roof. At the west end of the church three low-pointed Manueline arches support the choir-loft, and along the north wall twelve Manueline doorways are ranged, with rich canopied niches above them, whilst the magnificent transept, with its gorgeous ceiling and royal chapels and tombs, and its vast Manueline chancel arch of twisted cables 240and cordage supporting rich canopied pulpits, altogether produce an effect of overpowering majesty.

Here in the chancel repose, in splendid tombs, the ashes of the king, Manuel the Fortunate, and his son, John III., the two great builders of the fane; and here too lie, in a transept chapel, Vasco da Gama himself, and Cam?es, who enshrined in deathless epic the spirit of exalted enterprise of which the great explorer was the personification, and the Infante, Prince Henry, the prophetic inspirer. Kings, queens, princes, and princesses lie around in fretted sepulchres—that ill-used Catharine of Braganza, Queen-Consort of England, amongst them, here where she passed the long years of her widowhood—but their very names are for the most part forgotten now; and this memorable church of Belem, whilst its daring beauty stands, will remain the shrine of the two greatest figures of Portugal’s golden age, and of the “Fortunate Monarch,” Manuel, in whose reign the vision of the Infante was realised.

The cloisters of the monastery vie with those of Batalha in beauty, which is saying much. Each of the twenty arches, four on each face 241and one at each corner, is filled with Manueline tracery, exhibiting inexhaustible caprice and invention, no two being alike in pattern; whilst highly decorated Manueline doorways line the inner walls. The upper ambulatory is wider and, if possible, more elaborate than the lower, an unusual arrangement, each upper arch buttress being capped by a beautifully decorated finial. The chapter-house, as usual, leads out of the cloister, an exquisitely rich specimen of Manueline, and is now devoted to the stately tomb of Alexandre Herculano, the nineteenth-century Portuguese historian. Pompous as are the sepulchres of kings and heroes in the adjoining church, this monument to the historian—a respectable figure in literature, it is true, but by no means a genius of universal fame—surpasses them all. Here, alone in the midst of this grandiose chapter-house of the monks, the dead man-of-letters rests more splendidly than monarch or millionaire. Modern Portugal, at least, can honour the gifted pen; for the names of Cam?es, of Almeida-Garrett, the nineteenth-century poet, and Herculano, the historian, are all through the country commemorated by street names. How long shall we have to 242wait before Englishmen, so ready to bow the knee before successful finance, will thus do homage to an historian? Verily, little as we may relish the truth, we have much to learn from Portugal, and not in this alone.

The monastery buildings of Belem shelter twelve hundred orphan boys, who are there clothed, fed, and educated by the State, and it was a fine sight to witness them all at table in the great Manueline refectory of the vanished monks, and pleasant to hear the ringing of their youthful laughter as they played joyously in the stately cloisters. In the museum adjoining there is a collection of ancient royal coaches, some of them very imposing and curious, but generally speaking not so interesting a collection as that in the royal caballerizas at Madrid.

Sated almost with sculptural richness, I left the monastery, and rested beneath the grateful shade of palms in the public garden opposite, with the broad Tagus before me and the glowing blue sky overhead until the perfect day began to wane. Then through the fine Pra?a de Dom Fernando, with its handsome Manueline pillar and statue of Albuquerque, the great viceroy of the Indies, I slowly wended my way back by the 243chaotic river-bank to Lisbon. Belem is beautiful and suggestive enough to provide reflection for one day without allowing other impressions to disturb it, and the sordid sights and sounds of the water-side were nothing to me, for the airy fancies of the artist in stone and the romantic memories of the heroic days surrounded me as with a mantle.

Lisbon is a city of prospects, and, uninteresting as are its main streets, it is only necessary to stand upon one of its many eminences to see spread before you a wide and varied panorama. The end windows of the upper corridors in the Hotel de Bragan?a afford a splendid view of the port and the mouth of the Tagus, whilst from the ancient citadel of St. Jorge, and from the dome of the big classical church of Estrella, the city and the rolling hills for miles around are spread out at the foot like a map in relief. Speaking for myself, I have always considered one of the most attractive coigns of vantage in Lisbon to be the Largo da Gloria just over the entrance of the Avenida. This can be reached either up the Rua de S?o Roque or by the funicular lift from the Avenida itself. The view from this pretty public garden on the top of a 244precipitous bluff is charming. The whole of the central valley lies under you with its straight lines of streets, starting from the great parallelogram of the Rocio just below and reaching the Tagus. Just in front of you across the valley rise the hills covered with houses of all colours amidst greenery, with the great old citadel of the Moors and their conquerors crowning the highest point towards the river; the square battlemented towers of the old cathedral being seated upon a lower hill at its foot. To the left an ocean of mountainous hills covered with verdure and buildings stretch as far as the eye reaches; whilst on the right beyond the extensive Black Horse Square shines the wide estuary of the river, and miles away across the water the mountains that bound the prospect towards the south.

As you stand and look down from the garden of Gloria to the big busy square, with its wavy black and white pavement, and tall column just underneath you, you may notice that at the north-east corner of the square the valley broadens somewhat, and a maze of narrow streets starts from that corner. If when you descend from your eminence you penetrate and explore this corner you will find in it all that is left of the 245quaint Lisbon of before the great earthquake. For here, in a district still called the Mouraria, and in what once was the Villa Nova de Gibraltar adjoining it, dwelt outside the ancient walls the Moors and Jews, who for centuries almost monopolised the wealth of Portugal, until at the bidding of his Spanish father-in-law and mother-in-law, Ferdinand and Isabel, the “Fortunate” King Manuel made short work of the children of Israel. Here in the ghetto, of which the ancient gateway still stands, the streets are narrow and tortuous. Crumbling gables and quaint corner turrets overhang the pathway, and dark mysterious entries, lined with oriental azulejos, tell of the time when men lived in daily fear of rapine and violence.

Almost sheer over the district of the Mouraria towers the hill upon which the fortress of St. Jorge stands, and if you care to climb it you may see Lisbon, and beyond from the point opposite to that from which you have just descended. The cathedral stands upon a hill nearer the river, and may best be reached by following the tram-lines up the Rua da Concei??o. The sturdy old church fronts a triangular space, from which picturesque glimpses of the roofs of the old 246town and river-bank may be caught. Two square Romanesque towers, which, like the rest of the cathedral, are now in course of restoration from the vandalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, stand on each side of and connect with a large square porch before the west door. Cupolas and a railed parapet formerly surmounted these towers, but battlements in accordance with the original design are in future to replace them, and the lavish additions of carved wood capitals to the pillars and coats of stucco over ancient decorations are being cleared away, thanks largely to the encouragement of the present Queen of Portugal, who is interested in the work.

Here on this hill stood the mosque of the Moslem kings, and here, when in 1147 Affonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, captured the city, the first Christian church was built by the conqueror, who nominated an English warrior-monk, Gilbert, to be the first bishop of the new See. Upon a stone within the por............
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