Big Panorama of Lisbon, National Tile Museum of Portugal

Grande Panorama de Lisboa, discover Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake. An entire city portrayed for eternity in this magnificent painting on ceramic.

This extraordinary work is a unique iconographic document. The panorama shows the most complete view of Lisbon from the River Tagus before the earthquake that destroyed the city in 1755.

Measuring nearly 23 meters in length, it depicts 14 km of coastline, portraying palaces, churches, convents and dwellings but also a whole living experience.

The authorship of this work has been associated to one of the first Masters of Baroque azulejo-making, the Spanish painter Gabriel del Barco (b. 1648 – d.?).

This very original panel encircled a whole room at a noble Palace in Lisbon. As viewers turned in a circle, they were treated to a bird’s perspective, like if it was God’s view over this beautiful city.

Let’s take an in-painting walk into Lisbon before the earthquake. starting West, at Belém quarter, and going along the riverbank till the most eastern part of the city. On contemplating this 18th century panel, we observe buildings and places that survived the cataclysm, as well as others that disappeared.

Belém (eng.Bethlehem) is recognized for its concentration of national monuments and public spaces, including a mixture of historical buildings and modern symbols of Portuguese culture. This juxtaposition of famous icons developed from Belém’s important military position along the mouth of the Tagus; its role in the exploration in India and the Far East (the Caminho das Índias); and 17th–18th century construction of royal residences and noble estates in the parish following the destruction stemming from the 1755 earthquake and tsunami.

Torre de Belém
The Belém Tower, situated on the rocky outcropping/island along the northern margin of the Tagus River as part of a defensive system to protect access to the Tagus estuary, is one of Belém’s iconic symbols of the parish. Built c. 1514 by order of King Manuel I of Portugal, the tower was originally called the Tower of Saint Vincent (Portuguese: Torre de São Vicente), and it guarded the entrance to the port at Belém. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water.

Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
Near the Tower, still at Belém, we can easily identify the Jerónimos Monastery, one of the most prominent examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline architectural style in Portugal.

King Manuel I had the idea of erecting a large monastery close to the site where Henry the Navigator had built a church dedicated to Santa Maria de Belém in the 15th century. With a view to perpetuating the memory of Henry and acknowledging his own great devotion to Our Lady and St. Jerome, Manuel I chose to establish the Monastery of Santa Maria de Belém on a site just outside Lisbon on the banks of the River Tagus.

The monastery was given to the Order of St. Jerome, which is why it was given the name of Jerónimos (or Hieronymite) Monastery.

The panel also depicts the city’s close relation with the river, particularly important at Belém área. The coastline is well defined and shows beaches, forts, quays, boats and several water streams along with carriages and sedan chairs whisking their owners to estates in Belém and Alcântara quarters.

Alcântara is located in the southwestern corner of Lisbon, along the northern margin of the Tagus River. Although today it is quite central, it was once an outlying suburb of Lisbon, comprising mostly farms and palaces. In the 16th century, there was a brook on which the nobles used to promenade in their boats. As a result of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami, the King and his government moved to the zone of Alcântara, attracting with them the nobility, functionaries, municipal officials and those that lived alongside them, including artists, merchants and artisans.

The name “Alcantara” is derived from the Arabic al-qntara (القنطرة), meaning “the bridge”, and refers to an Ancient Roman bridge that existed there until the reign of John V, that still can be seen very clearly in this panel.

Important business activities are depicted at Alcântara, such as the naval shipyards and maritime trade.

The panel also shows ordinary daily activities like a tide mill.

Santos-o-Velho (ancient Mocambo)
The Mocambo neighbourhood (meaning black people’s village) had existed in the city since the 16th century. At the time, this area was home to many fishermen and black slaves. Called nowadays Santos o Velho, it is one of the best preserved historical parts of Lisbon, including Madragoa (former village in the outskirts of Central Lisbon), It is also known for its lively nightlife.

This area housed the densest concentration of potteries in Lisbon, as shown by the number of smoking chimneys.

A galleon flying the Portuguese flag is shown offshore, suggesting Lisbon’s important role in trade, which included the export of faience produced in Mocambo area.

Here we can identify the Museum of Ancient Art, and many former convents and palaces (in which the current Embassy of France is included).

Cais do Sodré and Chiado
The toponym Chiado has existed since around 1567. Initially the name referred to Garrett Street, and later to the whole surrounding area. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake greatly affected the area, destroying houses, churches and convents. The rebuilding plan organised by the Marquis of Pombal included the Chiado, and new streets were opened to link the area with the Baixa Pombalina. New churches were rebuilt in Rococo-Baroque style, like the Mártires Basilica, Encarnação Church and the Loreto Church, the latter belonging to the Italian community of Lisbon.

In the 18th and, especially, in the 19th century, a great number of important commercial establishments opened in the Chiado, turning it into a favourite shopping area. Some of them exist to this day, like the “Bertrand Bookshop” (opened 1747) and “Paris em Lisboa” (garment shop opened 1888). In 1792, Lisbon’s opera house, the Teatro Nacional São Carlos, was inaugurated, attracting the cultural elite of the city, and other theatres were opened in the 19th century (Trindade Theatre, S. Luís Theatre). Museums were also created, like the Archaeological Museum in the former Carmo Church and the Museum of Contemporary Art in the former Convent of Saint Francis (now Chiado Museum). The cafés and theatres in the area were a meeting point for the aristocracy, artists, and intellectuals at least until the 1960s. It eventually became a beloved touristic site thanks to its picturesque streets and squares, cultural attractions, cafés and shops.

Lisbon is known as the city of the seven hills and a thousand churches.

Some of them were destroyed by the earthquake and rebuilt after with changes, like the Church of São Paulo at Cais do Sodré, rebuilt in the opposite direction of the former one. Or like the church Santa Catarina do Monte Sinai, which vault colapse during the religious service.

An enormous wooden cross that helped guide ships into harbour is shown next to its façade, at the very pick of the hill.

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Others, like Carmo Convent remained in ruins till today, to preserve the memory of the cataclysm. It can be visited today as Carmo Archeological Museum.

Baixa de Lisboa (Lisbon’s downtown)
Lisbon downtown, also called Baixa Pombalina because it was built by order of the Marquis of Pombal, following the earthquake of 1755. It is located between the Terreiro do Paço, near the river Tagus, Rossio and Praça da Figueira, and longitudinally between Cais do Sodré, Chiado and Carmo, on the one hand, and the Cathedral and the hill of Castelo de São Jorge, on the other.

Downtown was the most affected part of Lisbon by the earthquake of 1755 (and the fire and tsunami that followed it). Staying in ruins, it was rebuilt in a geometrical plan following the illuminist conceptions.
Here we can still see old downtown with its labyrinth structure from the Medieval period and Moorish occupation of Lisbon.

Terreiro do Paço (meaning “Palace square”) and the Royal Palace are depicted on a larger scale. Portugal’s Royal Residence was clearly the city’s centre.

The disproportion of the perspective in some elements in the panel, may have been due to the relative importance of the buildings portrayed and to the panel’s integration in its original place. It seems obvious that the Royal Palace and Terreiro do Paço, very disproportionate, would probably have been applied to a main wall. Also notice that no person is represented in this area, as the Royal Palace has a symbolic dimension, being the political and economical centre of Portugal since the 16th century.

Before the earthquake Terreiro do Paço held, in the midle, a fountain with the statue of Neptune. In the north part we can see some arches, the king’s Ferdinand’s wall, once the mediviel city limits.

Ribeira Palace, the first permanent royal residence, built by order of King Manuel I, in the beggining of the 16th century, was located near the river. It was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755.

In this representation we can distinguish the clock tower of the Royal Palace, the tower by Filipe Terzi, with the throne room and library.

Ribeira palace oldest part with the balcony and, at the ground floor, the House of India, where products from Orient arrived.

And right beside the house, we can identify the royal shipyard, Ribeira das Naus.

The Castle of São Jorge is depicted on the top of highest hill, overlooking the Royal Palace. Before the construction of Ribeira Palace, it was one of the main residences of the portuguese court in Lisbon.

Right below we can see the Lisbon’s Cathedral (Portuguese: Sé de Lisboa), often called simply the Sé, is a Roman Catholic church. Being the oldest church in the city is the siege of the Archdiocese of Lisbon.

Since the beginning of the construction of the cathedral, in the year 1147, the building has been modified several times and survived many earthquakes. At this panel we can still see King’s Afonso’s IV tower, destroyed in 1755. It is nowadays a mix of different architectural styles. It has been classified as a National Monument since 1910.

The market place known as Ribeira Velha, was located right next to the Royal Palace, and was the main market of Lisbon for fruits, vegetables and fish. An 18th century French visitor describes it as follows:

“(…) the Lisbon market fish is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the finest in Europe for the variety of the fish found there (…)”

Behind Ribeira Market we can see “Casa dos Bicos”, a noble house built in 1522, with a façade decorated with diamond tip stones, a style used in similar palaces in the South of Europe (mainly in Italy).

The house was destroyed by the earthquake, subsisting only the ground floor. The second and third floors existing today were built in the 80s, being its representation in this panel, one of the iconographic sources for its reconstruction, proving the importance of this artwork as an historical document about Lisbon.

Continuing along the Tagus to East, we can recognize some important water fountains of Lisbon, like Chafariz D’El Rey (King’s Fountain, 16th century) and Chafariz da Praia (Beach Fountain).

We can see also some important convents and monasteries of Lisbon like São Vicente de Fora Monastery and the National Pantheon.

The Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora; meaning “Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls” is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon, Portugal. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

At the extreme right of the panel, the image of Convent da Madre de Deus is visible, today’s Museu Nacional do Azulejo.

In here we can still see the old part of the Convent from the beginning of the 16th century with the ceramic medallions from the Della Robbia workshop, and the second phase of construction from the second half of the 16th century, with the Mannerist portico, the dome and the embankment that created a protective barrier from the river flooding.

Although our in-painting tour is already coming to an end, this experience may serve as a stepping stone to discovering Lisbon and even Portugal.

National Azulejo Museum
The National Tile Museum of Portugal, is an art museum in Lisbon, Portugal dedicated to the azulejo, traditional tilework of Portugal and the former Portuguese Empire, as well as of other Iberophone cultures. Housed in the former Madre de Deus Convent, the museum’s collection is one of the largest of ceramics in the world.

The Museu Nacional do Azulejo is housed in the former Convent of Madre de Deus founded in 1509 by Queen Leonor. Its collection presents the history of glazed tiles in Portugal, from the second half of the XV Century to the present day, proving that the tile remains a living and an identity expression of Portuguese culture.