- Mário Rocha
History of Marquês Square in Porto
The Marquês de Pombal square is near the geographic center of Porto within the intersections of Bonfim parish, Paranhos parish and the Union of Cedofeita, St. Ildefonso, Sé, Miragaia and Vitória parishes.
Before today’s name, it was known as Largo da Aguardente () due to the fact that, presumably, there were stills of brandy nearby. From 1882, this square acquired its current name in the centenary of the death of the portuguese political leader Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (Marquês de Pombal). He was responsible for an economic-financial, administrative and social restructuring of the country in the 18th century.
It is worth emphasizing the importance of this square in the city's road dynamics throughout history. The old Porto - Guimarães road (Via Vimaranes) passes through Marquês, which dates back to Roman times. It started at São Sebastião gate of the primitive wall, or later at Carros gate of the Fernandina wall, went up to Bonjardim street, and arrived at the Aguardente site. From here, this road would continue along the street that currently has the name of Costa Cabral ending later in Guimarães. In other words, a clear and important access that connected Porto to the North of the country.
The Aguardente fortress was included in the city's defensive line by the time of the Siege of Porto. This stronghold was crucial for two reasons: first, it functioned as a significant block in the access to the city via the Porto - Guimarães road and, secondly, it is located at a considerable altitude - about 150 meters.
At the same time, it should be noted that years before a customs barrier was established in this place for the inspection and collection of taxes on water transaction.
In 1870, you could find a bullring in Marquês. Compared to the one on Mouzinho de Albuquerque square – currently Boavista roundabout - this arena was modest since, in addition to smaller size, it wasn’t well equipped at catering level, for example. In any case, it is necessary to reinforce the continuous attempts to implement a bullfighting culture throughout the North of the country through the construction of several bullrings, always, however, without success. This specific one was burned.
At the end of the century, a vegetable market with good hygiene conditions was built in this place. Its foundations were revealed during the excavations regarding the creation of the metro station. It lasted 15 years.
With the beginning of the twentieth century, Marquês is no longer merely a place of passage. It has become a point of attraction in the city (rest and leisure), becoming part of the bohemian city.
Thus, it is worth mentioning some historical heritage examples of this urbanistic statement.
• In 1899, by public initiative through a subscription, a bandstand is placed here where music concerts and parties in general were held.
• Two art deco kiosks were installed. At south, built in 1931, and north, built in 1958.
• In 1948 the Pedro Ivo public library was erected in honor to this 19th century writer.
• At the same time, it was possible to notice the presence of some coffee shops, such as the Pereira coffee shop famous for its “prego em pão” minced meat and for the billiards on the first floor.
It is now important to address one of the points of interest in this square. Located at the corner of Marquês and Latino Coelho street is the Marques da Silva Institute Foundation.
It is a discreet building that, fundamentally, serves to disseminate and promote the work of the architect Marques da Silva in the context of scientific research.
José Marques da Silva was an architect and teacher and played a crucial role by envisioning the inclusion of this city in a progressive and modern idea through the projection of a set of buildings that any Porto inhabitant recognizes. He lived almost all his life at Marquês and after finishing his education in Paris (where he was taught by master Victor Laloux, author of Quai d’ Orsay, an old train station - currently the famous d’ Orsay museum) imbued with Art nouveau, returns to Porto and decides to architect a variety of buildings that are essentially characterized by pragmatism and elegance understanding the physiognomy of the Porto city space without discouraging a classic approach and a clear taste for decoration.
A paradigmatic example is the São Bento station.
On one hand, it provided a train connection between Campanhã station and the city center, claiming the respective surrounding area as a new hub in the city. On the other hand, it is a building that, due to its monumentality and decoration, is one of the architect's great works. This is a great example of clear use of iron, an element of special taste for this architect.
Marques da Silva's work can be found almost everywhere in the city, from public buildings (São João National Theatre, the Peninsular Wars Heroes monument, the Alexandre Herculano and Rodrigues de Freitas high schools) to private properties ( “A Nacional” Insurance Company, Joaquim Emílio Pinto Leite building, both on Aliados Avenue, the Nascimento stores or the Marques da Silva house-museum itself).
There are also buildings linked to education, discipline and social assistance.
• Nossa Senhora da Paz school guided by the Doroteias sisters
• Pérpetuo Socorro school created by Redemptorist priests.
• Terço Institute
The latter, originally as Asylo Profissional do Terço, was built in 1891 by Pereira Machado Viscount. From its creation to present times, it has dedicated itself to the reintegration of marginal and delinquent youngsters into society focusing on learning new crafts. Guidance and supervision is continuous so that a talent is triggered. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the autonomy and confidence essential to live with quality of life.
This institution once aggregated a cinema. Named Terço, it was built in 1965 and for several decades it was the main monetary support of the Institute which, with the funds collected, went from an open-air room to a covered one.
In 2003, Mário Dorminsky (founder of Fantasporto cinema festival) said, in an interview with JUP, that “watching a movie and flirting, during the break, at Terço Garden, was as natural as going for a drink at Pereira's and strolling in the Marquês”.
This was also a place where musical events took place, such as John Zorn's concert in Porto in 1995. It closed doors in 2003.