UNESCO World Heritage sites challenge: Historic Centre of Oporto

The city of Oporto, built along the hillsides overlooking the mouth of the Douro river, is an outstanding urban landscape with a 2,000-year history. Its continuous growth, linked to the sea (the Romans gave it the name Portus, or port), can be seen in the many and varied monuments, from the cathedral with its Romanesque choir, to the neoclassical Stock Exchange and the typically Portuguese Manueline-style Church of Santa Clara.(http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/755)

So the next site on the UNESCO World Heritage list was visited on a recent trip to Portugal. Oporto is considered by UNESCO to be :

of outstanding universal value as the urban fabric and its many historic buildings bear remarkable testimony to the development over the past 1,000 years of a European city that looks outward to the West for its cultural and commercial links.(http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/755)

Historic Centre of Oporto

First references about the city appear in the IV century during the Roman times, when the city was a important port between Bracara (actual Braga) and Olissipona (actual Lisbon). In that time the city was known as “Portu Cale” (Cale harbor); the actual name of the country “Portugal” derives from the ancient name of the city. Under Roman rule, the city was provided with impressive buildings like the wall of Porto. Celtic and Proto-Celtic ruins have been discovered in several areas, and their occupation has been dated to about 275 BC. During the Roman occupation, the city developed as an important commercial port, primarily in the trade between Olissipona (the modern Lisbon) and Bracara Augusta (the modern Braga). Around the year 711 AD part of the Iberian Peninsula fell under the control of the Moors but they stayed only for a few years in Porto because in 868, Vímara Peres, a Christian warlord from Gallaecia, and a vassal of the King of Asturias, Léon and Galicia, Alfonso III, was sent to reconquer and secure the lands from the Moors.This included the area from the Minho to the Douro River: the settlement of Portus Cale and the area that is today known as Vila Nova de Gaia. Portus Cale, later referred to as Portucale, was the origin for the modern name of Portugal. In 868 Count Vímara Peres established the First County of Portugal (Portuguese: Condado de Portucale), after reconquering the region north of the Douro.

In 1387, Porto was the site of the marriage of João I of Portugal and Filipa de Lencastre, daughter of João de Gante; this symbolized a long-standing military alliance between Portugal and England.

In the 14th and the 15th centuries, Porto’s shipyards contributed to the development of the Portuguese naval fleet. It was also from the port that, in 1415, Infante D. Henrique, the Navigator (son of João I of Portugal) embarked on the conquest of the Moorish port of Ceuta, in northern Morocco. This first expedition by the Prince led to later exploration along the coast of Africa, beginning the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

After the establishment of the Republic in 1910, the city underwent a renovation process. During this period, it was constructed the “Aliados Avenue” and the iron bridge “Dom Luis I”, which was designed by a Belgian engineer named “Teophile Seyrig”, who was student of the famous “Gustave Eiffel”.

In 1996, the Downtown of Porto was declared by UNESCO “World Heritage”. Porto is also known as the city of work, because of the dynamism, courage and honesty of its citizens.

Panorama of Porto

You can find out more about thisite on the UNESCO World Heritage website: here

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