« There is no place more amiable, nor more pleasing, in the entire City; In addition to its beautiful location adorned with regular Buildings, the eyes enjoy, in a single glance, a view of City, Sea, River, Ships, Mountains, Meadows, Farms and Palaces.» (COSTA 1789: 33). 

In the city of Porto, the area inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (1996) covers approximately 90ha, which roughly correspond to the area delimited by the 14th century medieval wall, the Dom Luís I Bridge and the Serra do Pilar Monastery in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia. Here, the multisecular value of urban (product of a topographic complexity of streets, alleys, alleyways, alleys, stairways, squares and yards) and architectural (residential or monumental) fabrics join the cultural values accumulated throughout eras. This reflects the connection between the social organization, the economy and the geography of the city, which maintained a stable and coherent relationship with the urban and the natural environment. Accordingly, the urban site of Virtudes stands out for the permanence of a longstanding outline. The place presents itself as a luminary example of the phenomenon of urban development. The construction of an urban front leaning against the exterior of the wall was a frequent phenomenon in European cities of medieval configuration, whose capacity to accommodate more residents and new equipment in the walled perimeter reached a limit, forcing new sprawl solutions. On the other hand, this urban sprawl usually took place in lands that were previously occupied by periurban farms intended for production and/or recreation, as in this case. But the exceptional character of the Virtudes case lies in the survival of the pristine configuration of its geomorphological characteristics. To our days, it remains an imprint of human occupation that, throughout the centuries, did not experience any significant change in the slopes and valley where once flowed the Frio river, a tributary of the Douro river basin.

The urban area of Virtudes concisely illustrates the exploitation of the territory’s natural features.


This area, within its current urban setting, represents a pleasant green spot with little change throughout time


The Virtudes' inherent patrimonial value has unquestionably favoured its current use: the urban front is modernized with new uses and equipments and the public garden offers a cultural program.

The UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011) recognizes and promotes the dynamic character of living cities.

The Virtudes Promenade is a relaxing place located in the heart of the city of Porto, bathed by the South and West sunlight exposure and where the eyes rest upon the unique landscape

According to the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011), a historic urban landscape has to be understood as a product of the historical stratification of both cultural and natural values.

Virtudes Estate
The Virtudes Estate, located in the parish of Miragaia, dates back to the 17th century and is nowadays the headquarters of the artistic cooperative. Once dedicated to leisure and agricultural exploitation, it is renowned for the great landscape value imposed by its setting overlooking the Douro river. The many areas of the estate accommodated different uses throughout the centuries, thus building evidence to its transformations and continuities. The Virtudes Estate must be understood as an ensemble of elements, such as the Virtudes manor (the main residence), the annexes (contiguous to the house) and the garden, developed in terraces that were formerly and mostly used for agricultural production. These elements must also be understood in connection with other urban equipment, such as the Fogueteiros Street and Wall as well as the Virtudes fountain, which attest to further uses.

The Virtudes manor-house was built in 1767 by order of José Pinto de Meireles and his wife D. Francisca Clara de Azevedo Aranha e Fonseca.

As reported by the «Primeiro de Janeiro» newspaper, the reason behind the attack could be related to the meetings of the Anti-fascist Committee of Support to Revolutionary Prisoners (CAARP).

Its ceramics and lithography workshops keep a contemporary and unique artistic production alive, which stands out for its quality.

The remodelling house's interior space that harbours the Árvore Association – Cooperative of Artistic Activities is carried out in the nineteen-eighties, by the architect Alcino Soutinho.

The Virtudes' Manor was owned by the family of Joaquim de Azevedo Sousa Vieira da Silva Albuquerque, a Professor in the Polytechnic University of Oporto, for several generations.

The Manor's chapel was dedicated to Our Lady of Conception and Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and served as a public cult space for some time.

The chapel of the Virtudes manor-house was demolished in 1872 to expand the Fogueteiros Street and build the new Fish Market.

This Floor Plan (1869) shows a religious building attached to the house, aligned with the public road, on the lands that were to be expropriated to serve the purpose of this arterial road’s extension.

The Virtudes' undeniable landscape value lies in the terracing of the Frio River banks.

On highly steep lands, the construction of terraces allows the transformation of a difficult orography for agricultural purposes.

The Virtudes manor-house holds greater impact when observed from the Douro river, the main entrance to the city at the time.

Two flights of stairs emphasize the scale and the apparatus of the façade, highlighting its dominance over the exploitation lands.

The erudite character of the architecture is perceptible in the scale and its perfect accommodation to the site, as well as in the stonework, the porch and the staircase.

The project favoured a neoclassical language that can be identified in the rusticated apparatus of nearby buildings, such as the Santo António Hospital, the Relação Prision and the Polytechnic Academy.

In the words of the artists, this is a “wearable sculpture”.

The piece is in a state of metamorphosis, representing the texture of a tree trunk through the incision of a linear pattern in the granite, which perpetuates the natural forms of the place, the Virtudes garden.

Nursery Garden of Virtudes
The geomorphology of spaces has always conditioned their occupation and use by Man. Taking advantage of the sunny and fertile slopes of the Frio river valley, cultivated terraces emerged in Virtudes: fields, small gardens, and farms. Amongst these, the Virtudes estate stood out, in the 18th century. This was the space where, in the following century, the nursery garden, owned by José Marques Loureiro (1830-1898), prospered. Under his care, it became one of the most important horticultural establishments in the country, granted with international projection and several awards in plant exhibitions. The growing success of the business led to investments in new nurseries, located in the city of Porto and in Maia, as well as the opening of a branch in Lisbon. Among its many visitors and clients were the Portuguese royal family. From 1890, the Nursery Garden of Virtudes was called the «Royal Horticultural-Agricultural Company of Porto», and Jerónimo Monteiro da Costa was then its manager. At the time, the Gardens of Porto were greatly encouraged, and many of them received plants from this nursery, whose specimens are difficult to identify. To this day, both the date and circumstances that led to the closing of the Nursery Garden of Virtues have not been determined.

The transformation of the landscape, carried out by the City Council of Oporto in 1999, sought its insertion into the urban life of the city.

José Marques Loureiro introduced a great number of plant species in Portugal, transforming the Virtudes garden in a real experimental field for the acclimatization of plants.

«Crossing the door that opens to the Fogueteiros Street, we soon come across similar beauties […] Such beauty, all this strikingly exotic vegetation!» (VIEIRA 1887: 270).

Among the numerous visitors and clients of the Virtudes Nursery Garden was the Portuguese royal family. In 1890, the Nursery Garden was renamed «Royal Horticultural-Agricultural Company of Porto».

Marques Loureiro created the Practical Horticulture Journal (Jornal de Horticultura Pratica), published between 1870 and 1892, a true work of reference in the horticulture field.

The Virtudes' Ginkgo Biloba is the largest of the species known in Portugal, with 35.5 m high, and probably the oldest.

Seen as «living monuments», subject to safeguarding principles of their own for their perishable nature, the intention is to stimulate interest towards the Historic Gardens.

Virtudes and the Public Works
The intervention projects carried out in the “Almadas” Period (1763-1804) sought, above all, to define new urban sprawl lines, modernize the urban network of medieval origin and create new and significant routes of circulation, thus linking the riverside area of Porto to the gates of the King Fernando wall, which gained a monumental character. Additionally, one of the most interesting urban concerns of the Philippine Era was given continuity with the reorganization of public spaces, as attested by the first avenues – Olival, Hortas and Batalha –, the planting of trees and the installation of rest benches, along with the creation of public squares, the renovation of sidewalks and the provision of water and improvement of berths. Therefore, the first green area to be created outside the city wall was the Cordoaria Avenue (1611). An aspect that characterizes the intervention of the Public Works Board (Junta de Obras Públicas) (1789-1892) in the city of Porto concerned the arrangement of public gardens, especially those organized as balconies facing the river, such as the Virtudes.

In the 19th century, the intent to improve the urban space was materialized in the project to level the Calçada das Virtudes, which connects the Virtudes Promenade and the old intramural city to the Virtudes fountain.

The Virtudes Wall, erected by the Public Works Board, came to coexist alongside a work of a more private and erudite nature, the Virtudes manor-house.


The drawing of the Virtudes fountain is attributed to Pantaleão de Seabra e Sousa (17th century).


These frowns, shaped as the «heads of beasts», display an exotic taste and a decorative language that is known as Mannerist, and were inspired by 16th century treatises.

In what is now the city of Porto, there is a considerable number of natural springs and water sources that supply wells and fountains, nowadays hidden from view.

The Promenade’s development produced a privileged space for a bourgeois urban construction, bringing together the structural and plastic qualities of the 19th century.

Despite the introduction of contemporary elements, this urban landscape maintains its original character.

Dating to 1969 and authored by Gustavo Bastos, this sculpture shares its garden space with another work from the same author, entitled “Serpent”.

Virtudes Promenade and surrounding urban area
The Morro da Vitória enjoyed the first signs of planned urbanization after a royal decree (1396) issued by King João I (r. 1385-1433), which ordered the installation of a jewish quarter inside the walled perimeter of the city, known then as the New Jewish Quarter. The evolution of the old Olival hill shows that, in order to understand urban spaces, it is essential to consider any pre-existences, natural or resulting from anthropic activity. The relevance attained by the area from the Philippine Era onwards attracted noble families. Their presence is identified by noble houses with coats of arms that mark the urban landscape, but mainly by the development of recreational spaces with green areas, such as those emerged in Cordoaria, that later on culminated with the Virtudes Promenade. The persistence of traditional architectures that result from the conservation of urban elements during the first reinforcement of the city outside the walls, grant the Virtudes area with a great residential and tourist potential, inflated by its proximity to other landmarks. The housing structures of the Virtudes Promenade display a certain degree of erudition, both in their planning and in the materials employed, such as carved stones and azulejo. Multiple patterns and colours complete what is already a unique lighting environment, from its solar exposure to the trees that filter the light and project their shadows on the façades.

The buildings attached to the Virtudes manor-house may have had some connection with the Estate, housing the Wheel of the Exposed and the Podestá School.

According to Horácio Marçal, the central arch had a fountain called «of Fogueteiros», whose water, that would drip into a large tank built in 1843.

The Virtudes manor-house had some buildings attached. A record attests to the provisional transfer of the Wheel of the Exposed, in 1825, to the building no. 4 of Fogueteiros Street.

The Wheel was here installed upon payment of an annual rent.

In 1901, Luís Couto dos Santos, a civil engineer, opened the Electra Factory, specialized in the electricity powered production of hospital equipment.

The Virtudes Promenade area underwent several changes throughout the centuries.

The Virtudes' houses follow an architecture that accommodates and humanizes the landscape, adding to the visual harmony of this historic urban landscape.

Despite the transformations registered throughout the centuries, the building materials remain essentially the same: granite stone, wood, metals and ceramic elements.

During the 19th century the facades were greatly simplified, the azulejo coatings gave the walls a brightness and an ennoblement of its own, altogether with the masonry applied to span frames.

The balconies, on the first floor, rest on volute-shaped granite corbels that, owing to their erudite nature, ennoble these architectures.

The wall of the Árvore Artistic School is attached to a building of the same colour, with a central door and two long side windows with bars.

The drawing of the house nr. 60 in Dr. Azevedo de Albuquerque Street, whose applicant is Maria Madalena Teixeira Lima, displays a configuration that is very similar to the characteristic Virtudes' houses.

The stonework follows a straight line and the vertical elements give way to horizontal stone elements, as the cornice, the balcony and the iron balustrade, topped by two vases.

Metals, particularly iron, replaced wood in certain elements, being applied in balcony window grids, plumbing and decorative elements.

The decorative elements, such as statues, bowls with flowers and the wall date to the 18th century. Today, the house belongs to the artistic cooperative Árvore.

The Street Art interventions grant a new dynamism to Oporto's walls.

Murals commissioned by municipalities and institutions can already be identified, whose artists have started to gain notoriety as they develop expressions of their very own.

Through artists such as Hazul or Mesk, the so-called Street Art begins to be recognized as an artistic practice and increasingly valued by different audiences.

The development of these urban roads and their differentiating characteristics must be understood not only through their relationship with the pre-existing New Jewish Quarter, but also through its topography.

The last nine houses of the Virtudes Promenade were directly connected with the Dr. Barbosa de Castro Street, with the first floor facing the Promenade corresponding to the other's street ground floor.

The relevance attained by the area from the Philippine Era onwards, attracted noble families, whose presence is identified by noble houses with coats of arms that mark the urban landscape.

The renewal of the Olival hill was greatly favoured by the development of new urban roads, whose disposition was determined by the difficult conditions of the site.

The outline of the Taipas Street was conditioned by the presence of the medieval wall and of the Jewish quarter, implanted there since the 14th century.

These buildings either resulted from the agglomeration of the usual narrow lots, in allotment processes, or reflect the conservation of a partitioning of irregular spaces urbanized henceforth.

From an internal organization point of view, the residential house displays a side entrance that opens to a two-flight staircase topped by a skylight.

The proximity of the Courthouse and the Relação Prison was crucial to the royal decision of building a geometric and rational garden, accessible through the Taipas and the Dr. Barbosa de Castro streets.

Down the Dr. Barbosa de Castro Street – formerly known as Calvário Street – there is the house where the 19th century novelist Almeida Garrett (1799-1854) lived.

The rupture of the Courthouse
From the 17th century onward, several buildings existed in the area that is now occupied by the Cordoaria Garden, such as chapels, grain warehouses, military hospitals, hospices and markets. The Palácio da Justiça (Courthouse), which today stands out in the urban landscape for its monumental architecture, imposed a rupture between Virtudes and the upper areas of the city. The site, formerly called Sítio do Calvário Novo, was profoundly changed by the building, both in terms of construction and of city life. The Palácio da Justiça, initiated in 1958 and inaugurated in 1961, is located in what is now known as the Campo dos Mártires da Pátria, in the parish of Miragaia. Both the architectural and the decorative programs were authored by the architect Raul Rodrigues Lima, and emphasise a solemn and grand image associated with the historical and cultural richness of the city, as well as with the function of the building.

The Courthouse stands out in the urban landscape, accentuating a detachment between the upper part of the city and the beginning of the riverside area, namely the Virtudes' balcony.

This façade, the main front, is embellished by a ten-pillar porch that frames the main entrance, and is emphasized by a statue authored by Leopoldo de Almeida, representing the allegory of Justice.

The scale and the monumental character of the Court building stand out in the urban fabric, with a main front facing the Cordoaria Garden, almost turning its back to the Virtudes.

The building, begun in 1869, was accessible from the Fogueteiros Street and stood out by its scale suited to the terrain.

In the space facing the Cordoaria and surrounding the 19th century Fish Market, were many important buildings that fulfilled different public functions, demolished in order to expand the Fish Market.

The author of the design was the civil engineer Gustavo Adolfo Gonçalves e Souza, who was also responsible for the Stock Exchange Palace and current Rectory of the University of Porto buildings.


A bronze statue depicting Flora, created by Teixeira Lopes as a memorial to José Marques Loureiro, can also be found in the Cordoaria Garden.


Before the Fish Market was built, the Hospice of Santo António da Cordoaria existed in site, since the settlement of the Antonin monks from Vale da Piedade, in 1730.

Stratigraphies and urban accumulations
According to the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (UNESCO, 1972) groups of buildings are considered of value when they involve separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science (Art. 1). The inscription of the Porto’s Historic Centre on the UNESCO World Heritage list was based on the exceptional universal value of the urban fabric of its historic centre, whose aesthetic value bears witness to a urban development that dates back, in a very unique way, to Roman, Medieval and almadina (18th century) period. The richness and variety of the civil architecture found in the historic center of Oporto translate cultural values from consecutive eras and reflect a perfect accommodation to the social and geographical structure of the city, maintaining a stable and coherent relationship between urban and natural environment over the centuries. A dynamic social and institutional fabric ensures its survival as an historic centre. The city of Oporto is composed of layers that draw a particular urban historical landscape which, as stated in the UNESCO Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2012) should be aimed at preserving the quality of the human environment, enhancing the productive and sustainable use of urban spaces, while recognizing their dynamic character, and promoting social and functional diversity (Art. 11). Following the recommendation of the most recent international doctrine on the subject, preserving the Historic Urban Landscape of the City of Oporto, with its Historic Centre and more particularly the Virtudes, should, therefore, be rooted in a balanced and sustainable relationship between the urban and natural environment, between the needs of present and future generations and the legacy from the past (UNESCO 2012: Art. 11). 

The city opens itself to the West towards the Douro river’s mouth, with the Virtudes Promenade peeking at a high elevation, a sprawl that the beginning of the 19th century will consolidate.

Credits: Story


SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE: Hugo Barreira (FLUP/CITCEM)Lúcia Maria Cardoso Rosas (FLUP/CITCEM) e Maria Leonor Botelho (FLUP/CITCEM)

CURATORSHIP: Hugo Barreira (FLUP/CITCEM)Lúcia Maria Cardoso Rosas (FLUP/CITCEM) e Maria Leonor Botelho (FLUP/CITCEM)

TEXTS: Ana Campelos, Ana Clarisse Lopes, Ana Isabel Lino, Ana Patrícia Gonçalves, Andréa M. Diogo, Carolina Furtado, Clarice Ausquia Leão, Cláudia Quaresma, Francisca Pires de Almeida, Joana Isabel Duarte, Isabel Rebelo da Silva, Juliana Moura, Laura Fabíola Marques, Lúcia Teixeira, Maria Moura, Mariana Carvalho, Marisa Pereira Santos, Rodrigo Magalhães, Vera Barbosa e Vera Gonçalves.

PHOTO CREDITS: Texts authors e Árvore - Cooperativa de Actividades Artísticas.

PROJECTS AND CARTOGRAPHY: Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto/Câmara Municipal do Porto e Associação Comercial do Porto.

IMAGE PRODUCTION: Laura Fabíola Marques e Marie Eva Rosiere



PARTNERSHIP: UP, CITCEM, Árvore - Cooperativa de Actividades Artísticas e Câmara Municipal do Porto.

SPONSORS: Associação Comercial do Porto e UNICER.

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BARREIRA, H.; BOTELHO, M.L.; Rosas, L. (coord.) (2017) - Jardim e Passeio das Virtudes. Uma Paisagem Histórica Urbana. Porto: Universidade do Porto. Faculdade de Letras. CITCEM - Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar Cultura, Espaço e Memória.
MARÇAL, Horácio (1961, fevereiro). A Rua dos Fogueteiros, O Tripeiro. Porto. Série VI, ano I, nº2, pp. 169-173.
Oliveira, Ernesto Veiga de (1992) - Arquitectura tradicional portuguesa. 1a ed . Lisboa: Dom Quixote.
TEIXEIRA, Diogo Emanuel Pacheco (2011). O Abastecimento de Água na cidade do Porto nos séculos XVII e XVIII. Aquedutos, Fontes e Chafarizes. Porto, Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto. Dissertação de Mestrado.
UNESCO (1972) – Convenção para a salvaguarda do Património Mundial, Cultural e Natural. Acessível em: https://goo.gl/5kro6t
UNESCO (2012) - Recomendação sobre as Paisagens Históricas Urbanas. Acessível em: https://goo.gl/qcaUWQ

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