Alcântara (Lisbon)

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Coordinates: 38°42′40″N 9°11′2″W / 38.71111°N 9.18389°W / 38.71111; -9.18389
Civil Parish (Freguesia)
Alcântara by wax115.jpg
A river perspective of the parish of Alcântara, showing a mix of modern and classical buildings
Coat of arms
Official name: Freguesia de Alcântara
Name origin: al-qantara Arabic for the bridge
Country  Portugal
Region Lisboa
Subregion Grande Lisboa
District Lisbon
Municipality Lisbon
Center Alcântara
 - elevation 79 m (259 ft)
 - coordinates 38°42′40″N 9°11′2″W / 38.71111°N 9.18389°W / 38.71111; -9.18389
Lowest point Sea level
 - location Tagus River, Alcântara, Lisbon
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Length 3.22 km (2 mi), North-South
Width 1.63 km (1 mi), West-East
Area 4.44 km2 (2 sq mi)
Population 14,443 (2001)
Density 3,252.93 / km2 (8,425 / sq mi)
Settlement fl. 1300
 - Parish 8 April 1770
LAU Freguesia/Junta Freguesia
 - location Rua dos Lusíadas, Alcântara, Lisbon
President Junta Maria Isabel Homem Leal de Faria (PPD-PSD)
President Assembleia Nuno Ferreira Pintão (PS)
Timezone WET (UTC0)
 - summer (DST) WEST (UTC+1)
ISO 3166-2 code PT-
Postal Zone 1300-366 Lisboa
Area Code & Prefix (+351) 213 XXX XXX
Patron Saint São Pedro
Parish Address Rua dos Lusíadas, 13
1300-366 Lisboa
Wikimedia Commons: Alcântara
Statistics from INE (2001); geographic detail from Instituto Geográfico Português (2010)

(São Pedro de) Alcântara (Portuguese pronunciation: [aɫˈkɐ̃tɐɾɐ]) is a civil parish (Portuguese: freguesia) of the city and municipality of Lisbon. Its name is derived from the Arabic (القنطارة), meaning the bridge, and refers to an ancient Roman bridge that once existed there, until the reign of John V. Located in the southwestern corner of Lisbon, along the northern margin of the Tagus River, Alcântara had a population of 14443 inhabitants (2001) within an area of 4.44 km² (its density was approximately 3252 residents per square kilometre).


The territory that comprises Alcântara was occupied early; primitive utensils from the Paleolithic era, have been discovered on the margins of Alcãntara ravine, in addition other signs in the area of Alvito and Tapada da Ajuda indicate a level of occupation in the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods. Around 1300, Bronze Age farmers and shepards established small villages in this area, with a subsistence economy based on the cultivation of cereal crops and herding.

During Roman era, the local area was called Horta Navia in honour of Roman divinity, Nabia (a goddess of rivers and water). The area was notable for a Roman bridge, that crossed the Alcântara ravine,[1] and, following the Muslim occupation, the area began to be referred to in terms of this bridge. The name Alcântara, derived from the Arab al-qantara (القنطارة) means bridge.[2]


The Battle of Alcântara conflict between António, Prior of Crato and forces loyal to Phillip II of Spain

After the Reconquista of Lisbon (1147), the lands in became integrated into the Reguengos de Ribamar that included terrains that extended from the Alcântara ravine until the Laje ravine in Oeiras.[2] After the 13th century, the Reguengos was divided into two and the area of Alcântara were attributed, in gratitude by the King, to the nobility, religious orders or military. In 1147, Alcântara was dispersely populated, owing to the fertile lands many of the terrains became domains of the Kings, and estates of nobility.[2] Yet, Alcântara became a battlefield between Portugal and Castile, which included intrigues involving King Ferdinand and conflicts with the Kingdom of Castile after his death.

In March 1382, an armada under the authority of John I of Castile entered the Tagus estuary, but unable to crack the defenses, the force advanced inland attacking, sacking and stealing cattle.[2] King Ferdinand quickly substituted the frontier commander with António, Prior of Crato. Later, the death of King Sebastian at the Battle of Alcácer-Quibir resulted in a crisis in dynastic succession between António, Prior of Crato, Catherine, Duchess of Braganza and Phillip II of Spain. From a military perspective, in order to limit support for António title to the Crown, Phillip II determined to invade Portugal and cement his claim to the throne.[2] Forces from Badajoz and a Spanish fleet from Cadiz, crossed the Caia ravine on 28 June 1580, where they began their invasion. António, Prior of Crato decided to concentrate his defense in Alcântara along the Caia ravine, where a double line of defense supported 36 carracks and nine galleons.[2] The Portuguese troops had a static defense and could not resist a flanking move, which would result in the loss of the battle and of Portuguese independence for the next 60 years.

In the 15th century, the rock quarries in Alcântara, which mined lime, contributed to the development of the locality (along with the ovens of Cais do Sodré), while orchards and vineyards along the ravines helped to diversify the regional economy.

A hospital was constructed in 1520, in the garden of Jerónimo de Eça (Horta Navia) in order to combat the plague that attacked the city. Yet, the plague did not impede nobles from constructing estates along the Tagus; Alcântara was situated near the borders with the parish of Ajuda, an extension of the nobility. A Chapel to the invocation of Santo Amaro was begun in 1549, resulting in a temple to serve as a sacristy for many of the pilgrims that crossed the territory.


Although today it is quite central, it was once a mere suburb of Lisbon, comprising mostly farms and palaces. In the 16th century, there was a brook there 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.[2] The registries during this era were full of references to families of the upper and lower nobility who began to live in this zone, alongside the socially deprived and poor that already existed.[2]

After the French Invasions, agriculture and industry were completely paralyzed.[2] The Liberal Wars, that followed, worsened these conditions, alongside with the eastern portions of Lisbon, principally along the ravine between Alcântara and Pedrouços.[2] The accentuated industrialization continued to dominate the valley, which included numerous metal-stampers and tanneries, that lasted until the late 19th century, resulting in many small factories and warehouses.[3]


The members of the Ratton family, between 1807 and 1824, attempted to construct in Calvário a mill powered by steampower (but were successful), in addition to a porcelin factory.[2] The Ratton's later established an estate in Calvário, alongside their Fábrica de Lanifícios Daupias de Pedro Daupias in 1839, under the management of Jácome Ratton. Near this factory, towards Santo Amaro a textile factory, Companhia de Fiação de Tecidos Lisbonense, was also constructed (1846–1855).[2] Since 1876, a great part of the urbanized part of Alcântara was delimited by Calçada da Tapada and Calçada de Santo Amaro in the north, and in the east and south by Rua de Alcântara, Largo do Calvário and Rua 1º de Maio. During the middle of the 19th century, some factories linked to chemical production (soap, candles, olive and other oils) installed themselves in the same area, transforming the area of Calvário, which was an area of farms, palaces and convents into an important industrial zone.[2] The industrial area south of Largo do Calvário and the old Rua de São Joaquim were converted and expanded to take on the new roles.[2]

Public transport developed after Lisbon in 1860, when the area had many factories.[2] Yet, until 1888, these services were out of range of many of the working-class of the area. The improvements in public transit contributed to the development of the barrio of Alcântara.[2]

On 2 April 1887, a railline between Alcântara-Terra and Sintra was inaugurated. Extending until the station at Alcântara-Mar, in 1891 the rail-line was completed after public sanitation works along the beach in Alcântara (1876), which resulted in the recovery of an additional 500 meters of land from the Tagus River, which were quickly expropriated by factories, docks and warehouses.[2]

Between 1884 and 1886, the barrios of Santo Amaro and Calvário began to develop as social housing, from lands reserved from the old Quinta da Ninfa.[2] The lots were allocated to residents in commemoration of the 300 year anniversary of Luís Vaz de Camões.[2]

The precarious nature of the economic conditions in the region resulted in several conflicts, including many strikes, conflicts and insurrections, such as the June 1872 event, that came to be known as the "A Pavorosa".[2] Later, the Empresa Industrial Portuguesa, the largest and most modern metallurgical business until the 1920s, operated in Alcântara, which also created dissent and conflict.[2] On various occasions, in 1886, in 1894 and most importantly in 1903 there were strikes, protests and conflicts between the workers and the residents of the region.[2] The 1903 strike began on 7 December to protest the imposition a foreign director. On 17 December the strikers, numbering hundreds, fought the police in Santo Amaro.[2]

20th century[edit]

The Docks, the upscale commercial and retail district of the harbour area of Alcântara

Around the early 1990s, Alcântara started to become a place for pubs and discotheques, mainly because its outer area is mostly commercial, and the noise generated at night, and the "movida", would not disturb its residents. Today, some of these areas are slowly being taken over by loft developments and new apartments that can profit from its river views and central location.


  1. ^ The bridge was situated in a junction between the current Rua de Alcântara and Rua Prior do Crato, perpendicular to the current railstops at Alcântara-Terra to Alcântara-Mar.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Junta Freguesia, ed. (15 February 2008). "Enquadramento Histórico" (in Portuguese). Alcântara (Lisbon), Portugal: Junta Freguesia da Alcântara. Retrieved 30 April 2011. 
  3. ^ The tanneries were located in Santana, Vila Pouca, Horta Navia, Ribeira de Alcântara and Rua da Cascalheira, while the stampers were located in Quinta do Loureiro, Quinta da Várzea and Ponte de Alcântara.