Commerce Square, Lisbon

Located on the waterfront of the Tejo River, Commerce Square (also known as the Terreiro do Paço) is a public square frequented by tourists to Lisbon as well as the local population. It has a rich history in the city and was once part of the palace grounds. When King Manuel I decided to build a palace on the developing waterfront, what was to be known as Commerce Square was originally part of Ribeira Palace.

Like many other historical sites in this area of Lisbon, Ribeira Palace was completely destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. Not only did the earthquake itself do significant damage to the palace and nearby buildings, but a tsunami and fire afterward leveled most of the area. To repair the city and bring it back to its previous glory, the prime minister Marquês de Pombal created a plan to rebuild the city. Commerce Square was his vision, built with the help of the architect Eugénio dos Santos. Today the square is surrounded on three sides by buildings in the Pombaline style that honor the memory of the palace while serving the modern public.

The center of the square features a large statue of King D. José I riding his horse. The statue was created by the one of the country's most famous sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro, and placed in the square in 1775. The other impressive feature of Commerce Square is the Arco da Rua Augusta, a triumphal arch that leads to the popular Rua Augusta, a heavily pedestrianized street just off the square. This arch was designed by Veríssimo da Costa and commemorates the reconstruction after the earthquake. Although construction began in 1759, the arch was not completed until 1873.

Visitors to the square can also enjoy a leisurely walk along the waterfront on the open edge of the square. The nearby Columns Pier is a beautifully constructed waterfront attraction, featuring a marble stairway that once served as the entrance to the city of Lisbon. Originally the stairway was built for foreign dignitaries to make their way from their ships directly to the palace. Today, visitors enjoy the unobstructed views of the river and all of the beautifully constructed monuments that make up Commerce Square.


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