D. Maria II Theatre, Lisbon

The D. Maria II Theatre (Teatro Nacional D. Maria II) in Lisbon, is a highly honored and respected cultural site of the city. It is also a frequently visited venue by visitors from around the world. Located in the well-known Rossio square area that commemorates Portuguese liberal King, Dom Pedro IV, in Lisbon’s central district, the original building dates back to the middle of the 15th century. It was designed to accommodate visiting dignitaries, officials and nobility from other countries. However, with the onset of the Inquisition during the 16th century, the entire Estaus Palace area was taken over by leaders of the Holy Inquisition. Later on, having withstood the great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, the palace did not, unfortunately, survive the disastrous fire of 1836.

Due mainly to the persistent efforts of Almeida Garrett, dramatist and poet of the Romantic era, a new modern theatre was built to replace the destroyed structure. Construction began in 1842 and the theatre was ready for use in 1846. Fortunato Lodi, the Italian architect, designed this very elegant and attractive Neoclassical structure. The theatre was named after Queen Marie II of Portugal and dedicated to Her Majesty. The most outstanding element of the new building’s façade was its hexangular portico and six stately ionic columns. These columns were repurposed, taken from the St. Francis Convent in Lisbon.

The artistry of the façade also included a decorative pediment shaped as a triangle depicting in high relief sculpture the impressive figures of Apollo and Muses. A handsome statue of Gil Vicente, a playwright during the Renaissance, appears above the pediment. He is still heralded as founder of the Portuguese theatre, and he triumphed over adversity when several of his dramas were censored during the Portuguese Inquisition. Interior spaces of this theatre once contained the fine work of numerous respected Portuguese artists, but another destructive fire in 1964 consumed most of this beautiful art. However, the historic theatrical structure underwent complete reconstruction and was reinstated in 1978.

Ever since the day this fine theatre reopened, many noteworthy plays by the world’s most respected playwrights as well as many outstanding new experimental productions have been performed at the Teatro D. Maria II. To audiences today, the theatre is much more than just a concert or performing arts hall. Along with its majestic grand auditorium, the building includes a smaller, more intimate performance space or studio. In this smaller theatrical interior, many exciting and enthralling new productions are presented for the education and enjoyment of the public.