The Seven Hills of Lisbon
Let us take a walk on memory lane to get to the bottom of this subject: the first reference appeared on the 17th Century, on the book of São Nicolau de Oliveira. “O Livro das Grandezas de Lisboa” (The Book of Lisbon Grandeurs): it surely resumes the content, where the saint describes his city with details.
The seven giants — São Jorge, São Vicente, São Roque, Santo André, Santa Catarina, Chagas e Sant’Ana — all of them where visible when arriving in Lisbon by river.
But São Nicolau de Oliveira forgot one hill: Graça, the highest of the city, only shadowed by São Jorge's Castle.The truth is that this oblivion was very convenient at the time: in fact, it's always better to share similarities with the legend of Rome than having one too many hills...
If we follow the legend – and keep Graça out of this counting — São Jorge the highest hill in town. Way up high, we can see the Castle, where the village that originated Lisbon was founded.
It was an important fortress that resisted years of wars. In 1147, the troops of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, invested against its walls for three months so they could conquer Lisbon to the Moors.
The name of the castle was dedicated to saint patron of the knights, in a manner of thanking the protection during the crusade. Nowadays, the area of the hill occupies the neighbourhood of Mouraria, the Castle and a small part of Alfama.
He is one of the patron saints of the capital. With his story comes the tale of crows, the two small guardians that accompanied the body of the martyr during his travel from Valencia to Portugal.
This legend was so important to the Portuguese imagery that the crows were later adapted as the coast of arms of Lisbon.
The hill covers a big part of Alfama and the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, built on the place that D. Afonso Henriques has once erected a temple honouring the saint.
This is the most central elevation in Lisbon, defined by the ancient sea beds of river Valverde and Arroios, where nowadays stands Avenida da Liberdade.
On the 14th Century, king Fernando ordered the construction of a wall that would restrict the construction of houses and monuments around it.
After the big earthquake of 1755, which destroyed a huge part of the city, some buildings were adapted and there is a hospital building still working nowadays (S. José). The presence of many health institutions is the reason why the hill became well known by everybody as the “hill of health”.
Rumour has that the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, took advantage of its strategical position to install his troops during the Christian Reconquest.
Centuries later, it became the favourite place for the nobles to build their houses. Nowadays, it's represented by the streets of Graça and Calçada de Santo André. Walking around those streets, the most attentive eyes will be able to find traces and ruins of some of the big houses and palaces built back then.
It is the name given to the huge inclination that leads to Largo do Carmo. The name of the hill comes from Igreja das Chagas (Sacred Wounds Church), a building made in tribute to the wounds of Christ and the difficulties of the Portuguese sailors when travelling to India on the 16th Century.
Walking from Largo Camões to Calçada do Combro, the hill embraces all this inclination. On its highest spot, you will find the Museum of Pharmacy and the viewpoint of Santa Catarina, also known as Adamastor because of its statue. This monster is related with the legend of the crossing of Cabo da Boa Esperança, as described in the epic Os Lusíadas by Luís de Camões.
It comprehends the area well known as Bairro Alto, one of the top neighbourhoods for nightlife and artistic gatherings. You will find one of the most beautiful and visited viewpoints, São Pedro de Alcântara. Few steps before arriving there, you will see the church of São Roque. He is the patron for the invalids and the surgeon doctors and was made a saint for his aid to the victims of the Black Plague in the 14th Century. The same disease that would kill him.