Largo de São Domingos – a place in Lisbon full of stories and contrasts. It has a long tradition of being the meeting point for people of African origin and also for a break to drink ginjinha. It was once the setting for one of the darkest moments in our history. Now it is the place for tolerance written in 34 different languages. Curious to discover what is around you? We have a memorial dedicated to a bloody episode in our history, a church, a palace and ginjinha!
The Largo is a place where traditionally it is the meeting point for many people originated from Africa where they chat and do their selling of exotic products such as ‘’cola-cola’’, a dried fruit which promises the cure or many health problems, and it also has some aphrodisiac benefits… Behind the natural lively murmur we have a wall which has the same sentence translated in 34 different languages: Lisbon, the city of Tolerance. It also draws our attention to a round shaped monument with the star of David. It is a request of apology for the bloody event which occurred on 19th April of 1506. 511 years ago.
It was Sunday Easter and during that period the city had been severely attacked by several downfalls – drought, consequent famine and plague which made the king D. Manuel I royal court run off to the town of Abrantes. Being Easter the churches were crowded with desperate people who had as a last resource the faith and some divine signal. The same environment was lived in the church of São Domingos. The story tells us that among that religious fervor someone screamed:’’ It’s a miracle! I see the face of Christ enlightened!’’. Among the commotion there was a New Christian (an old Jew forced to become Christian) with a pragmatic view, tried to correct the others, affirming that this phenomenon was not a miracle, but a candlelight reflexion or some sun beam crossing the stained glass windows. The new Christian might had been smart on his own conclusions, but a bit naive, as he wasn’t at the right place with the right people to discuss these matters. The feverish Catholics immediately called him heretic and he was pushed outside the church and killed immediately. It was the beginning of hate vague, which devastated the city during three days.
Many of the killers were encouraged by Dominican priests promising them pardon for their last 100 days of sin if they killed the heretics. Among the killers there were also sailors from the Netherlands, Zeland and other places who took advantage to kill and steal. Altogether there were thousands of people killed, including children. For many centuries, these events were hidden until finally in 2008 there was presented an official pardon request by the city council and Catholic church to the Jewish community.
On your left side you find the church of São Domingos, where this story began and years later it had been where the processions for the executions led by the Inquisition were taken. The church was completely destroyed in 1755 and it was rebuilt by the architect Carlos Mardel.
Bearing in mind the unhappy past related to this church we are surprised as soon as we get inside its interior. Walls painted in vivid red and signs of fire destruction, left marks from its dark past. However the fire was more recent in august of 1959 with unknown causes. A great part of its content and valuable statues were destroyed and it was again opened for public service in 1994 as we know it nowadays.
A bit more hidden, painted in dark red we see the Independence Palace. It was once home to the count of Almada and Abrantes and it was the last place for a meeting of the 40 conspirators who in 1640 were responsible for the Portugal’s Independence against Spain. Nowadays it is the headquarters of the Historical Society of Portugal’s Independence.
Let’s leave some stories behind and drink a ginjinha? This place was once propriety of the Galician Espinheira who opened the first place in Lisbon in 1840 selling this drink, which had become the city’s landmark since then. The story tells us that a friar advised Espinheira to make the experiment of fermenting ginja with brandy (cherry) adding to it sugar, cinemon and water. Its sweet taste became an immediate success and nowadays the place is a compulsory stop for locals and tourists. Cheers!
Would you like to listen to more stories. Take a giro with us! The visit to São Domingos square and much more are included in our Giro LX tour. To get to know more information about this tour, check here or follow us in our social media – Facebook and Instagram to get to know more Fora da Rota tips and news!