The history of Porto is one of struggle and revolution, freedom and empowerment, entrepreneurship and prosperity, values that are to this date still valued by its folk.
The origins of the "Antiga, Mui Nobre, Sempre Leal e Invicta" date back to pre-Roman settlement. Where today stands the Cathedral, there would have stood the "castrum novum de Portucale" [new castle of Portugal], which historians identify with Porto. With the Roman conquest of the peninsula, the region underwent profound changes and the city grew to the area of Ribeira. In the current House of Prince Henry the Navigator, was found a Roman mosaic dating back to the fourth century BC, which bears witness to this expansion.
In the early fifth century, the folk from those lands of Rhine, Suevi and Vandals, settled in the Iberian Peninsula and the Roman administrative system eventually fell. With the Toledo Visigoth Monarchy, the importance of Portucale - of Porto - increased. However, in 711, a Muslim army disembarked on the south of the Iberian Peninsula, quickly occupying the Northern region This stay in the territory was, however, short-lived, this allowing Bracara - Braga - and Portucale to be reborn. A figure, by the name of Vimara Pires, marked this historical period in the history of Porto. His role was crucial to the regaining and settlement of the city.
The Condado Portucalense [Portuguese County], whose name derives from the place-name Portucale, was born later, as a gift from King D. Afonso VI to his daughter Lady Teresa and D. Henrique de Borgonha. At the time, the city of Porto was the hill to the Cathedral, Pena Ventosa, surrounded by a circle of walls.
In 1120, as an initiative of Teresa, a vast territory was granted Bishop D. Hugo, which included Porto, and it was he who gave the charter letter to the people, contributing to the rapid development of the city, which then expanded out the walls.
In the medieval times of 1330, Porto [meaning the Port] was an important, mandatory point of market trading activity and in the mid-fourteenth century, it was even necessary to build a new wall to protect the city from its enemies.
Until the end of the Middle Ages, Porto was the subject of disputes between bishops and canons, clergy against Franciscan friars, bishops against kings, the bourgeois against bishops and the bourgeois against nobles.
In 1355, Prince Pedro rebelled against his father, King D. Afonso IV, because of the murder of his beloved Inês de Castro, the two faced each other in Porto. The population that was faithful to the king, resisted the onslaught of D. Pedro. It was this event that made clear the urgent need to build a new wall.
The King sponsored the work and the entire population was mobilised to come help with the construction, however D. Afonso IV however did not live to see this demanding task. The work only ended in 1370, during the Ferdinand reign - which explains the name Ferdinand Wall.
During the 1383-1385 crisis, Porto was again at the heart of Portugal's history at a time when the kingdom was at risk of being integrated into Castela [Castile]. Its people placed themselves unconditionally next to the Master of Avis, who would later become D. João I. Several ties link the founder of the dynasty of Avis to the Invicta [name by which the city is often referred to, meaning; Undefeated]: it was in Porto that he was married in 1387, with D. Philippa of Lancaster, and where seven years later Prince Henry was born.
This infant was to star in another episode in which the city had a prominent role. In the period of the Portuguese Discoveries, in 1414, at the age of 20, and at the request of D. João I, Prince Henry organised the fleet for the expedition to Ceuta. The city's population was fully mobilised, having offered all the meat it had to the armada. It is this episode that gives the King his nickname "tripeiros" [tripe folk], name by which the inhabitants of Porto are still today known. To help the national goal, the inhabitants of Porto reserved for themselves only the tripes of the animals, with which to this day is manufactured a typical local dish. The expedition was ready to leave in June 1415. The sacrifice of the city was huge.
By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the city maritime traffic had grown considerably, simultaneously overlooking the proliferation of fairs that put Porto at the centre of regional economy. The road network improved and new, wider market squares were built.
In the fifteenth century, the city had essentially been divided into three parts: Uptown - morro da Sé [Cathedral Hill] - Downtown - the Ribeira [Riverside] area, which had begun to assert itself during the second half of the fourteenth century, at the expense of fishermen, merchants and those with money - and Monte do Olival [Olive Hill] - where the Jewish community of Porto had settled (the Jewish quarter of the Olive Hill was established in 1386).
In 1580, King Filipe II of Spain also became Filipe I of Portugal and the population of Porto suffered with the taxes that were levied during the 60 years of occupation that followed. With the Restoration of Independence of Portugal, in 1640, The Mint was also restored in the city.
In the late eighteenth century, urban growth made the city definitely leave its original core and spread throughout surrounding fields.
In 1725, the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni arrives in Porto where he would leave a legacy that is today one of the most relevant historical and architectural heritage of the city. He is responsible works such as the Torre do Clérigo [Clergy Tower], Freixo Palace or the beautiful facade of the Church of Mercy.
All of the urban fabric, as we know it today is mainly due to João de Almeida. He was the great urban city planner, having built several long streets such as S- João, Santa Catarina and Santo Ildefonso, and also built new road arteries, such as the axis that today is called Rua do Almada thus perpetuating his memory. Francisco de Almada, son of João de Almada, continued his father's work.
In 1807, the French troops of Napoleon invaded Portugal and King D. João VI fled to Brazil. Two years later, came the Second French Invasion and on the 29th March 1809, when the French troops approached the Invicta, a scared crowd, quickly fled along the Bridge of Barcas (Bridge of Boats), having been drowned when the wooden bridge that was based on wooden barges collapsed. The tragedy, in which hundreds of Porto inhabitants were killed, is evoked in "the Alminhas Bridge", a bronze bas-relief at Ribeira, carved in 1897 by Teixeira Lopes. Over the days that came, the French led by Marshal Soult looted the city until their retreat, when they were expelled by the British army. It was only in 1811 that Napoleon Bonaparte's troops were completely driven out of the country and King D. João VI made his return to the Portuguese throne.
One of the most relevant events in the history of the city is the Siege of Porto. With the country immersed in a civil war, which opposed the followers of D. Pedro IV to those of D. Miguel, when in 1828 the latter came to rule, the inhabitants of Porto rebel. Liberal revolts followed one another, but only when they were joined by D. Pedro IV did the movement gain any real strength. And so, on 8th July 1832, D. Pedro disembarked in Pampelido, to take the city of Porto, whose population sympathised with his liberal cause Clashes between absolutists and liberals lasted two years and brought horror and carnage to the Invicta. The plague, famine and war completely devastated the city. The siege ended with the victory of the liberals and the acclamation of D. Maria II as Queen of Portugal.
D. Pedro IV remains in memory of Porto inhabitants as a symbol of freedom, patriotism and willpower. The participation and involvement of the Invicta in the liberal struggles (1832-1833), during which the city suffered great hardship, particularly sensitised the monarch, who in his will expressed the wish that his heart be placed at the Lapa Church, when he died, which came to happen in 1834.
On 14th January 1837, a decree written by Almeida Garrett and signed by Queen D. Maria II, added new elements to the Porto Coat of Arms, in particular "the golden heart of D. Pedro" and the designated name of "Invicta".
On 31st January 1891, at a time when in Portugal the political monarchy system still ruled and despite the new republicanism ideas that had begun to gain momentum, Porto was featured in the country's first republican revolution. The rebellion of the military garrison of Porto, with the support of the Armed Forces, is immortalised in a street in the heart of Porto, Rua 31 de Janeiro. However, on that day in 1891, not having the support of political forces, nor of the military in general, rebels succumbed to the superiority of forces loyal to the Monarchy.
Porto was then a thriving city, heavily industrialised, in particular in the areas of wine, engineering, textiles and footwear. It was at this time that the D. Maria and D. Luis I bridges were erected.
In the years that followed, the city lost its relevance. Banks lost the ability to print money, and in 1899 a bubonic plague "invaded" Porto.
In the elections held in that same year, the city elected three House Republicans - the first of which was Rodrigues de Freitas. The Republican wave led to the regicide in Lisbon, in 1908. Two years later, the Republican revolution triumphed in the capital.
The First Republic faced several problems, with Portugal's participation in World War I and the political and economic instability having made way for an opposition chain to the ruling power. After several coup attempts, on 28th May 1926, they were successful, the results of which produced a new constitution in 1933 and the New State. On 15th May 1958, Humberto Delgado, whose presidential candidacy, although defeated, had shook the political regime founded and led by Oliveira Salazar, made a historic and memorable speech to 200,000 Porto inhabitants - his first public act as a candidate having occurred at the Praça Carlos Alberto [Carlos Alberto Square].
In 1961, when the colonial war broke out, several demonstrations to demand an end to the conflict were organised in the city. Democracy would be restored on 25th April 1974, with Porto having promoted a new revolutionary movement on that historic date.
In 1996, and already in the twentieth century, this vast historical wealth, in particular in the old part of the town, saw Porto being awarded the status of World Heritage Site, by UNESCO.
In 2001, at the turn of the twenty-first century, Porto, along with Rotterdam was European Capital of Culture. The event is at the root of the intense cultural life and artistic dynamics that today characterise the city of Porto.