The Mouraria district

by Lisbon Apartments on June 8, 2009

Statue, Rua do Capelão

Statue in honour of Fado at Rua do Capelão

Mouraria is one of Lisbon’s most traditional and historic “bairros” or neighbourhoods. It owes its name to the fact that Dom Afonso Henriques (Afonso I of Portugal), after capturing Lisbon during the Christian Reconquest, decided that the moors should stay in one part of the city, in the same way that the Jews were confined to the areas around the Castle.

Within the district’s confines, the Christianised moors helped to initiate the first elements of Portuguese mudéjar art, which in turn served as certain inspiration for the later Manueline architectural style.

The district has long had strong links with Fado music, due to the fact that many famous Fado artists were born or grew up here. The statue in the image above pays homage to Mouraria as the “Berço do Fado”, or the birthplace of Fado. The first recognised Fado singer, Maria Severa Onofriana or simply “A Severa”, was a tall and gracious prostitute with aristocratic lovers who used to sing in a tavern in Rua do Capelão and in 1846 died from tubercolosis in this very street aged just 26.

Perhaps the most famous and internationally known contemporary Fado artist, Mariza, grew up in the street called Travessa dos Lagares, and learnt to sing Fado in the Zalala restaurant next door, sadly now closed.

The main square in this district is known as the Praça de Martim Moniz, named after a knight who supposedly fought under the command of Dom Alfonso Henriques mentioned above. According to legend, during the Seige of Lisbon and the battle for the Castle of São Jorge, then under control of the moors, Martim Moniz saw that one of the doors was slightly ajar. He then single-handedly attacked the door, and wedged himself in so that it couldn’t be closed, being killed in the process. This courageous act, however, permitted his fellow knights access to the castle, and thus victory was assured. The doorway is now named Porta de Martim Moniz in his honour.

After the opening of the “Centro Comercial da Mouraria” mall next to Martim Moniz square, the Mouraria district became a much more lively and cosmopolitan area, whilst maintaining its popular traditions. Thus, a true pot-pourri of different nationalities can be seen here, with Chinese and Indian shops and restaurants mixing comfortably with Portuguese restaurants and other typical bars and taverns.

Our Mouraria Duplex Apartment, has wonderful views over this part of Lisbon, the city’s rooftops, and towards the ruins of Convento do Carmo gothic church and the Santa Justa Elevador.

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