The earthquake of 1755 caused a great deal of damage in Lisbon, Portugal, and the “Baixa” neighborhood was completely destroyed. Much of the damage was caused by a tsunami that surged with the earthquake. Thanks to the reconstruction plans promoted by the Marquis of Pombal, the “Baixa” would be transformed and revitalized.
The “Ribeira” Palace on the banks of the Tajo River served as a royal residence since 1511, when King Manuel I, nicknamed the Fortunate, decided to leave the Castle Palace of “San Jorge”. With the total destruction of the Palace in 1755, the “Praça do Comércio” was built on the “Terreiro do Paço” (Palace grounds), where merchants unloaded their products from the ships that arrived there, selling them in this great square. Thus, the Plaza becomes the economic axis of the city. It is here, where the bankers financed the marine expeditions of the seven seas.
Framing the Plaza, three buildings with arched façades facing the Plaza were built along the edges, west, north and east. To the south, it is completely exposed, facing the river, with the large marble stairs that served as the embarkation and disembarkation area of the ships in the “Cais das Colunas”. In the buildings to the north is the great entrance to the city, the “Arco de la Rua Augusta”. To the south of the buildings that are on the sides of the square are two towers, imitating the towers of the Ribeira Palace. In the center of the square is a statue in honor of King Jose I, monarch who reigned at the time of the terrible earthquake and at the beginning of the reconstruction.
Today, the “Praça do Comércio” is a great tourist attraction and stage for various artistic, sporting and cultural events. And very importantly, it is the hub of transportation to all parts of the city, with trolleys, buses and taxis flowing.
“Praça do Comércio” has witnessed various historical events that have marked the city of Lisbon, from assassinations of monarchs, rebellions and more recently, in 2010, it was the place where Pope Benedict XVI celebrated a mass during his visit to the city .