Portugal was dominated by the Visigoths who invaded the Roman Empire between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD and ruled much of the Iberian peninsula until they were overthrown by the Moors in the 8th century. Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, stayed under Arab control until the 12th century, but Christians were allowed to live in Lisbon and its surroundings. Lisbon was reconquered in the year 1147 by Portuguese soldiers led by King Afonso Henriques and crusaders taking part on the Second Crusade. Modern Lisbon retains many of the fortifications and architectural features of its rich heritage. The official language of Portugal is Portuguese, its monetary unit is the Euro, and like most of Europe, cars drive on the right side of the road and electrical appliances use 220 Volts at 50Hz.
The center of old Lisbon is still a tangle of narrow crooked streets paved with cobblestones, but the newer sections of the city reflect the major architectural reconstruction of the 1940's. Austere box-like buildings were built after World War II, but modern construction is more artful and reflects some of the traditions of using tiles to cover the facades of buildings. The southeast section of Lisbon was the site of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition. Many modern structures were built alongside the Tagus river to commemorate 500 years of Portuguese world exploration and discoveries.
The east-end of Lisbon has an active night life that includes a casino and a large shopping center. The area is served by several forms of transport.
Lisbon is also known as the birthplace of the revered Saint Anthony of Padua whose birth name was Fernando Martins de Bulhões. Fernando was born in 1195 to wealthy parents of noble ancestry. At the age of 15, Fernando entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine to pursue a religious life. He later moved to Coimbra where he studied theology and Latin while living at the Santa Cruz Monastery. In 1221, Fernando was accepted to the order of the Franciscans. Fernando adopted the name Anthony when he became a Franciscan friar. Soon after, he set out for Morocco to preach the Gospel to the Moors, but he had to return to Europe because of illness. A storm forced his ship to land in Sicily on the way back. He eventually made his way to northern Italy, where he lived the rest of his life gaining notoriety as an orator and teacher. St. Anthony died in Padua at the age of 35.
The Church of St. Anthony in Lisbon is on the site of the house where St. Anthony's parents lived and where he was born. Churches have existed on this site since the 15th century, but several of them have been either partly or completely destroyed by earthquakes. The current church reopened in 1787 after 20 years of reconstruction. Only the crypt of the original building has been preserved. According to tradition, the remains of St. Anthony's parent's house are buried under the crypt. Pope John Paul II visited this place in 1982 to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony.
The Lisbon Cathedral where Saint Anthony was baptized is two blocks away from his birthplace. The construction of the cathedral started in the year 1147 on the site previously occupied by the main mosque of Lisbon following four centuries of control by the Moors. The double-tower facade of the Lisbon Cathedral has the same general design that was used 16 years later for the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris.
One of the major features of Lisbon is the Castle of São Jorge (St. George's Castle). The Moorish castle is situated on a hilltop that overlooks the historic center of Lisbon and the Tagus River. The walls of this medieval fortification can be seen from many points in central Lisbon.
The cobblestone pavement at the monument to the Discoveries has a sinuous design that makes it appear that the visitors are walking on waves. The monument itself has the shape of a caravel with statues of many notable personages in the history of Portuguese navigation.
Ferdinand Magellan organized the expedition that resulted in the first circumnavigation of the Earth from 1519 to 1522. Magellan did not complete the journey because he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines. Magellan had tried to make the natives recognize the Spanish king as their sovereign and had demanded that they convert to Christianity.
The southwest section of Lisbon has two famous landmarks: the Jerónimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jerónimos) and the Tower of Belém which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most museums in Portugal are closed on Mondays; plan your visit accordingly.
The Belém tower was commissioned in the late 15th century by King John II to be part of a defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river and also to serve as a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon.
There are many sidewalk restaurants just south of Rossio Square. It is easy to find a good meal. Delicious salt cod croquettes and a variety of seafood and meat dishes are available.