AN ILLUMINATING STORY
LISBON’S ICONIC STREET LAMPS
Lisbon’s city officials started working on the public lighting of the capital in 1780 with oil-based lamps. The lamps were a gift from the Queen to illuminate the most important streets of the city. They were removed in 1792 due to lack of funding. Ten years later, the streets were lit once again to satisfy the Queen’s desire to see all of Lisbon illuminated. A special tax was put in place to secure the continuity of this service.
In 1848, a new gas-based lighting system is inaugurated. The Companhia Lisbonense de Iluminação a Gás was founded to supply this service. Its street lamps illuminated the center of Lisbon at first but little by little covered the entire capital. The street lamps had a rectangular shape and were manually lit by a person known as a vaga-lumes (lit. firefly).
On the night of July 30th of 1848, Lisbon’s citizens gathered in the streets to attend the official inauguration of the illumination of the city.
During your next visit to Lisbon, be sure to look up and admire the fine work on each of them. You will see different themes depending on which neighborhood you explore. Some will have horses, others crows, ships, and saints.
Did you know that depending whether you are in a working class neighborhood or an upscale area, street lamps will be different. Indeed, if you are in the popular Bairro Alto, for example, street lamps will only have 4 sides and have a more simplistic design. However if you visit an upscale neighborhood like Chiado, the lamps will have 6 or 8 sides and have more elaborate details.
You will also see two types of street lamps; old-fashioned lamps (metal structure incorporated into the façade of buildings) or the ones with a vertical structure, which are more recent and modern.
Lisbon’s street lamps are a timestamp of Portugal’s step into the modern era. The traditional lamps are part of the history and culture of Lisbon and its inhabitants.
It is in the littlest details that the wonders of this city reveal themselves.
So be sure to spot these amazing works of art next time you visit Lisbon!
If you would like to start organizing a trip to Lisbon, please contact me.
To learn more about my services, click here.