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Lisbon (lĭzˈbən), Port. Lisboa, ancient Olisipo, city (1991 pop. 677,790), W Portugal, capital of Portugal and of Lisboa dist., on the Tagus River where it broadens to enter the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon is Portugal's largest city and its cultural, administrative, commercial, and industrial hub. It has one of the best harbors in Europe, handling a large trade, and it has become a major cruise port. Agricultural and forest products and fish are exported. The city's industries include the production of textiles, chemicals, and steel; oil and sugar refining; and shipbuilding. A large transient and tourist trade is drawn to Lisbon, which is set on seven terraced hills.

The Castelo de São Jorge, a fort that dominates the city, may have been built by the Romans on the site of the citadel of the early inhabitants, who traded with Phoenician and Carthaginian navigators. The Romans occupied the town in 205 B.C. It was conquered by the Moors in 714. The city's true importance dates, however, from 1147, when King Alfonso I, with the help of Crusaders, drove out the Moors. Alfonso III transferred (c.1260) his court there from Coimbra, and the city rose to great prosperity in the 16th cent. with the establishment of Portugal's empire in Africa and India.

Although many of the old buildings were destroyed by earthquakes, particularly the disastrous earthquake of 1755, some of the medieval buildings remain. The old quarter, the picturesque and crowded Alfama, surrounds the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral (rebuilt later). The new quarter, built by the marqués de Pombal after the great earthquake, centers about a large square, the Terreiro do Paço. Some well-known buildings in and near Lisbon are the Renaissance Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, with the tombs of the Braganza kings; the Church of St. Roque, with the fine Chapel of St. John (built by John V in the 18th cent.); and the magnificent monastery at Belém, on the north bank of the Tagus facing the sea, built by Manuel I to commemorate the discovery of the route to India by Vasco da Gama.

Among the city's many art museums are the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the Modern Art Center, and the Ancient Art Museum; there are also museums devoted to archeology, seafaring, science, coaches, and other fields and specialties. The Univ. of Lisbon (founded 1292, but transferred to Coimbra in 1537), was reestablished in Lisbon in 1911, and the Portuguese poet Camões was born in Lisbon. In 1966 the Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge), one of the world's longest (3,323 ft/1,013 m) suspension bridges, was completed across the Tagus. A world's fair was held in the city in 1998, and it left Lisbon with a new aquarium, the Oceanarium, and a large park, the Parque das Nações, as well as the 10-mi (17-km) Vasco da Gama bridge, which crosses the Tagus and has a cable-stayed main span.


See D. Wright and P. Swift, Lisbon (1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Portuguese, Lisboa), capital of Portugal; the most important political, economic, and cultural center of the country. The center of the historic region of Estremadura and of the district of Lisbon. It is situated on the right bank of the estuary of the Tagus (Tejo) River, 15 km from the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is oceanic subtropical. The average annual temperature is 16.4°C; annual precipitation totals 586 mm.

Lisbon proper (area, 87 sq km) consists of three parts: East Lisbon, West Lisbon with the district of Buenos Aires, and Central Lisbon, which lies between them. Administratively, Lisbon and its suburbs form a separate entity—Greater Lisbon, with a population of 1.6 million (1970; Lisbon proper has 782,-300 residents). The population of the capital is increasing mainly owing to the expansion of city limits and the influx of rural inhabitants (in 1897 the population was 301,700, and in 1960 it was 802,200 in Lisbon proper and more than 1 million in Greater Lisbon, according to the census).

Administration. Lisbon’s administrative organs include a municipal council, whose president is appointed by the government, and in the parishes there is a parish council elected by heads of families who are registered in the given parish. Representatives of parish councils participate in the work of the municipal council.

History. Lisbon (in ancient times Olisipo, the main settlement of the Lusitanians, an Iberian tribe) was conquered in the second century B.C. by the Romans (its Roman name was Felicitas Julia), in the sixth century by the Visigoths, and in the beginning of the eighth century by the Arabs (the Arabs called Lisbon Al-Ushbuni, or Lishbuna). In 1147 it was recaptured from the Arabs by the Portuguese king Alfonso I. In 1255–56, Alfonso III transferred the royal palace from Coimbra, making Lisbon the capital. The city became an important commercial center during the age of discovery (15th to 17th centuries). In 1640 a major rebellion broke out in Lisbon, which led to the liberation of the country from Spanish rule (1581–1640). After the signing of the Anglo-Portuguese treaties of Lisbon and Methuen (1703), Lisbon was used by Great Britain as a military and commercial base.

Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755 and was entirely rebuilt at the end of the 18th century. During the Napoleonic Wars the city was occupied by French forces from 1807 to 1808. In 1820, Lisbon was a center of bourgeois revolution, and in the second half of the 19th century it became a base for the republican and workers’ movement. As a result of the revolt of 1910 in Lisbon, Portugal was proclaimed a republic. In the 20th century Lisbon has been one of the main strongholds of revolutionary and democratic movements in Portugal. A victorious uprising in Lisbon in 1974 led to the overthrow of the fascist dictatorship in Portugal.

Economy. Lisbon’s geographic position on routes between Europe, South America, and Africa on the Atlantic coast facilitated its development as a sea and air (Portela airport) junction of international significance and as the chief port and trade and transportation center of the country. The port of Lisbon accounts for 94 percent of the foreign trade turnover and more than one-half of the freight turnover (about 10 million tons in 1971) of Portuguese ports. Railroads and highways link Lisbon with northern and southern regions of the country and with Spain.

The industrial functions of the capital expanded in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when a series of new enterprises, mainly heavy industry, sprang up on the left bank of the Tagus in the neighboring towns of Barreiro, Seixal, and Montijo and on the right bank of the Tagus north and northeast of Lisbon in Cabo Ruivo. In 1966 a suspension bridge was built across the Tagus. Branches of industry associated with the manufacture of consumer goods, particularly textiles and clothing, are widely represented in Lisbon and, mainly, in nearby settlements and neighboring towns. Among the industries located here are chemicals (including production of pharmaceuticals and synthetic rubber), metallurgy, machine building and metalworking (shipbuilding and ship repair, construction of railroad cars, manufacture of heavy metal and electrical-engineering products, typewriters, and other goods), the manufacture of glass, china, wood products, and cork, and petroleum refining.

The service sphere is highly developed. Lisbon is one of the largest centers of foreign tourism.

Among the major Portuguese monopolistic associations concentrated in Lisbon are the concern Companhia União Fabril, the group Banco Espirito Santo, Delfin Ferreira, and Banco Atlântico, and Banco Nacional Ultramarino. There are also large commercial firms and insurance companies, as well as foreign companies. After the overthrow of fascist rule in April 1974 the revolutionary process has brought about democratic transformations in the economy of Lisbon. Banks, a number of industrial enterprises, and some insurance companies have been nationalized there.

Architecture and city planning. In East Lisbon, which is situated on a hill and has an irregular layout, there are remains of Roman walls that are part of an Arab fortress (ninth century; the Castle of St. George, 14th century), a Romanesque cathedral (1160–86; choir and cloisters, 14th century), a Gothic Carmelite convent (1389–1423, architect Gomez Martins and others; now an archaeological museum), and in the Manueline style—the Monastery of Jerónimos (1502–20, architects Boytac, J. de Castilho), with the Santa Maria Church of Belém (16th century, architects Boytac and others; tombs of Vasco da Gama, L. Camões, and Manuel I) and the Tower of Belém (1515–20, architect F. de Arruda). Other sites include the former Royal Palace (rebuilt in the 16th century, architects D. de Arruda and F. Terzi), the Estrela Basilica (early 18th century, architects M. Vicente de Oliveira and R. M. dos Santos), and other churches and palaces in the baroque style. Lisbon’s appearance is characterized by the regular layout of the Center (after the earthquake of 1755, architect M. da Maia, planners E. and R. M. dos Santos) with the rectilinear square of Praça do Comércio facing the river and the Palace of Ajuda (1802, architect F. X. Fabri), as well as by the modern edifices of West Lisbon with the district of Buenos Aires (developed since the 1930’s) and residential areas where perimetric and free construction are combined. The chief monuments are the one of Joseph I (1770–75, J. Machado de Castro) and the Monument to the Discoveries (1940, architect J. A. Cottinelli Telmo, sculptor L. de Almeida).

Educational, scientific, and cultural institutions. Lisbon is the site of the University of Lisbon, the Catholic University of Lisbon, the Technical University, the Military Academy, the Naval School, the Higher School of Fine Arts, the National Academy of Music, and other educational institutions. Scientific and cultural institutions include the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, the Portuguese Academy of History, the National Academy of Fine Arts, scientific societies and research institutions in natural sciences, technology, and culture, the National Conservatory (there is a theater division), and the Music Academy. There are 18 libraries and archives, the largest of which are the National Library (more than 1 million volumes), the Library of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences (more than 400,-000 volumes), and the Central Municipal Library (128,000 volumes). There are fourteen museums including the Ethnographic Museum of Overseas Territories, National Museum of Natural History, Archaeological Museum, Museum of Portuguese Numismatics, Military Museum, Municipal Museum, National Museum of Ancient Art, Coach Museum, Folk Art Museum, Tile Museum, and National Museum of Contemporary Art. The city has an opera theater (San Carlos), music theaters (Trinidade, Avenida, Maria Vitória, A.B.C., Monumental, Variedades), a symphonic orchestra of the national radio, the Lisbon Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Polifonia Choir. Opera and ballet and circus performances are staged in the Coliseu dos Recreios. Drama theaters include the National Folk Theater, Lisbon Art Theater, and Queen Maria II National Theater.


Lisboa e os seus encantos. Lisbon, 1959.
Lisboa, cidade de turismo. Lisbon, 1963. (In Portuguese, French, and English.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the capital and chief port of Portugal, in the southwest on the Tagus estuary: became capital in 1256; subject to earthquakes and severely damaged in 1755; university (1911). Pop.: 1 892 891 (2001)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005