The oldest house in Porto is 700 years old
The oldest house in Porto, built in the 14th century, is a very well hidden gem. Are you curious to know where it is?
The Oporto’s oldest house is 700 years old. However, other authors point out the house with the number 5 on Rua de Baixo, known as Casa Torre do Barredo, as the oldest house in Porto and that would have been built 100 years before.
The oldest house in Porto is next to the Sé do Porto, in “Beco dos Redemoinhos”. It has a “Flemish” appearance, with the chimney placed at the top of the façade and right in the middle of it, as is characteristic of this type and is thought to have been built in the first half of the 14th century.
The façade, half hidden behind the main chapel of the Cathedral, was once a lively square of the town, bordered to the west by the disappeared charola of the cathedral.
It is called Beco dos Redemoinhos because at that time there were watermills there, since a small river would pass through there.
A hidden relic that few people know and not even foreigners go there. Do you know why? Because there’s a gate that blocks the entrance to the Alley where the oldest house in Oporto is located.
An inaccessible gem that not even the Oporto´s residents have access to!
At the back of the Cathedral, crushed against the enormous mass of the sixteenth-century chancel built by Bishop Gonçalo de Morais, there is one of the most unique buildings in Oporto.
It is a house of medieval origin, which in the historiography of Porto is generally pointed out, due to the singular design of its façade, similar to that of the houses in the Netherlands, as a result of the influence that, since the Middle Ages, the architecture of that European region would have had in Oporto.
The place where the main façade of the house rises is unknown to most people in Oporto; called Beco dos Redemoinhos, it is an obscure place, with semi-ocult access and small dimensions.
But it wasn’t always like this; this place was called Adro de Trás da Sé, and it was a much more airy, vast and important public space than it is today.
To understand its formation we will have to go back in time, to the time when the construction of the Romanesque Cathedral began.
Porto was an episcopal city, in which the bishop held the spiritual and temporal authority, seconded by members of the high clergy, the whole of the Cabido (Casa do Cabido) who, as in other European episcopal cities, built his residences around the most sacred place in the cathedral, the main chapel.
Therefore, the current Rua de D. Hugo, which described an arch between the main chapel and the Romanesque wall, the “Old Wall”, and which due to this design was called Rua do Redemoinho, was the site of many rich residences of canons, some of them still existing today.
Between Rua do Redemoinho and Adro de Trás da Sé (today Beco dos Redemoinhos) an urban front was created whose houses had two façades, one facing the current Rua de D. Hugo, the other facing the medieval main chapel.
The latter was much smaller than the current one, and the space between the dwellings and the Cathedral was wider. It was in this elite environment that the so-called “Flemish” house was built, perhaps in the 14th century, but in its time it was called a townhouse, that is, a stone dwelling, similar to the defensive towers of the fortresses, and crowned by battlements.
In Porto, this type of housing, which in a first phase served as a residence for the highest social strata, religious or not, of the city, was abundant, and even today there are several examples.