April 18, 2012

0176 PORTUGAL (Lisbon) - A church, a couple, two trams

Unlike today, in old times the wealthy people celebrated a happy event in their lives building something to remember the event. In that way arose Basílica da Estrela (Estrela Basilica), also known as Basilica do Sagrado Coração de Jesus (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), a church in Lisbon built between 1779 and 1790 to the order of Queen Mary I, as a fulfilled promise for giving birth to a son (José, Prince of Brazil). Construction was finished after the death of José caused by smallpox.

Located on a hill in what was at that time the western part of Lisbon, today the centre of the city, it has a giant rococo dome and a façade with twin bell towers decorated with an array of statues of saints and allegorical figures. The style is the late Baroque and Neoclassical, and the spacious pink, grey and black marble interior contains an elaborate Empire-style tomb of Queen Maria I, and an impressive Christmas manger composed of more than 500 figures, made by sculptor Joaquim Machado de Castro. Several paintings by Pompeo Batoni also contribute to a balanced design.

Even if it’s said that "this vast neoclassical monument is one of Lisbon's most eye-catching landmarks", I think that it isn't the postcard's main subject. In this picture, the tram and the couple who hold their hands catch your eyes right away. And I think also that isn't a mistake of the photographer, but that's exactly what he pursued.  

A tour guide says that "a pleasant way to reach Estrela is by taking trams 25 or 28, which stop right outside the basilica." The photographer caught (again I think that not accidentally) a tram on each route: in front 25, in the second plane 28. Actually today there are only four all vintage tram lines: 12, 18, 25, and 28. 25 runs Rua da Alfândega (via Estrela basilica, of course) to the Prazeres cemetery in western Lisbon. This route, via the hilly Buenos Aires district, past numerous embassies, an area which is otherwise off the tourist track. 28 (from Martim Moniz to Prazeres) is the classic tram route of Lisbon, with extensive hilly and narrow streets in the Alfama district. Many locals say that for the turists "riding tram 28 is a must in Lisbon."

About the tram(s). The first tram in Lisbon entered service on 17 November 1873, as a horsecar line. On 30 August 1901, Lisbon's first electric tramway commenced operations. Historically the evolution of the Lisbon tram can be divided into four main periods: the American trams (carros americanos), came directly by ship from the United States, the standard cars, the lightweight trams (Ligeiros), and the new and remodeled trams. Up until 1959, the network of lines was further developed, and in that year it reached its greatest extent. At that time, there was a total of 27 tram lines in Lisbon, of which six operated as circle lines, all of them running on 900 mm (2 ft 11 1⁄2 in) narrow gauge tram lines. Of course that the trams from the image were remodeled. By 2005, increasing numbers of the remodelados trams (manufactured between 1936 and 1947) had been restored to the traditional yellow and white livery, without advertising on the exterior.

About the stamp
Series which includes the stamp (issued on March 14, 2011, and designed by Folk Design / Sofia Martins) is named Major character in Portugal and comprises personalities from whose birth has been celebrated in 2011 a "round" number of years. The series contains 5 stamps:
Alves Redol (1911-1969) - neorealist writers
Manuel da Fonseca (1911-1993) - neorealist writers
Trindade Coelho (1861-1908) - writer
Antónia Ferreira (1811-1896) - businesswoman devoted to the cultivation of Port Wine – it’s on the postcard
Eugénio dos Santos (1711-1760) - architect and military engineer

sender: Paulo Baptista (direct swap)
sent from Lisbon (Portugal), on 09.01.2012

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