Old Lisbon

Old Lisbon: Martinho da Arcada

The Café Restaurant “Martinho da Arcada”, located in Terreiro do Paço, in Lisbon, began as a liquor store of The Arch of Terreiro do Paço, called “Café da Neve” that opened in 1778. In 1782 it was known as the pub “Arcade of Anselmo”, because it was installed in the block nicknamed the “Quarteirão do Anselmo da Cruz Sobral”. In 1784 it changed its name to “Casa de Cafe Italiana”, being its owner Domingos Mignani.

In 1795, the same Domingos Magnani, changed again the name of this establishment to “Café do Commercio”. By a complaint made by letter to the police in 1809, it was known that in this pub many libertines and many Jacobins met. For this reason, at this time, it was commonly referred to as the Jacobin Café.

In 1820, it was called “Casa da Neve”, belonging to Simão Fernandes who received the elegant society of Lisbon, who moved there to delight in the much appreciated ice creams. In 1823 this establishment passes into the hands of a tal Anselmo, changing once again of owner the following year.

The already “Café da Arcada” would later, in 1829, belong to Martinho Bartholomeu Rodrigues – the Martinho da Neve – founder of the “Café Martinho”, in 1845 in the then, Largo de Camões current Praça Dom João da Câmara. Martinho promotes deep renovation works that makes it one of the best café-restaurant in Lisbon. Later the “Café da Arcada” would definitely change its name to Café “Martinho da Arcada”

At the beginning of the 20th century, the owner of “Martinho da Arcada” was already José Isidoro Pereira, who by deed of December 28, 1925 transferred the house to the firm “Mourão & Simões, Lda.” In 1928, “Martinho da Arcada” came into the possession of the partner of this firm, Alfredo de Araújo Mourão, and in 1960, by his death, he became the owner of this house his daughter, D. Albertina de Sá Mourão.

For years, “Martinho da Arcada” was a place of worship for the city’s elites. It was frequented by Masons, by politicians of the First Republic, and was the “second house” of writers such as Cesário Verde, Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, Bocage, António Botto, or Fernando Pessoa. It was here that Fernando Pessoa wrote part of his poems and, among them, those that constitute the only book he published in life “Message”, still having today a permanently reserved table, the same where he drank a coffee three days before he died, on November 27, 1935.

This café was classified as a property of public interest by IIPC in 1984, thanks to the efforts of Professor Carmo Vieira and his students of the “Marques de Pombal Secondary School”. In 1988, a competition was opened for the refurbishment of the Café, and the work was attributed to the architect Hestnes Ferreira. This work, funded by the “Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications”, budgeted in 42,000 contos. The Café “Martinho da Arcada” would reopen with new management, on February 22, 1990, with a luxurious dining room.

Currently, “Martinho da Arcada”, is the oldest Café Restaurant in Lisbon, still in operation, and owned by the firm “Martinho da Arcada, Lda.” consisting of António de Sousa, António Marcos de Sousa and Maria Adília de Sousa.

Photos below range from 1928. Source.

Martinho da Arcada today
Martinho da Arcada today
By João Carvalho – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

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