An unscientific worldwide poll begun in 2000 came up with the new Seven Wonders of the World. They were The Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, the Colosseum in Rome, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Macchu Pichu in Peru, Taj Mahal in India and Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.
An honorary place was given to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt because it is the only remaining wonder from the original seven.
Subsequent to this poll, RTP (Rádio e Televisão de Portugal) conducted its own poll for the seven best examples of existing wonders of Portuguese origin. Out of the 27 candidates, those in bold type were those eventually selected.
Mozambique Island was the first capital of this Portuguese colony and it was a staging post for the India ships. Slaving was the main trade of the island and it diminished with the independence of Brazil in 1822. When Lourenço Marques became the capital of the colony, the island lost its importance.
The Fortress at Kilwa was built in 1505 by D. Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of Portuguese India. It was the first stone fort built by the Portuguese along the coast of East Africa.
The Fortress of Jesus in Mombasa was built between 1593 and 1596 to protect this staging post of the India ships.
The Gorgora Nova is a cathedral built in the 17th century by the Jesuits on the banks of Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The cathedral, now in a poor shape, was originally large, elaborate and glorious.
The legacy of the Portuguese in Mazagão is rich because the place was occupied by Portugal until abandoned in 1769 after 355 years. The Fortress of Safi was built between 1488 and 1541 and it is still there today in an excellent state of conservation.
Forte Real de São Filipe on Santiago Island, Cabo Verde, was built between 1587 and 1593 to protect Cidade de Santiago as a direct result of the raids of Sir Francis Drake.
A Cidade Velha de Santiago was founded in 1462 and it became the first bishopric on the African coast. Both Vasco da Gama and Columbus called here on their epic voyages. It was the first city constructed in the tropics and the first capital of Cabo Verde.
The Fortress of São Jorge da Mina in Ghana was built by the Portuguese in 1482. The outpost secured the gold trade from this part of Africa and later it became a slaving station. It is the oldest European fortification south of the Sahara.
The Carmo Convent in Luanda was built from 1659 by Carmelite missionaries. In terms of the quality of its conservation, it is perhaps the most important of the Portuguese legacies to Angola.
The Fortifications at Muscat were captured by the Portuguese in 1507, after which the whole indigenous population was massacred. The fortifications remained in Portuguese hands until 1650 when it was retaken by the Sultan of Oman.
Islamic towers were added from the late 17th century.
The town of Manama in Bahrein was captured by D. Antão de Noronha in 1559 and the Portuguese occupied the Muslim fort which they adapted for their own use before they were expelled in 1602. For over 10 years now the site has been in the process of archaeological excavation.
The Forte de Nossa Senhora da Conceicão in Ormuz lies on the island of Gerun at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Its location preserved it from land attacks by the Persians. Ormuz controlled the entrance to the Persian Gulf and it was also an important trade centre for horses and pearls. It was captured by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1507 as the first of four key Portuguese strongholds for the control of the Indian Ocean. The fort was completed in 1515 and lost to the Persians and English in 1622.
The City of Baçaim, the present day settlement of Vasai-Virar, lies 50km north of Bombay, on the west coast of Maharashtra. It was a part of the Estado da Índia from 1533 to 1739. The first captain who built the fortress was Garcia de Sá by order of Governor Nuno da Cunha in 1536. Dominican and Augustinian monasteries were built here along with a Jesuit Church.
The Port of Damão Grande in Daman, India was taken by the Portuguese in 1535 to destroy Muslim shipbuilders. Damão remained Portuguese until the Indian invasion of 1961.
Another Portuguese fortress features in Diu, Gujarat, India. It was the most impressive fort in the Estado da Índia and it was lost to the invasion by India in 1961.
Still in India we move to the minor Basílica of Bom Jesus in Goa Velha. It was built between 1594 and 1605. The architectural style is Mannerist and the façade shows the emblem of the Society of Jesus. The body of St Francis Xavier was translated from Malacca to this Basílica in 1637. It is considered the biggest of churches built by the Portuguese in the world. The nave is 76m long and 55m high. It now has only one western tower – the other fell in 1766.
Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511 after 40 days of fighting, and the fortress was built at the time. It was captured by the Dutch in 1641. There is little left of this fort because when in 1810 the British occupied a better site at Singapore, they pulled it down to prevent others from using it against them.
The Church of São Paulo in Macau was built in 1565, rebuilt in 1602 after a fire and destroyed again by fire in 1835. The Church of the Mother of God was annexed to the Jesuit College of São Paulo and it was the biggest catholic church in the East. It was called the Vatican of the Orient. Its façade is 23m wide and 25.5m high.
Colónia do Santíssimo Sacramento was founded in 1680 by Manuel Lobo, the Governor of Rio de Janeiro. It was immediately attacked and demolished by the Spanish from Buenos Aires. The Portuguese were interested in the contraband in this area (including silver) and the import of leather and beef for the exploitation of their mines in Minas Gerais. Sacramento was always a point of conflict between Spain and Portugal until the foundation of the new country of Uruguay in 1826.
Built in the baroque style, the Igreja de São Francisco de Assis da Penitência in Ouro Preto, Brazil, is famous for the gilded woodcarving by Aleijadinho (regarded as the best exponent of colonial art in Brazil) and the paintings of Manuel da Costa Ataíde. Brazilian baroque is also reflected in the Santuário do Bom Jesus de Matosinhos, adorned with 12 statues of prophets carved by Aleijadinho, which stands on a holy hill and receives thousands of visitors each year.
One of the main examples of colonial art in Brazil is the Mosteiro de São Bento in Rio de Janeiro. The interior is a riot of gilded woodcarving and one of its attractions is the Sunday mass with its Gregorian Chant.
The Convento de São Francisco e Ordem Terceira de Salvador de Baía and its church are impressive examples of Brazilian baroque. One of the final touches was the addition of azulejos in the cloister.
The Convento de São António e Ordem Terceira in Recife is one of the oldest buildings in the city dating from 1606. The main attractions are the cloister with azulejos and the blue Delft tiles added during the Dutch occupation. Under the Dutch, the Convento became a fortress, Forte Ernestus, and for a time it was allocated to The Church of England so that officials of the East India Company might worship in peace.
The Mosteiro de São Bento in Olinda is known for its wealth. By 1850 it owned 40 houses, a plantation, a sugar mill, a wood and 254 slaves. The church was raised by the Pope to the rank of Minor Basilica in 1998. Pride of place goes to the high altar, built in cedar wood and covered in gold leaf. This altar was completely dismantled and shipped to New York in 2002 as the main exhibit in the Guggenheim exhibition Brazil, Body and Soul.
The Forte do Príncipe da Beira in Rondônia was built 3000km from the sea on the border between Brazil and present-day Bolivia. The Marquês de Pombal hoped to use the fort as a base in a search for gold as well as for keeping the Spanish away.
Luís Segadães, President of the New Seven Wonders of Portugal project, made the following dedication: “We believe that culture and heritage are values essential to Mankind. What we build today is the result of what we were able to build in the past. For this reason, it is our vision to give value to our World Heritage of Portuguese Origin as a unique and positive activity. We wish to be able to publicise this legacy of Portugal to the world, which allows us to show our difference from other nations on a global scale, siting our country as a defining nation in the construction of the world of today and which shows globalisation in a natural form, because the capacity to relate to other peoples and the building of bridges between the various cultures of the world is in our national character.”
Segadães was right in his first sentence and in stressing the importance of publicising the legacy of Portugal to the world. I am pleased to have visited the Convento and Church in Salvador, the Mosteiro de São Bento in Rio de Janeiro and the Basílica of Bom Jesus in Goa. Joint top of my bucket list are now the Carmo Church in Luanda, and Mazagão fortress in Morocco.
By Lynne Booker