The paving of public spaces in Portugal dates back to Roman colonisation, when numerous paved roads and streets were built. However, it was several centuries before streets began to be paved again and, even so, only on a sporadic and limited basis.

Estátua a representar um calceteiro
O Calceteiro

The habit of paving streets with setts was restored during the government of Pombal, particularly at the time of reconstruction after the 1755 Earthquake.

The first example of what is now known as “Portuguese pavement” was created only in 1842 on the orders of Eusébio Furtado, an engineer who was a lieutenant general and military governor of the Castle of São Jorge, in Lisbon. The work was carried out by prisoners who paved the previously dirt parade ground with white limestone and black basalt to form a zigzag pattern.

The result was so surprising that, according to chroniclers at the time, people visited the Castle on purpose to see the paving.

After this success, Eusébio Furtado was asked to pave the Rossio square, a task that he once again took on with the “shackles”, the name the people of Lisbon gave to prisoners. The design adopted for the Rossio used a pattern of wavy lines that became known as “wide sea”.

 

Today, Portuguese pavement (calçada portuguesa) is part of the country’s image and one of the charms of its cities.

 

Calçada Portuguesa no Rossio
The effect of “Calçada Portuguesa” in Rossio Square – Lisbon