A little about the origins of the seven hills of Lisbon



According to one of the popular legends about the origins of Lisbon, the city was founded by Ulysses who fell in love with Ofiússa, the queen of the snake-women. When Homer’s hero returned to his Greek homeland aboard the Argos, thus abandoning Ofiússa, she was so furious that she made the plateau of Ulisibona (or Olisipo), now Lisbon, tremble. From her rattles, sprang the seven hills of the city.

The tradition, a blend of myth and prophecy popular with Lisbon residents, declares that the seven hills of Lisbon refer to the seven gates of Heavenly Jerusalem, as represented by Lisbon’s seven principal Christian churches which stand at the top of each hill: São Cristóvão, São Vicente de Fora e Sé Velha, São José da Anunciada, Nossa Senhora da Graça, Chagas de Cristo, Santa Catarina, and São Roque.

The idea of transferring the sacred meaning of the seven hills of Jeruslaem [Gared, Goath, Acra, Bezetha, Moriah, Ophel and Zion] and of Rome [Campidoglio, Quirinale, Viminale, Esquilino, Celio, Aventino and Palatino] to Lisbon, coinciding with the Sun’s course from east to west, is a very ancient one. However, it took on an elaborate form in the works of 17th-century Portuguese authors such as Frei Nicolau de Oliveira, who superimposed Lisbon’s greatness on that of Rome.

The capital’s seven hills [an allegory of the seven elements of matters: atomic particles, subatomic particles, ether, air, fire, water, and earth] are: São Jorge in Mouraria; São Vicente in Alfama; Santa Ana in Anunciada; Santo André in Graça; Chagas in Carmo; Santa Catarina next to Largo de Camões; and São Roque in Bairro Alto.

The Targus river flows at the foot of the seven hills, and according to the sacred tradition, it thus symbolises the river of Paradise [Paradhesa] that bathes the seven spiritual poles [Qutbs or Chakras in Arab and Sanskrit]. that bring life to the seven primordial lands [Aqtabs or Dwipas, in Arba and Sanskrit].


(Adapted from Secret Lisbon by Vitor Adrião, published by JonGlez)


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