How did Porto get its name?

Porto, Portuguese Oporto, city and port, northern Portugal. The city lies along the Douro River, 2 miles (3 km) from the river’s mouth on the Atlantic Ocean and 175 miles (280 km) north of Lisbon. World-famous for its port wine, Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and is the commercial and industrial centre for the zone north of the Mondego River. The historic centre of Porto was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Pop. (2001) city, 263,131; metro. area, 1,647,469; (2011) city, 237,591; metro. area, 1,672,670.


Porto was called Portus Cale in Roman times and was earlier a flourishing settlement on the Douro’s south bank; the nomadic Alani tribe later founded the city of Castrum Novum on the north bank. The Visigoths took possession of the site about 540 CE but yielded in 716 to the Moors. In 997 Christian forces recaptured Porto, which for a time became the capital of the counts of Portucalense (northern Portugal) during Moorish rule in the southern part of the kingdom. The Moors again held the city briefly, but in 1092 it was brought finally under Christian domination. In the 14th century the city became an important port, and Prince Henry the Navigator was born there in 1394. During the Peninsular War, British forces under Arthur Wellesley (later the duke of Wellington) there crossed the Douro, routed the French, and captured the city on May 12, 1809.

Porto’s cathedral, on the site of the Visigothic citadel, was originally a 12th-century Romanesque building with 14th-century Gothic cloisters, but it was largely rebuilt in the 17th–18th century. The Romanesque and early Gothic Church of São Martinho de Cedofeita, notable for the curiously carved capitals of its pillars, occupies the site of a church said to have been built by Theodomir, king of the Visigoths, in 559 to receive relics of St. Martin from France. Also notable are the Torre dos Clérigos, an 18th-century granite tower, 246 feet (75 metres) high; the Gothic Church of São Francisco (from 1410); and the stock exchange, with its ornately designed Salão Arabe (“Arabic Hall”; 19th century).

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