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The statues of the garden of Praça de Londres (Garden of Irmã Lúcia), next to the church of São João de Deus, haven’t always been there. Do you have any idea of where they came from?
If you got to know the Cine-Teatro Monumental, then you probably remember these sculptures. But for those who belong to a younger generation or who’s visiting us, you may not know the story they have to tell us.
The statues we’re talking about were part of the façade of one of the most emblematic and modern cine-teatros (venues for films and plays) of Lisbon, the Cine-Teatro Monumental. It was located where today is the Shopping Centre Dolce Vita Monumental, in Duque de Saldanha Square, in the zone of Avenidas Novas.
Although the current building has inherited the predecessor’s name and continues to have cinema rooms, it cannot possibly be compared to the old venue.
The Cine-Teatro Monumental was projected by the Portuguese architect Raúl Rodrigues Lima (1909-1980) and inaugurated in 1951.
It was a building that inspired monumentality, with austere and classic features, of modernist aesthetic characteristic of the Estado Novo (nationalist corporatist authoritarian regime installed in Portugal from 1933 to 1974). Its façade was covered with stone and at the top of one of the corners, was an armillary sphere, symbol of the Portuguese empire, very adopted by the regime at the time.
In terms of cinema and theatre, it was the biggest existing venue in Lisbon. It had a big and luxurious foyer decorated with marble and grandiose Hollywood-style chandeliers. There were two auditoriums, a cinema and a theatre one, each one with the total capacity of more than 1000 spectators. The cinema auditorium even had the latest technology used at the time, CinemaScope.
There were notable plays, revues, operettas and concerts, performed here by national and foreign artists. But the 70’s decade marked the beginning of the decline of this space where cinematographic and performing arts came together.
After many years of glory and of remarkable shows, Cine-Teatro Monumental didn’t resist to the changing of times and tendencies. The ascension of the television, smaller cinema rooms and the new habits led to its closure. The real estate value of the land dictated the much disputed demolition in 1984.
We suggest you read the article Armillary Spheres: Misconception Uncovered!, where we uncovered a misconception related to the armillary sphere of Cine-Teatro Monumental.
Get to know Lisbon’s historic neighbourhoods in a guided tour and discover unmissable places of this magnificent city.
Statues of the Garden of Praça de Londres
The statues of the garden of Praça de Londres adorned the two sides of the front of Cine-Teatro Monumental. They were created to be leaning against the façade, hence the back of the figures being flat. Executed in stone with around 3,30m of height and based on a classical inspiration, they are a total of four statues: a sculptural group constituted by a male and a feminine element, and three individual female figures that display elements of allusion to the performing arts, masks and lyre.
The authorship of these statues is attributed to Euclides Vaz (1916-1991), an awarded modernist Portuguese sculptor and teacher. His vast work is scattered all over the country and the former Portuguese colonies.
The statues were placed by the City Council of Lisbon in their current location between 1993 and 1998. However, we don’t know the reason why they chose this garden. It may be related to the urban environment that resulted from the urban development of the 40s/50s, thus maintaining the stylistic coherence of this space.
Right next to this garden there used to exist a much more recent cinema, equally cherished by the people of Lisbon, the Cinema Londres. It unfortunately did not resist to the changes either, giving in to the opening of another commercial space of trinkets.
These statues are part of the memory of some, but by knowing their story, it allows us to be reminded of the importance of the preservation of spaces where cinema and theatre can and should be enjoyed.
Cinema and Theatre, a Heritage to Preserve
Throughout the 20th century, many auditoriums were demolished or are now destined to other purposes. Examples are the Teatro Apolo, demolished in 1957, the Cinema Eden, the Jardim Cinema or the Cinema Europa. Although the awareness of the preservation of this heritage is now a reality, much remains to be done.
The requalification of spaces such as Parque Mayer, despite recent improvements, still lacks a solution. We must also regret the disappearance of important theatre groups, such as the Teatro da Cornucópia that hasn’t survived to the lack of support.
In spite of everything and in regard to the World Theatre Day celebrated on 27th March, we can say that today Lisbon is a city that celebrates the performing arts.
There are countless independent theatre groups that persist, as well as entrepreneurs in the industry that tirelessly promote this art and who manage to maintain a regular schedule.
Through its agenda, the municipality also offers to the lovers, cinema festivals and a permanent programme in municipal theatres, helping the oldest and most emblematic venues resist.
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