In the current Praça 8 de Maio there was the old Praia da Reboleira, formed by one of the three arms of the Mondego river entrance in Figueira da Foz. In 1764 the site was known as Rocio das Reboleiras, or Rotunda da Reboleira, and in 1784 it was known as Praia do Rio.
Praia da Reboleira, or Praia do Rio, was formed by a huge arm of water that at tides made it difficult to connect with the current streets Direita do Monte, Ferreiros, Combatentes and Dr. José Jardim.
But in 1784, the landfill of Praia da Reboleira began, the works were completed in 1789, resulting in a huge square that came to be called Praça Nova da Reboleira, later known as Praça Nova da Alegria, then Praça Nova and Praça 8 de Maio from 1880.
The embankment completed in 1789 included a huge wall, built in the area where the kiosk is today, which bordered the river in the square. In the 19th century, a second wall was built in the area of the building where Singer’s was located. And in the 20th century, the current wall that limits the Mondego was built.
As part of the requalification of the historic area carried out in 2018, which included interventions in Praça 8 de Maio, archaeological finds were found from the pier of the old Praia da Reboleira, namely part of the wall structure that supported the work completed in 1789.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Praça Nova was the main area of the city. This is where wine warehouses, the Mendes & Irmão Bank, the Central Café, the Library, the Havaneza House, the Aliança Hotel, the Figueirense Hotel and the Barba Azul Hotel operated.
Here the Americano stopped, “dumping the people who came from Buarcos, the beach and Bairro Novo“, a square with agitation and beauty, incomparably described in the novel by the Figueirense Gaspar de Lemos, “A filha do Senhor Silva”.
This important 18th and 19th century square was renamed PRAÇA 8 de MAIO in 1880. Let’s find out why.
In 1826, on March 10, when D. João VI died, supposedly poisoned, a tragic civil war began in the country, for the possession of the throne, which would only end in 1834, with his sons D. Pedro and D. Miguel as opponents.
In 1826, D. Pedro, living in Brazil (emperor from 1822 to 1831), ascended the throne of Portugal, where he remained for 2 months, immediately abdicating to his daughter D. Maria II, then 7 years old.
Also in 1826, Maria II, a child of 7, married her uncle Miguel, aged 24.
In 1828, Miguel deposed Maria II, his wife and niece, and was proclaimed king on June 23.
From 1828 to 1834, during the reign of D. Miguel, a fierce civil war developed, for the taking of the throne, with reflexes in Figueira da Foz, from which D. Miguel was defeated.
In 1834, on May 8, the liberal troops loyal to Pedro, commanded by Charles Napier, mostly made up of English sailors, landed in the cove of Buarcos and advanced on Figueira da Foz, meanwhile abandoned by the absolutist army loyal to Miguel.
The City Council is dismissed, and a team chaired by Judge José da Costa Dinis and Councilors José Tavares de Goes Nobre, João Fernandes Tomás, Francisco Luís Afonso da Costa and Joaquim Malheiro de Melo was sworn in, who managed the municipality until the September 19 elections, won by Joaquim da Silva Soares.
Napier’s troops proceeded from Figueira da Foz to Leiria, Ourém and Torres Novas and the Spanish general José Ramón Rodil y Campillo entered Portugal through Beira and Alto Alentejo with an expedition of 15,000 men also in support of Pedro.
In 1834, on May 16, the final battle took place between the troops loyal to the estranged brothers, Miguel and Pedro. Pedro, at Asseiceira, near Tomar.
Pedro’s liberal troops were victorious, peace was signed in Évoramonte and Miguel left Sines for exile on June 1, 1834, where he would only return in 1967, when his remains were transferred from the monastery of Engelberg, in Gossenbach, to the monastery of São Vicente de Fora, in Lisbon.
D. Pedro assumed the regency, but shortly afterwards, on September 18, 1834, his daughter Maria, only 15 years old, was acclaimed queen and the marriage with her uncle Miguel was annulled.
In 1880, Praça Nova was renamed PRAÇA 8 DE MAIO, to commemorate the victorious entry of the liberal army into Figueira da Foz on May 8, 1834 (the same occurred in Coimbra where there is also a square with the same name).
Until the end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century, many public services operated here, the City Hall, the Administration of the Municipality, the Court, Notary Offices, Court Accountant, Conservatories and Telegraph Station.
The Praia da Figueira Almanac of 1878-1879 calls Praça Nova the “Boulevard 8 de Maio”, writing: “It is currently the most elegant neighborhood of Figueira on the banks of the Mondego, on the land recently conquered from this river. It is made up of wide, elegant streets, where buildings are multiplying with prodigious speed”.
In 1891, on March 12, in the midst of the country’s financial and economic crisis, the “Mendes & Irmão” banking house appeared in Praça 8 de Maio in a building of relevant architecture, recently demolished.
In 1918, on July 1, a branch of Banco Nacional Ultramarino was established in the building of the banking house “Mendes & Irmão”, which closed in 2001 when it merged with Caixa Geral de Depósitos.
In 1907, on September 22, in Praça 8 de Maio, the first stone of the monument erected in honor of Manuel Fernandes Tomás by the Porto sculptor Fernandes de Sá.
The ceremony was attended by 2,000 people and featured speeches by Republicans António José de Almeida, João Pinto dos Santos, Carlos Borges, António Fontes and Mário Monteiro.
In 1911, on August 24, when 91 years of the liberal revolution were celebrated, the statue of Manuel Fernandes Tomás the “patriarch of freedom” and “regenerator of the homeland”, leader of the revolution of August 24, 1820 and principal drafter of the Constitution of 1822.
In 1988, on August 24, before a huge crowd and in the presence of the President of the Republic, Dr. Mário Soares, the remains of Manuel Fernandes Tomás arrived in his hometown, where they rest under his statue, very close to the place where he was born, in Rua dos Tropeções, the current Rua 31 de Julho.