Over the centuries the site of Figueira da Foz has been referred to as “figueira na foz de Buarcos”, “figueira near Buarcos”, “figueira na foz do Mondego”, “foz da Figueira”, “porto de Buarcos” and “Figueira da Foz do Mondego” and only since 1882 has it been called Figueira da Foz.
However, the first document mentioning the name “Figueira” dates from 1339.
We believe it is the oldest document referring to the name of Figueira, discovered by Dr. António Eduardo Simões Baião (1878-1961), Director of the National Archives of Torre do Tombo from 1908 to 1949.
It refers to an execution for debts of Pero Torto and his wife Clara Annes, whose houses and vineyard were acquired by King Afonso IV for 50 Portuguese pounds:
“A el Rey compra dhuumas casas e huuma vinha a par de Sam Juyaão de buarcos no logo que chamam a figueyra na foz de buarcos….” porque as “ditas casas e vinha eram necessárias em aquell logo para o dito senõr Rey por rrazon do dito porto (da foz de Buarcos)”.“.
No other documents were found before 1339 mentioning the settlement or the locality of “Figueira”.
In 1080, for example, when Abbot Pedro settled in S. Julião, sent by Count Sesnando, with the aim of restoring the lands devastated during the Reconquest, he ordered him to build houses next to the Church of S. Julião and donated to him, in addition to the abbey of S. Julião. Julião Abbey, all the cultivated and uncultivated lands to the east, already designated in those times by the names of “Casseira, S. Veríssimo (Vila Verde) and Fontela, which together with the Lavos estate constituted a great wealth”, not mentioning the name of “Figueira”.
In 1096, the name of “Figueira” is not mentioned either, when Abbot Pedro donates the Church of São Julião to the Chapter of the Cathedral of Coimbra:
“I, Pedro, abbot, for the love of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, make to the Church of the Holy Mother of God and ever Virgin Mary of the Episcopal See of Coimbra, a donation of the Church of St. Julian, which is situated on the north bank of the river Mondego, near the beach, which at another time was sacked and destroyed by the Saracens”.
In 1362, Pedro I (king from 1357 to 1367) authorized the Coimbra Cathedral Chapter to appoint in its coutos of Tavarede and Figueira the administrative officials and notaries necessary for its proper functioning.
In 1488 the Chapter of the Cathedral of Coimbra drew up a deed of transfer of land in favor of Paay Esteves, “resident in San Guyaão (S. Julião) in Figueira de aprés (near) Buarcos”.
In 1516 the charters of Buarcos and Montemor-o-Velho do not mention “Figueira”, they only speak of the “mouth of the Mondego” which it calls “Buarcos”, and the charter of Tavarede, also of 1516, also does not mention “Figueira”.
But in 1540, the name “Figueira” appears in a will of António Fernandes de Quadros.
Until the end of the 17th century Figueira da Foz had less than 800 inhabitants, it was a small village, a not very important place, so its Customs House was called, for centuries, “Customs House of Buarcos”, “Customs House of Buarcos and Figueira”, “Customs House of Buarcos of the mouth of the Mondego” and even “Customs House of Tavarede” because Buarcos belonged to the couto of Tavarede.
The vast majority of Customs workers lived in Buarcos, then an important town, with charters dating from 1342 and 1516 and the seat of the municipality from 1342 to 1836.
On November 24, 1696, a law required all employees of the Customs House to be residents of Figueira, which led to the construction of new housing in Figueira.
At the beginning of the 18th century Figueira was still of little importance as can be seen from the text of Father Luiz Cardoso, dealing with Buarcos in his Diccionario Geográfico: “In its district is the customs house in the place of Figueira da Foz, which is called customs house of Buarcos, distant from this villa a quarter of a legoa”.
The importance of Buarcos, Redondos and Tavarede decreases as the importance of Figueira increases from the mid-18th century onwards.
At the end of the 18th century, the agglutination of several couples that were called Paço, Abbadia, Monte, Valle, Lamas, and others, gave rise to a single settlement, with approximately 2,000 inhabitants, which, by decree of March 12, 1771, was elevated to the category of village with the name of “Figueira da Foz do Mondego”.
In the nineteenth century the village of “Figueira da Foz do Mondego” grew very quickly and, on September 20, 1882, with almost 6,000 inhabitants, it rose to the category of city, “attending to be one of the most important villas of the kingdom for its population and wealth”, with the current denomination of Figueira da Foz.